The Chicago Bulls are in a mid-season identity crisis.
Coming off a disappointing 2-5 road trip and losing guard Jimmy Butler to a left knee strain for 3-4 weeks, the Bulls finally arrive at the United Center searching for answers.
They appeared to be in a free-fall. Losing game after game, some when they had the lead. Against Minnesota, the Bulls had a 5 point lead with 2:00 to play, and the Timberwolves blew by them on a 12-0 run to end the game. In Charlotte, the Bulls got blown out by the Hornets, falling behind by 18 in the first quarter and eventually fell 108-91.
“They definitely had some strong shots, made a lot of shots,” said Pau Gasol.
Gasol was just named to the NBA’s Eastern Conference All-Star team replacing the injured Butler. Gasol, with a 17 points, 10.9 rebounds average per game, has been a main-stay for the Bulls since coming over from the Los Angeles Lakers as a free-agent. It will be Gasol’s 6th All-Star game appearance.
Mike Dunleavy, the forward who can some games, light it up, has returned to the lineup. However Mirotic is out until perhaps March, and Butler in early March.
The Bulls (27-24) are just trying to find a slot in the playoffs. Toronto, on the strength of an 11 game winning streak, has zoomed by Chicago. Right now, the Bulls are duking it out with the Pistons, a team that didn’t make the playoffs last year.
“We’ll do our best, that’s all we can do,” said Gasol. “It’s rough, (we) gotta play one quarter at a time,” Taj Gibson said. Gibson said he thought players on the team need to come together and step up. “I gotta do better myself,” Gibson said.
As for the Charlotte game, “We lost the game in the first quarter,” said coach Fred Hoiberg. At one point the Bulls trailed by 27 points. The team was tired, flat-footed and allowed Charlotte to make open look shots from practically anywhere on the floor. Kemba Walker led the Hornets with 30 points. Derrick Rose was a late scratch for that game due to “general body soreness.”
Rose has been playing well of late. The Bulls need him and everyone else. It was at one point, the Bulls had strength in numbers, now that is not the case. Tony Snell and Doug McDermott have been inconsistent this season. One of the bright spots has been the play of rookie forward Bobby Portis. He has provided a spark most of the games he’s been in.
Tonight the Bulls face Atlanta at home, before the All-Star break. If there was ever a team that needed a few days off — it is the Chicago Bulls.