SAN FRANCISCO — A second ‘‘circus trip’’ was never on the schedule, but for almost two weeks, Bulls basketball has become a traveling sideshow.
Under one tent is the Jeff Van Gundy-John Paxson cold war. Next to the bearded rookie from the Spanish League is continually inconsistent defense. And right behind the high-flying shooting guard, there’s the ongoing debate about who should be the ringmaster.
All the while, the Bulls will be playing six straight on the road, starting with the Golden State Warriors and their NBA-best 36-6 record. Of the six opponents, the Warriors, Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets and New Orleans Pelicans are legit playoff teams.
‘‘This is our league — this is the NBA,’’ forward Taj Gibson said. “We always say that if we want to contend for a championship, you’ve got to go through these tough tasks. There’s no excuses. I’m looking forward to getting on the road. It’s always good to get on the road and get away from the city, get together as a team, learn from your mistakes and just try to go after it every night.
‘‘You know you’re going against a tough crowd every night, especially on the West Coast, but I think it will be good for us.’’
It has played out that way this season, as the Bulls have a 16-6 road record. But now they have more baggage — making the headlines again over the weekend for all the wrong reasons after ESPN analyst Van Gundy questioned the Bulls’ front office during a broadcast Friday, saying it was ‘‘undermining’’ coach Tom Thibodeau.
Paxson, the Bulls’ vice president of basketball operations, wanted an apology, but Van Gundy wasn’t offering one. A source indicated the former New York Knicks coach wouldn’t be backing down.
Meanwhile, the on-again, off-again defensive showings from the Bulls have created more questions than answers.
‘‘It’s gotta be we’re scoring the ball easily, or easier than the previous years,’’ guard Derrick Rose said. ‘‘That’s the only result I can come up with. Just looking at the team, if I was on the outside looking in, it would be that. That we’re scoring the ball easy, and on the defensive side we’re not there.’’
That’s not exactly what Thibodeau wanted to hear.
“I hope that’s not the case, because to me that’s fool’s gold,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘There’s no reason why you can’t be very efficient offensively and be efficient defensively. If you have championship aspirations, that’s what you have to do.’’
The Bulls can continue to hang their hat on their core starting five going 12-3 in only 15 games together.
With Mike Dunleavy (right ankle) close to returning, all the drama could go away quickly by the time this road trip ends.
‘‘Yeah, we’ve got to figure it out,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘Understand what goes into winning, and go from there.’’