The Chicago Bulls now go on the road for six games against some Western Conference teams.
First up is the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night. This trip could define the Bulls’ season.
The Bulls are indeed a fragile team. Playing off an emotionally draining meeting, the Bulls were soundly beaten by a Miami Heat team, it should have defeated. Then it rebounded against the upstart 76ers the other night.
The Bulls play has been so up and down, one hardly knows what to expect game in and game out. If the second team can hit its shots, like Nikola Mirotic, and Doug McDermott did vs. Philadelphia, they can be a tough team. If the Bulls have 40% shooting nights, they will likely lose.
There is talent on this team. But there are too many questions marks halfway into the season. Can Taj Gibson play on a gimpy ankle? Can Rajon Rondo lead the second team? When does he get a chance to run the first team? Rondo is the wild card. He’s tightly wound, but has talent. He can penetrate, drive the ball, distribute the ball, and get rebounds. He seems like a guy who walks to the beat of his own drum. When he has his shot falling, he is dangerous. Sometimes, that happens, sometimes, it doesn’t.
During last summer management spoke of the team getting younger, and then it went out and signed Rondo, and then veteran G Dwyane Wade fell into their lap. Can Fred Hoiberg coach these players?
A well known commentator on ESPN called the team “a dysfunctional mess.” Wade, a future Hall of Famer, could bolt after this season. Can the Bulls show some stability and take on good teams? If so, Wade could come back. Right now, it’s all up in the air. The players and coaching staff will determine how the balance of the season fares.
Hoiberg is in his second year at the helm. He’s facing some real challenges ahead. He’s got to provide leadership to this disparate group. Jimmy Butler is emerging as a superstar. He plays hard and plays both ways well. At times, he has put up Jordan-like numbers. He has worked hard to improve his game and it shows. The great ones do that.
The Bulls are a game below .500. There are a lot of “ifs” floating about this team. On the upcoming road trip, Wade said “it will be a long trip, and lonely.” On the road, you find out a lot about how players face adversity, how they deal with the stress of being in a hostile arena.
This series of games will provide some answers and the Bulls hope it can turn a few heads and move up to above .500.