So I’m sitting here wondering how we’ve gotten to this point. How have we gotten to the point where the Chicago Bulls are 11 games out of first place, in a three-way tie for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, and all with basically the same roster as last season? We could blame injuries, as Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler could both be out for Tuesday’s game against the Miami Heat.
Rose will be a game-time decision, and Butler seems to be roughly a week away from returning, but I don’t want to put the blame on the injuries. For the past several seasons, this team has always coped with injuries, with players coming up during the absences of others. To an extent, E’Twaun Moore and Doug McDermott are doing that now with some big offensive outputs. However, it’s just not enough.
Could we say that this core has finally gotten too old? Joakim Noah finally broke down, as he probably won’t return this year, especially if the Bulls don’t make the playoffs – which is somehow an actual possibility that I wouldn’t have even considered a couple of weeks ago. Sure Pau Gasol is getting up there in age, but the guy can still get you a double-double just about every night. That’s why I contend that this recent stretch of horrible play is mostly mental.
Sure, I can attest to the fact that the Bulls just don’t have enough to get past LeBron James and the Cleveland cavaliers, much less the Golden State Warriors… but the Bulls roster as it’s put together right now should have the ability to go deep into the playoffs. Yes, I really do still hold on to some hope for this team, and acknowledge there’s some great talent here.
But what else explains the lackadaisical play, the losses to teams that should easily be beaten and the overall demeanor of the team’s collective psyche? The Bulls have lost in their own minds. The biggest enemy to defeat is yourself, and for all the awesome dunks by McDermott, for all the timely shots by Moore, and for all the flashbacks to the Lakers years for Gasol, it doesn’t mean anything if you can’t string together a few wins and pick up your fallen teammates.
The Bulls have a pretty easy schedule this week. Somehow the Heat are white-hot again and are sitting in fourth place in the East… somewhere the Bulls, should be by all rights. And the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets aren’t exactly playing their best right now. The Bulls need a good run to get their confidence back; especially if Butler and Rose continue to be out longer than expected. Do I think the Bulls are capable of it? Absolutely. But it’s hard to get overly optimistic when the team is on the cusp of losing a playoff spot for the first time in seven years. Only a month and a half remains in the regular season. If the Bulls are going to get serious, now is the time.
Last Week: defeated Washington 109-104; lost to Atlanta 103-88; lost to Portland 103-95.
Next Week: Tuesday at Miami; Wednesday at Orlando; Saturday vs. Houston.
Who’s Hot: Pau Gasol
With a triple-double and a pair of double-doubles this past week, it’s no wonder why Gasol was named to the All-Star team a couple weeks back. Even as he gets older, he can still get hot and lead a team.
Who’s Not: Bobby Portis
Individually, the Bulls roster didn’t contain any players who were absolutely horrendous. If any “blame” was to fall on anyone, one could say Portis has been falling back to earth in recent weeks. He had a great double-double against Portland when he snagged 16 rebounds, but his scoring output has gone down. Luckily for him, coach Fred Hoiberg hasn’t really decreased any of his minutes yet.