12 March 2010
What can you even say? I told you that the Bulls would not score more than 85 points this game. It just wasn't going to happen. And I'm sorry, but it wasn't goint to happen with Derrick Rose in the game either.
This all really seems like a bad dream. A bad dream that you can't wake up from. Nightmare to be exact. Night terror maybe? The swings in an NBA season are just insane when you think about it. In December, the Bulls were "the biggest disappointment in the entire league" blah blah blah. How could a team that had such a terrific playoff series in the spring come back and be so bad in the fall? Truth is, they weren't that bad. They were trying to find their way without their leading scorer from the previous season and their franchise player hobbling with an ankle injury. Somehow, in spite of all this, the media kept calling the Bulls a disappointment. Um no. If you expected anything more under those circumstances, then you just don't know this team and maybe don't even understand the NBA. It got so bad that Vinny Del Negro was on the verge of being fired around Christmas time. Chris Broussard even came out with a report that stated that Vinny had already been fired, and they were just going to wait a little longer before they actually let him go due to a lack of a sufficient replacement being available. As with so many media reports about the Bulls in recent years, it ended up not happening.
Then...just as the Bulls do every year...they started to turn it around. Derrick got healthy and had an MVP-like December and January. Joakim Noah was 2nd in the league in rebounding. Taj Gibson started to come into his own. Luol Deng started playing with tremendous consistency and became a solid second option. Even Brad Miller caught a second wind and started producing off the bench. The Bulls were playing so great that they won 5 games in a row, on the road, against winning Western Conference teams. No team had ever done that before. And they did it with Joakim Noah sitting a few games due to plantar fasciitis. But it was plantar fasciitis. No big deal, right? Not like any bones were broken. Not like he needs a cast, right? He'll be over it in no time. A few games rest should do, right? RIGHT? The Bulls even got their first All-Star since Michael Jordan. Derrick had done it. We were on top of the world. We're talking cloud nine. The 6-seed was ours. We were chasing the 5-seed, and we were sure we were going to get it. No...WE KNEW we were going to get it. Vinny was even catching less flack at that point, and even earning some accolades for turning this team around. Maybe Vinny shouldn't get fired? Maybe there's a madness to this guy's methods? Maybe we can get used to the hair? Maybe.
Along comes Dwight Howard. In the game before the All-Star break, the Bulls played the Orlando Magic at the United Center. Two minutes into the 1st quarter, Derrick takes the ball to the basket strong with the explosiveness we had become accustomed to. When Derrick goes up, he goes up with everything he's got. Collission. Dwight Howard jumps in the air and commits a pretty hard foul on Derrick, causing him to fall straight back and land on his tailbone. Derrick wouldn't come back that game. The Bulls got the wind knocked out of them. Their leader...their All-Star...the heart-and-soul of the franchise just took a horrible foul and had to leave a game against one of the most imposing teams in the league. We got blown out. It was over in the 1st quarter. But that wasn't the concern at that point.
Bulls fans were worried. This kid was about to play in his first All-Star game. We wanted our first All-Star in 12 years to play in the actual game. We wanted to see him in the box score.
He only had a bruised hip. He played in the game, even though we could see him wince as he ran up and down the court in his 15 minutes of PT (the lowest of any player in the game). Still Bulls fans hadn't forgotten the fact that Dwight Howard caused Rose to miss the Skills Challenge, which he had one the year before and probably would have won again based on the performances this year, and also ended up playing the least amount of minutes in the All-Star game.
Looking back on the season, that fould was really the turning point where things went sour. Derrick came back and eventually was fine, but now every time he took it to the basket, you held your breath. He held his breath. Vinny held his breath. On top of that, Joakim wasn't getting better. He was getting worse. It turns out plantar fasciitis is pretty damn serious. It turns out playing Joakim 5 minutes here, 7 minutes there, was only making it worse. And it was hurting the team. Playing Joakim at 20% strength was essentially wasting minutes, because it was doing nothing to help this team get wins. For Joakim to be effective, he needs to be at full strength. How do you get to ful strength when you have plantar fasciitis? Rest. Consistent rest. And the organization should have known this. Andres Nocioni had plantar fasciitis in 2006-2007. He missed 33 games before he came back semi-healthy. It's not like this is the 1st time the organization was seeing this injury. They should have been aware of what needed to be done. Instead, he was missing a game here, playing two right after, missing two right after that, playing one after that, not making the trip on the road after that, etc. Finally, it was time to rest him. Shut down. For 3 weeks. Until April.
The emotional and defensive leader of this team was gone. Not coming back till the season was pretty much over. Tyrus Thomas traded away at the deadline. While his defensive prowess is constantly exaggerated and overstated, the Bulls could have used his length and rebounding in the frontcourt. It was now up to Brad Miller, Taj Gibson, Hakim Warrick, and Chris Richard. Who? Chris Richard. Don't ask.
Then another bad omen. Derrick bangs knees with Earl Watson in the last two minutes of a game against the Pacers. He has to come out of the game and his right knee looks hurt. He doesn't practice one day, and he ends up trying to play the next game. In the first two minutes against the Hawks in the very next game, he ends up banging knees with Mike Bibby. This time he looks even more hurt...and it's his other knee. Another bad omen? Have the basketball g-ds forsaken the Bulls? He has to come out of that game, but ends up returning and by the time he came back, it was too late. The Bulls just couldn't catch the Hawks.
Then, the media finds out that Taj Gibson's plantar fasciitis is getting serious. Yeah, he had it too. His was a mild case, but it's starting to bother him. Is this stuff contagious? With the Bulls current frontcourt situation, they could ill-afford to lose Taj, especially when he was started to be taken seriously by the entire league. He was gettin' good. But now this PF garbage was about to start slowing him down just when he was making serious progress. Damn you basketball g-ds.
What was going to happen next? More injuries? How many more bodies could we afford to lose? None. But life ain't fair. Luol Deng bangs knees with Josh Howard in a game where he ends up finishing and leading all scorers with 31 points. Overnight, the knee swells up and he becomes seriously hobbled by it. It has continuously bothered him all the way through last game, where he ended up straining his right calf. Did I mention he had flu-like symptoms about a week ago as well? Good lord. He is now sidelined for 4 games or so, at least, and he didn't even make the trip to Orlando for tonight's game.
By the way, there was also an incident a couple games ago where Kirk Hinrich rolled his ankle twice in one game, and had to leave the game on the second roll. How many times have you seen that before? He didn't miss any time beyond that one game, but how insane would it have been if our starting shooting guard went down as well? Imagine a lineup of Pargo, Flip Murray, James Johnson, Hakim Warrick, and Brad Miller. That's D-league-esque.
Speaking of tonight's game, it was the first time the Bulls had seen the Magic since the Dwight Howard incident. The Bulls wanted to come out and do the best they could to take it to the Magic for what happened in the game before the All-Star break. 11 minutes into the 1st quarter...Derrick Rose showed he still was not intimidated and has no fear...he took it right to Dwight Howard in the lane. He got fouled hard. Again. On the same exact move. Fell the same exact way. This time he tried to break his fall a little bit with his left hand, probably to avoid the hip bruise that he suffered last time. He jammed it. Sprained left wrist. He has to go to the locker room and put his arm in a sling. The Bulls get blown out by 30 or so. Same EXACT situation as last time. Same hard foul. Same ridiculous foul. Derrick goes up against big men every game. He takes it to the hole every game. That's what he does. He gets fouled every game. That's what happens. But only when he does it against Dwight Howard does he go flying like a rag doll and get injured. Do I blame Dwight Howard? A little. The nature of that kind of foul is unnecessary. All he has to do is put his hands up and jump straight up. The way I see it...Dwight is throwing his weight into Derrick as he's jumping. That's a sneaky way of fouling someone extremely hard. And he's done it twice now. And I absolutely hate him for it. And that was the ball game.
In terms of the actual game...like I said...there just isn't much to say. This is the bazillionth game in a row where a Bulls opponent has shot well over 50%. This is the 9th game in a row that the Bulls have let up 100 or more points. Can you even fathom how absurd that is? It's getting out of hand, but there's nothing they can do. Dwight Howard got to do whatever he wanted obviously. Joakim Noah's absence was taken advantage of rebound-wise and everything else-wise. Everyone's absence was taken advantage of.
But clearly, defense isn't the only issue. The Bulls actually got off 14 more shots than the Magic, but shot only 39.8%, while the Magic shot 55.1%. The Bulls scored 18 or less points in 3 out of the 4 quarters tonight. 17 in the first, 16 in the second, and 18 in the 3rd. Don't see that very often. This team, with its 3 best players hurt, could lose every game the rest of the season. If Luol Deng and Derrick Rose manage to come back in a few games and be healthy, they may end up stealing a few here and there, but there's no guarantee of even that. It's bad right now folks. They are now a serious longshot to make the playoffs, let alone stay in the 9-seed. Silver lining? They are only 1.5 back of the THREE...count it...THREE teams immediately ahead of them. All that needs to happen is for one of those teams to falter, and I suppose the bulls could be back in it? But right now, with the Bulls confidence at an all time low and the injury woes they're facing, it's a pipe-dream. And Vinny's back on the hotseat. Sorry Vinny, that's just the nature of the beast. But mostly, sorry to the Bulls fans, as the basketball g-ds have truly forsaken us in this rollercoaster of a season.