When Jimmy Butler called out coach Fred Hoiberg earlier in the season for being soft, he wasn’t nearly inclusive enough. He should have added the entire roster, himself included, a bunch of mellow fellows who lack a killer instinct.
The Bulls spend a lot of time talking about the need for more discipline and communication on the court, but that, like most things with this team, involves so many empty words. There’s talking, and then there’s doing.
The entire narrative around the Bulls this season has been the reported struggle between Butler and Derrick Rose over whose team this is. Everybody now seems to agree that it’s Butler’s. Good for you, Jimmy. You’re the leader of a team whose heart doesn’t seem to beat all the time. You’re the leader of a team that bends like a pipe cleaner at the first suggestion of difficulty. Now, what are you going to do about it? Great leaders make teammates play better and harder, all the time. You and your teammates lose to lesser players.
The Bulls tend to stand up to the top teams in the NBA and lie down to the weaker ones. After a 27-point loss Sunday to a Clippers team without Blake Griffin, Hoiberg talked about his team’s fragility.
“I’ve been saying this all year: I hate to sound like a broken record,’’ he said. “We’re a really good team when things are going well. We go out there and play with a swagger and a confidence, but we lose that. We lose that when things aren’t going well.’’
Can there be a bigger indictment for a group of professional athletes? Your coach is implying that there are paper airplanes that fold less than your team does. The indictment didn’t seem to bother anyone. The day after Hoiberg’s comments, the Bulls fell apart in overtime in a loss to Utah.
Some analysts are still asking whether the Bulls can vie for the Eastern Conference title. The answer: Not if the habits they’ve developed in the regular season mean anything.