By: Grant Pomatto
The Bulls were rolling, or so it seemed. 10 games above .500, they looked like the best team in the eastern conference to challenge the Cavaliers to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. That feels like an eternity ago now. That nosedive began with a January 9th loss in Atlanta and has continued to Wednesday’s 113-90 annihilation by the Hawks in Chicago. With all of the players missing and hurt is there a way for the Bulls to get out of this tailspin? The answer is no
With the Bulls losing Joakim Noah for the rest of the year to a shoulder injury, Nikola Mirotic missing a few weeks to an appendicitis surgery removal and their best player in Jimmy Butler being out with a knee injury, I don’t see how they can come back from these many deficits and put together a strong second half to the season.
The Bulls have gone 5-13 since the nosedive began on January 9th and are now in danger of missing the playoffs. Where they used to be second in the eastern conference, they have now fallen to 7th place in the east and just a game ahead of the 9th place Detroit Pistons. Here are some reasons why the Bulls won’t be able to recover
#1. Too many young players
The Bulls were billed as a deep team, but Mike Dunleavy’s recovery from September back surgery meant heavy minutes for Tony Snell, Doug McDermott and Mirotic. Only Mirotic out of the three you can really say has given them some useful minutes and much needed offense at times when the team seemed desperate but, since losing Noah and Mirotic, rookie Bobby Portis has joined the young and often confused rotation. With backup point guard Aaron Brooks not playing well this month, the Bulls aren’t getting much from the bench and shouldn’t look for anything else to change in the second half.
#2. A lack of competition and spirit
Slow starts have been a problem for the Bulls this year it seems like almost every game. If not a slow start then definitely a sluggish finish to the game. But what happens in between these times is more important. They simply can’t handle the pressure and crumble underneath it. They don’t look like the Bulls we are used to seeing. For the past several years, they were a tenacious group that you knew you were going to get into a cage match with. It was their style of play, it was who they were. Now, they simply can be compared more to a floor mat. Everybody runs over them and even teams that they should easily handle stomp them on. If Hoiberg was such the perfect match for the team, why isn’t he doing anything about the problem at hand? He’s got to take the Bulls by their horns and tell them that this is what they need to do in order to win.
#3. A Strange type of Chemistry
And finally, the team’s chemistry. Bad behavior seems to spread throughout the team like a virus. They get mad at each other about missed assignments, yet the whole team seems confused quite often. Or offensively, when someone takes a quick shot, it’s as if to say that everybody can start firing up shots at will and they won’t be a consequence because the man before me did it. While the team is young, the team’s big three leaders, Butler, Rose, and Gasol, don’t seem to fit together sometimes for the effective team leadership you need to have on a young squad like theirs. They all like to do their own thing and I don’t think any 3 of them besides maybe Butler wants to look at this situation that they have and try to tell the other guys that instead of pouting, they need to lead by their work ethic and show their teammates how they can get back to being one of the most feared teams in the eastern conference.
Chicago has many problems that they need to fix before they can become a powerhouse again and be back in the talks for title contenders. Which is why this year isn’t a lost cause, but it won’t be the year that Bulls’ fans were hoping for. I don’t see them jumping up back to second in the east again. They will probably stay in the middle of the pact, make the playoffs, and lose in their first round match-up most likely. But they need to take this year and figure out what they need to gain in the offseason, how to improve their offense, and how to put these working parts together in order for them to succeed in the future.