Chicago’s Jimmy Butler is expected to return to the Bulls lineup against Houston this Saturday night. The Bulls need him.
Chicago has fallen out of the playoff race and is on the outside looking in. Butler is one of the better two-way players in the game today and his absence has been sorely missed. The teams’ defense has been crumbling in recent weeks to the point where the Bulls have allowed other teams to virtually score at will. The Bulls gave up 103 points to Orlando, not known for being an offensive juggernaut. They were scorched in Miami allowing the Heat to shot 67.5% from the field, the highest shooting percentage by an opponent in franchise history. The Heat were leading by six points and went on a fourth quarter run to blow the game open to win 129-111.
Every game, the Bulls seems to give up 100 points or more. Why? Injuries are part of the reason. But another part points perhaps to a deeper more troubling problem; that the team does not play well as a unit. The Bulls are one of the better rebounding teams in the league, and rebounding is about effort. Why can’t that effort translate to the defensive end?
Chicago doesn’t have a player as dominating as Hassan Whiteside, the shot-blocker for the Miami Heat. Pau Gasol can block shots and does more than his share in scoring and rebounding, averaging a double-double on the season (16.9 points/10.9 assists). The other night he had a triple-double in a losing effort, with a career high 14 assists.
If the other Bulls put out half the effort that Gasol does, they might be in a better position in the standings. Derrick Rose said, “He wish he could put a finger on it,” to explain the Bulls’ woes, but he can’t. The fact that he can’t or is not willing to see what the problem is, is telling. Rose is a veteran. He knows his position, and knows how to play the game, even on two gimpy knees.
When Jimmy Butler returns, if he is in playing shape, we will have an idea of where this team is at, and how realistic their chances are for making a late run to make the playoffs.