It’s the All-Star break, the so-called middle of the season respite for NBA teams and personnel.
There will be a lot of action at the All-Star game in Toronto this weekend. Players, friends of players, a whole entourage descends upon Toronto who will be the host city.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Bulls have a bit of break before they start the stretch drive. The have played 52 games (27-25) and have 30 remaining to right what has been a ragged ride.
It was thought that with a roster that almost defeated Cleveland in the playoffs last season, and an offensive minded coach in Fred Hoiberg, the Bulls would be again ready to make a playoff run.
It turns out, the Bulls are fighting just to be eligible for the post-season. Currently, they are seeded 7th, just a 1/2 game ahead of the Charlotte Hornets, and a game ahead of the Detroit Pistons. The Bulls trail Indiana by one-half game. The Bulls are in this predicament because they’ve lost thirteen of the last 18 games to fall in the standings.
Injuries have taken a toll. Jimmy Butler is now out due to a left knee strain, and should be able to resume play in March. He is the team’s leading scorer and top defender and his absence is keenly felt. Forward Nikola Mirotic had appendectomy surgery and a hematoma and his recovery is proceeding along. He just had his stitches removed from the surgery and doctors don’t know when he will be able to return to play, hopefully in 4-6 weeks.
Derrick Rose is in and out of the lineup with various leg issues. Lately, he has been a contributor to an ailing offense. Pau Gasol is in this year’s All-Star game based on another strong first 50 games.
The Bulls can play defense and are one of the top leaders in opposition field goal percentage. And, this is coming off a road trip when players just drove to the hoop with little resistance.
The problem is the offense. The Bulls are ranked 27th in the League in field goal percentage. They average .435 from the floor, just above the lowly 76’ers. The Bulls wanted an offensive minded coach, and now they can’t shoot the ball. Whatever system Hoiberg is trying implement, so far, it has not worked.
Effort. Sometimes the Bulls have it. Sometimes they don’t. And, when they don’t, they usually lose.
“If we don’t play hard, we’re not going to win,” said Butler.
Coach Hoiberg has talked about team members looking at themselves in the mirror. “We need to find ourselves,” he said.
I don’t think the coach of the Miami Heat is saying that, and the Bulls trail the Heat by 1 1/2 games. The Bulls are in the pack, and if they do find cohesion, and regain their confidence, they can make the playoffs.
Players have a lot of pride. Gasol spoke about this team being better than they have shown on the court. But, Chicago has its work cut out for them, they play the Cavaliers and the Raptors right after the break.
We will find out soon, if the time off has been beneficial.