Floundering Bulls try to collect themselves during All-Star break
CHICAGO – He’s only 52 games into his tenure and already he’s shown the wear of several seasons.
Oddly enough the stress on Fred Hoiberg’s face is the result of just a couple of weeks.
Sitting at the table in front of the media after Wednesday’s 23-point loss to the Hawks at the United Center last night, Hoiberg was composed yet frustrated at what’s happen to his team since the beginning of 2016.
Four losses in a row. A 2-5 road trip where the Bulls blew three fourth quarter leads. Thirteen defeats in their last 17 games. At least the All-Star break keeps the Bulls of the court for a week and prevents things from spiraling out of control.
Hoiberg charged his team not to let that happen when they return to the court.
“We’ve got to find ourselves,” said Hoiberg. “I challenged them. Whatever they’ve got to do over the break, look themselves in the mirror, find a way to get committed to this thing so we can come out and go on a run.
“That’s all we can do right now is look forward.”
Even that’s a bit tricky right now for the Bulls for a few reasons.
For one they can’t look forward to a return of Jimmy Butler to the lineup for at least three-to-four weeks after his knee strain. Gone are his team-leading 22 points a game and ability to help the Bulls close out games with close shooting, as evidence by losses on the road to the Nuggets and Timberwolves following the injury.
Plus the Bulls have to keep their eyes backwards on the teams trailing them in the Eastern Conference. At the moment they are in seventh place, just a half-game up on the Hornets who sit in eighth. Just a full game back are the Pistons who are on the outside looking in at the playoff race though it could easily be the Bulls if they don’t get things changed after the break.
“We’ve still got 30 more games to play when we come back. Hopefully this break gives us time to get away from it,” said guard Derrick Rose of the recent struggles. “Come back with 30 games left we’ve got to decide if we want to play or not.”
So what goes into that decision? Hoiberg was asked specifically on Tuesday what can be done on the court to switch the fortunes of the team.
“It’s got to be a sacrifice. You’ve got to do everything you can to help this team win,” was Hoiberg’s answer to the question. “Right now we’re getting beat for loose ball, we’re getting beat down the floor. 19-4 fast break points, they (Hawks) outscored us on second chance points.
“The little things, that’s what it’s about right now for this team it’s the little things we’ve got to improve on.”
Defense would help, too. In their last seven games the team has allowed at least 102 or more points and lost six of those contests. Once a team that ranked in the Top 5 in points allowed this season, the Bulls are now 16th, giving up 101.9 a game. It’s not like they’re making it up on offense since they are averaging slightly less (101.2) on the offensive end.
Problem is, how than they fix it. That’s not an easy answer.
“I can’t. Who can?,” said Rose when asked to point out what’s wrong with the defense. “Who can?”
The Bulls have six days to find something or someone to turn around a season headed south in a hurry.