Here’s some quick perspective on the Bulls’ sudden disinterest in playing competitive basketball:
Last Friday in Cleveland, the Bulls played a good first half and held a 2-point lead with eight minutes left in the third quarter. They’d posted a 7-9 record against one of the league’s toughest schedules and could look forward to a home-heavy month of December, as well as getting two of their top seven players back from injury.
Doesn’t sound so bad, right?
From that moment in Cleveland, though, the Cavs went on a 24-7 run and won the game going away. Since then, the Bulls have lost by 32 and 35 points, and in between dropped a home game to a team off to the worst start in NBA history.
Wednesday’s trip to Atlanta seemed like a certain loss, with the shorthanded Bulls playing the second leg of a back-to-back against a rested team on the road. But their effort in a 118-83 loss was weak even considering the circumstances.
Whether or not Vinny Del Negro is to blame for this sudden deep lull, an absence of effort reflects poorly on the coach. So his future probably depends on the Bulls showing up ready to play Friday against Golden State. They complete a stretch of four games in five nights against Boston on Saturday, which has a chance to be ugly.
If the Bulls lose by 30 again this weekend, change is probably inevitable. I’d say keep an eye on the middle of next week, because general managers like to pick a soft part of the schedule to switch coaches. That way, the new guy snares a couple wins and it looks like everyone’s a genius.
Next Tuesday, the Lakers come to town for another blowout alert game. After that, the Bulls get New York, Atlanta and Sacramento at home, Knicks on the road, three-day holiday break, then New Orleans and Indiana at home.
BENCH HELP NEEDED
A small thing like points off the bench might make a huge difference for the Bulls, who probably never guessed they’d get so little from Jannero Pargo and rookie James Johnson early this season. Johnson scored 17 points against Atlanta, but they all came during garbage time. Pargo is 1 for 12 from the field in the last two games.
Kirk Hinrich tried to help against the Hawks, returning from a left thumb sprain, but missed all 9 of his shots.
Basically, during this downturn, Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson have kept playing and the Bulls have gotten next to nothing from everyone else. Actually, Deng hit a bit of a slump recently after playing well all season. The point is, it’s tough to win with four guys.
E-mailer Jon pointed out today that Forbes Magazine, besides ranking the Bulls as the third-most valuable NBA franchise behind the Lakers and Knicks, projected their operating income at $51 million last year. Granted, that’s just an estimate.
But if the Bulls continue to put such a weak product on the floor, doesn’t the team owe it to the fans to stop using the luxury tax as an impediment and try to come up with some players who can help?