CHICAGO – For a brief moment, he cracked a smile as he walked across the court at the Advocate Center.
That’s been a tough thing for Fred Hoiberg to do as he faces his biggest challenge to date as an NBA head coach.
His team just lost five-of-seven games on a trip that consisted mainly of West Coast teams. The Bulls lost three of those games by dropping fourth quarter leads and in the second of those games the team lost their best player for about a month.
On top of that, the Bulls have tumbled from near the top of the Eastern Conference to being just a game-and-a-half of being out of the playoffs entirely. Maybe that’s why Hoiberg’s smile at practice during the open session to the media was brief.
“It’s been difficult. It’s part of the game, it happens,” said Hoiberg of the past few weeks. “Nobody feels sorry for us and we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. When you do that teams pounce all over you.”
At least the Bulls will have to just try to fire up for one opponent for the next week. After Wednesday night’s game with the Hawks the Bulls have a week off for the All-Star break and don’t hit the court till a February 18 game at Cleveland. The break is needed for a beat up Bulls team who will get Derrick Rose back tonight after missing Monday’s blowout loss to the Hornets with general soreness.
Still Pau Gasol believes this is not the time to start the All-Star break early.
“Now the sense of urgency has to be there because of our situation,” said Gasol, especially with the guy he’s replacing in the All-Star game slated to be out for three-to-four weeks with a knee strain.
Jimmy Butler’s 22.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game will be missing for a bit and it comes at the wrong time for the struggling team. Not that there is a right one for a squad dependent on its star for a lot of production, but safe to say replacing him will take a collective effort over the next few weeks.
“You’re not going to replace Jimmy Butler with one player,” said Hoiberg. “It has to be by committee, our guys have to come out ready to play, but we’re confident in our group.”
Even if it is a time where that might seem a little bit low and the smiles are hard to get around the court.