On Sunday, the Chicago Bulls held a pre-practice meeting to clear the air in their seemingly volatile locker room. This meeting comes at a much-needed time when the Bulls have struggled immensely. Their 4-6 record in the previous 10 games is a massive cause for concern, and if the playoffs began today, Chicago would not be present.
On Saturday night, Chicago was defeated by the Orlando Magic in a blowout loss that can be symbolic of their season as a whole up to this point. In the 111-89 loss, Dewayne Dedmon scored a career-high 18 points and 13 rebounds. Along with Dedmon, the Bulls struggled to contain Jason Smith and Andrew Nicholson as well. The two rarely-used big men combined for 28 points off of Orlando’s bench. From the start, Chicago’s energy was questionable. The Bulls started miserably in the early portions of the game, and Chicago found themselves down 36-22 after just one quarter. In the end, the short-handed Magic held the Bulls’ dynamic backcourt duo of Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose to just 21 points combined.
After the perplexing loss, Fred Hoiberg talked about the need for a team meeting to the Associated Press.
“Obviously, what I’m saying right now, my message isn’t getting across. We’re going to sit in a room and hopefully get it figured out tomorrow.”
Bulls players, coaches clear air after loss to Magic: Bulls players, coaches clear air after loss to Magic https://t.co/A3120rFD57
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Clearly, Hoiberg’s message has not resonated with the team this entire season. Last year, the Bulls finished with the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. Now, the same core of players may not even appear in the playoffs. With little time left to go in the season, it is obvious that Chicago’s struggles cannot be fixed in only a few weeks. Still, Hoiberg and his players have several questions that need to be addressed heading into next season.
As Mike Dunleavy explained to ESPN, the issues are much bigger than one single problem.
It’s just a lot of stuff. To say it’s like one thing we’re not doing right and that would solve everything, that’s just not the case. It’s a bunch of stuff we’re struggling with. Not only with effort, but execution and discipline and continuity. You can go through the whole thing. So from that standpoint I can’t sit here and say it’s one thing, or we’re not playing hard enough. We need to do everything better.”
On the floor, it has been the Bulls’ offense that has fallen off a cliff this season, compared to last. First-time NBA head coach Fred Hoiberg was supposed to bring his effective offense from Iowa State to Chicago, but that has not been the case so far in his tenure. The Bulls have dropped to 26th in offensive efficiency this season, a far cry from their top-10 mark offense last season. Although Hoiberg’s high-paced attack helped boost Chicago’s possessions per game, his offense as a whole has looked stagnant and methodical at best.
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Defensively, Chicago has only dropped two spots from last season in defensive efficiency, despite losing defensive guru Tom Thibodeau. It is clear that their offense has been the reason for their noticeable collapse.
Now, the Bulls trail the Detroit Pistons for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conferense. Even if Chicago sneaks into the playoffs, this season has to be considered a failure. Hoiberg’s offense has not translated to the NBA, and his inability to control his locker room is a drastic problem. After firing Thibodeau in the offseason, the Bulls have gone backwards instead of moving forward.
[Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images]