Fred Hoiberg sounded like a coach that just might have reached that edge on Sunday.
Or at least a coach that’s been pushed to that edge.
On the same day that Hoiberg was able to announce that Jimmy Butler’s injured left knee was behind him and the two-time All-Star guard was set to return Monday night in Toronto, he also revealed that Pau Gasol would not be making the two-city road trip because of swelling in his right knee.
The message to his team with just 18 regular-season games left and still on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture looking in?
Well, the same type of message that he’s been trying to preach to them for the last month when it comes to blowing late-quarter leads and untimely turnovers.
“I can’t say what I want to right now,’’ the usually reserved Hoiberg said. “Fight through it and keep battling.’’
Then when the media joked that they would bleep him out, yeah he went for it, stating, “Nut the [bleep] up.’’
A phrase that this team needs to do on so many levels.
Whether it’s been on the health front, late in games when they’re hit with some adversity, or even when they have been close to fully healthy, it’s been a group that seems to run from obstacles rather than run over them.
The Gasol news was just the latest smack in the face, as they will be without their second-leading scorer at 17 points per game, and their leading rebounder at 11.1 per game.
“It’s a tough blow,’’ Hoiberg said. “There’s no doubt about it. Pau is a guy, especially with Derrick [Rose] out of the lineup, that you can run your offense through. With the trip the way it is right now, we’re still looking at some different options as far as the starting lineup is concerned.
“Niko [Mirotic] will have to play more minutes at that spot so we’ll have some smaller lineup options out there. Bobby [Portis] will obviously get a shot. Cris [Felicio] after going through the last Toronto game gave us good solid minutes in that game. It’s just stepping up by committee for Pau. One guy isn’t going to do everything that Pau gives us. Guys are going to have to step up and try to fill the void as best they can.’’
Gasol did receive an MRI and it was negative, but it sounded like it could be up to a week on the shelf even with a treatment plan already underway.
Then there’s Rose. There always seems to be Rose when health news pops up.
The point guard said he ruled himself out of the loss to Miami with a sore groin, and it didn’t sound too promising for Toronto, either, already listed as doubtful by the team.
“It’s still too early to tell,’’ Hoiberg said. “He feels significantly better than he did the other day.’’
The plan was to get Rose through the Monday morning shootaround, get him treatment all day, and then get him through warm-ups. It’s that last stage that seems to trip up Rose, because there have been several instances this season where he’s participated fully in shootaround, but still didn’t feel game-ready by tipoff.
So how did Hoiberg try and keep the rest of the team’s spirit up on Sunday?
During the film session they put in John “Bluto’’ Blutarsky’s “Nothing is over’’ speech from “Animal House,’’ classically delivered by John Belushi.
At this point in the Bulls season, why not?