10:25 AM EST, February 28, 2013
Have the Bulls stopped listening to Tom Thibodeau?
It’s one thing to lose to the Heat and Thunder when you’re playing without Derrick Rose, but losing at home to Cleveland makes this 4-8 February seem like a death spiral.
The loss to the lowly Cavaliers was bad enough, but the way the Bulls lost at least starts the conversation about Thibodeau’s effectiveness going forward.
The Bulls were outrebounded and outhustled Tuesday, and that’s how a Cavaliers bunch without its best player hit almost half its shots. Half of those shots seemed to be layups. Palm to forehead.
Rebounding, defense and hustle are traits that Thibodeau’s Bulls always displayed, no matter who was hurt.
So, have they stopped listening to the coach?
It’s a legitimate question to ask when you see the basic tenets of the coach’s bible circling the drain.
Thibodeau’s philosophy works. We’ve seen that. We’ve heard it, too, and that’s just it. Imagine how much the players have heard the same thing for the third straight season, and this season is the worst.
Demanding, metronomic coaches have a shelf life. See Doug Collins and Scott Skiles for details. Thibodeau, Collins and Skiles are terrific at basketball. The greater idea of coaching tends to be the problem. Every possession matters to those coaches, even if it doesn't matter as much in the big picture. At some point, players hit the mute button.
Or maybe it’s not Thibodeau but the Bulls' situation. Perhaps the players have realized the futility of giving everything everytime and going nowhere. It’s certainly possible the players have lost some will after two years of running up the best regular-season record, then going backward in the playoffs and now realizing they have no chance.
Or maybe it’s as simple as Rose’s injury revealing the lack of depth and abundance of minutes forced on the wrong players.
Rose’s injury moved several players up the food chain, and eventually the minutes will expose you, Nate Robinson. I thought Robinson got ripped off at the Oscars, where he should’ve won for Best Animated Short, but he should never start for a team that talks about championships.
Same goes for Kirk Hinrich, whose new and creative injuries after he was signed to plug Rose’s injury has just killed the reliability of the way this team gets organized offensively, and the Bulls were troubled offensively to start with.
The lack of depth ran deeper in the loss to Cleveland, which was so bad that it looked like the Bulls missed Taj Gibson more than Rose.
Kidding. Kid. Ding.
My point is, against Cleveland the Bulls needed Gibson just so they wouldn’t have had to rely on so many defensive minutes from Carlos Boozer and whatever passes for big men on the bench.
Why does Vladimir Radmanovic even get a uniform? Ditto, Nazr Mohammed.
There probably won’t be a conclusive answer about the imploding Bulls -- garage band: The Imploding Bulls, opening for The Flaming Lips -- until Rose returns. He’ll deodorize some of these questions, but not as many as people hope and pray.
It’s not just that they can’t beat Miami even if Rose comes back, but can they beat anybody the way injuries and effort are going recently?
It wasn’t so long ago that dream talk of an imminent return by Rose sparked ideas of the Bulls facing Miami in the Eastern Conference finals. Now that might be a first-round matchup.
The Bulls have fallen to an inexplicable 15-14 in the United Center, so if they do make the playoffs, they apparently won’t be burdened with home-court disadvantage.
We’ll just be burdened watching them.
Which gives me an idea: With every sports league pursuing new, creative fan interaction, the NBA should let us vote on whether we want the Bulls in the playoffs.
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