The Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs enter tonight's game with the same record. However, let's not pretend these are teams headed in the same direction. San Antonio is 9-9 without Kawhi Leonard whom returned from injury three games ago. They haven't lost since.
The Bulls, theoretically, have home court advantage, but they haven't played well at home this season. Beyond that, Chicago's locker room is in turmoil as the team has lost its defensive identity and hasn't shot the ball well enough to compensate.
Bad teams are having their way with Chicago right now, and with Kawhi back, the Spurs look like a championship caliber team again.
The Bulls were upbeat after a meeting on Tuesday to clear the air and talk, but that positive attitude likely goes right back in the tank with a few more losses.
The schedule isn't doing them any favors their either as the Bulls should be underdogs in three of their next four games (Spurs, @Mavs, and @GS).
This could be a turning point for Chicago. In the middle of a season where they have legitimate championship hopes, they've appeared to decide to stop working hard and tune out the coach. The team looks on the verge of imploding.
It's hard to see this game as anything but a blowout for the Spurs, and Chicago doesn't look like it would deal well with another blow out despite the positive meeting.
That said, it's also an opportunity. If Chicago can circle the wagons, rally the troops, and get a win then it has some real meaning for them. Going on a win streak against the crap teams of the East might not mean much to these guys, but beating the Spurs, with Kawhi, could get them back focused on the prize. Same could be said for Dallas (Friday) or Golden State (Tuesday).
Noah is listed as doubtful, Dunleavy questionable, and McDermott probable [though he didn't play despite being active last game]. Thibodeau said he liked the way Jo moved in practice on Wednesday, and Dunleavy went through a full practice. I figure there's a decent chance that Dunleavy is back in action for Chicago while Joakim Noah's likely still out.
Tom Thibodeau actually played the injury card with the media, a big change from "we have more than enough to win" which is interesting in and of itself only because now they really have more than enough to win whereas in the past they haven't.
“Quite frankly, I’m surprised we’re where we are with the amount of games that have been missed and practices that have been missed,” an upbeat Tom Thibodeau said after the team’s brief, 75-minute session. “This is why I have great respect for our guys. They’ve done this year after year.”
We've seen Thibodeau change up several things over the past couple days. Canceling a practice when the team was playing really badly and his inner Thibs had to be screaming work harder at him, and now actually acknowledging injuries as a reason for losses.
Is Thibodeau really changing before our eyes to a more moderate coach and stepping off the gas? I don't know if he's desperately grasping at straws or simply acknowledging different teams need different things from their coach, and this Bulls team needs something different from the last couple seasons. Either way, it's nice to see his willingness to change given his reputation.
Now we have to see if any of these good vibes and positive attitude make a difference. The big problem for the Bulls isn't the losses. The overall record means little to me. My goal for the Bulls is to simply not face Cleveland in the first round. The big problem is they aren't even competing.
Championship caliber teams don't win every game. They take some games off. They sometimes don't take the regular season as seriously as they should. They sometimes just show up and try and win on talent instead of effort.
However, championship teams rarely go through a stretch where they're this bad and aren't even close in many of their losses. Their pride is hurt. When they get blown out, they come back and crush the next team and prove that when they put forth the effort no one can stop them.
The Bulls haven't shown that yet. They aren't likely to crush the Spurs either, but I am hoping for a strong effort.
Filed under: Uncategorized