Bulls lose Dwyane Wade to an elbow injury and lose to Memphis
Job security shouldn’t be a concern for coach Fred Hoiberg these days.
After all, he already received a vote of confidence from his front office, and with three years and $15 million left on his contract after this season, there would seem to be more pressing priorities atop Hoiberg’s list.
But that doesn’t mean he’s pressure-free by any means.
“Obviously, there’s a ton of pressure in this league, but my only focus is on [the next] game,’’ Hoiberg said when asked if he thought his job could be in jeopardy if the Bulls missed the playoffs for a second consecutive season. “The only way you can [compartmentalize] is to continue to work, continue to grind, and that’s our focus.
“It’s on the next game, it’s on the next day, and how we can make our team better.’’
That “next game’’ was all Hoiberg had to look forward to after a 98-91 loss Wednesday to the Grizzlies.
With Dwyane Wade (sprained right elbow) forced to leave in the fourth quarter and Jimmy Butler having a 4-for-16 shooting night, the Bulls (32-36) have now lost six of their last seven games and continue to slide out of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Wade’s injury was the latest red flag for those playoff hopes. He’s scheduled for an MRI on Thursday, but he didn’t sound overly optimistic about a quick return.
“This is a first,’’ Wade said. “Hopefully, it’s not as bad as I perceived it to be. Just try to see what the doctors say and start my rehab process.
“My concern level is there’s only 14 games left, and I’ve never had this injury, so I can’t say two days, two weeks. I don’t know. I know Jimmy had something similar to this before — that’s what they told me — so I talked to him, and I don’t like what he has to say about this. So that’s my concern level: that we’re trying to make the playoffs and there’s only 14 games left, and I don’t know how long this is going to take to get better.’’
The subplot in this game remained the rotation questions.
Last week in a loss to Houston, the organization was still trying to walk an almost impossible line of developing youth while trying to make a playoff push. Hoiberg’s rotation went 12 deep in that defeat.
In the victory Monday over the Hornets, Hoiberg not only changed the starting lineup by going back to Rajon Rondo, but he started to tighten the rotation up, sitting Paul Zipser, Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams.
That formula seems to have some staying power now, as Hoiberg again kept it fairly tight against Memphis. The only reason the Bulls went 10 deep was because Zipser played six minutes when Nikola Mirotic got into first-half foul trouble.
Hoiberg’s hope is that his more experienced players can keep this playoff hope afloat, and his players were all in on that philosophy.
“It definitely helps with chemistry,’’ Rondo said.
The problem was that Memphis had some chemistry of its own working, as Mike Conley and Marc Gasol each scored 27 points.
Gasol provided the dagger, hitting a huge three-pointer with 1:12 left.
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