Man, are the Bulls an effort to like, to understand, to even follow. They’re a bone-wearying, soul-trying load.
If I’m saying this about an above-.500 team, what would I be saying about a losing team? That’s just it: You know what you have with a losing team. You have badness. You make concessions intellectually and emotionally.
This team? This team drives you crazy. This team makes you look at the point of a pencil and consider whether you really need your right eye. Talented enough that it should be better than it is. Soft enough that it consistently loses games to weaker teams, often in painful ways in the fourth quarter.
The Bulls’ two best players don’t know how to play together. I don’t pretend to know the behind-the-scenes issues with Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose. I do know that more often than not they look like they’re on different teams when they’re on the court together. First it’s one’s turn to score, then the other’s. They look like two guys fighting for the same college scholarship.
Now Butler is out an undetermined amount of time with a sprained knee. Rose has shot six-for-21, six-for-15 and six-for-20, respectively, in three of his last four games.
Paul Gasol is tied for fifth in the league in double-doubles, but his stats have the depth and meaning of a pop song in the face of his defensive liabilities. He thinks he gets fouled on every play, and the Greek tragedy-theatrics have gotten old.
Along with seemingly every player on the team, coach Fred Hoiberg continues to talk about a lack of discipline and communication. This is like talking about the importance of exercise while mainlining custard.
Injuries have been a problem, but they don’t explain the way this team has played. They don’t explain Nikola Mirotic’s 38.6 field-goal percentage or Doug McDermott’s 42.9. Being without Joakim Noah hurts, but it wasn’t as if the Bulls were on fire before he injured his shoulder.
There’s nothing fun about this team, possibly because the players don’t seem to be having much fun. What is the Bulls’ identity? I’m not talking about the lose-down-the-stretch identity. We know all about that. If you were asked to describe what the Bulls do well as a team, I bet you’d struggle to come up with something definitive.
And, no, “Butler is good’’ doesn’t count.