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‘Nut the (bleep) up’ only a suggestion for these soft Bulls

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg says his team needs to get tougher. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Let’s give Fred Hoiberg some credit. If Joe Maddon said the Cubs needed to “Nut the (bleep) up,’’ it would become a slogan, which would lead to a T-shirt, a marching band of sitar players and two emus.

But Maddon would never utter such a thing about the Cubs because that would involve a discouraging word about a team that, at this point, has a clear path to a 162-0 season.

Frustrated with his team’s effort, Hoiberg let loose with his nutting-up comment Sunday. The only problem is that it came about 30 games too late. You can’t be what you’re not, and Hoiberg shouldn’t even try. The Bulls brought him in to be the anti-Tom Thibodeau, the rounded knob to Thibs’ sharp edges. But the Bulls aren’t what everyone expected them to be, which is to say a lot better than a .500 team.

The string of injuries has been at best bizarre and at worst a possible symptom of a bigger problem. Too many minutes? Not enough recovery time? Something with the way the team is training or rehabbing? I don’t know. Pau Gasol is the latest injury. He’ll be out at least two games with a swollen knee. The list of injured players this season is long enough to fill a monument in a park: Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic, Taj Gibson, Mike Dunleavy and now Gasol.

What Hoiberg was referring to was his team’s habit of blowing late leads and backing down to alleged lesser teams. Playing hurt is part of this too. Granted, it’s a delicate line. Do you risk further injury by playing with pain? Tough decision, but it seemed to be an easier decision a decade or so ago. Rose talks about listening to his body in regard to taking a game or two off. Maybe his teammates have started to hear voices too.

When Hoiberg says “Nut the (bleep) up,’’ he’s talking about a body part that can’t seem to get a word in with this team.