What went right and wrong for the Bulls in the first half – a painful look back
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Thirty games left to salvage something.
That’s what the Bulls are facing when they return from the All-Star Break, get in a few practices, and then head to Cleveland on Thursday.
As far as what’s in the rearview mirror this season? Not a whole lot to build on. As a matter of fact, the product actually worsened from training camp until now, as Fred Hoiberg’s bunch crawled into the off-week losing 13 of their last 18 games, and even more concerning, were still a faceless team in search of some sort of identity.
It’s a franchise screaming for a trade as the deadline approaches, but one that seems incapable of pulling off a deal that betters their situation.
“I don’t think so,’’ Hoiberg said this week, when asked if anything had changed on the trade front.
Which doesn’t come as much of a surprise, especially since the front office insisted several times after the removal of former coach Tom Thibodeau that this was a “championship roster.’’
Hard to swallow these days, but the hope is that with improved health and more time playing in the new system the arrow will point up.
That’s a big ask with this group.
WHAT WENT RIGHT IN THE FIRST HALF
1. Jimmy Jam and the Funky Bunch: Whether it’s hanging with good friend Mark Wahlberg or getting a hug from actress Shay Mitchell after games, no one has gone from “just a humble kid from Tomball, Texas’’ to Hollywood quicker than Jimmy Butler.
He leads the Bulls in scoring, minutes played and hostile takeovers of leadership, as his team has gone 1-3 when he’s not played. The Bulls have developed a legitimate star wing for years to come.
2. Rose finally listened: Bulls coaches – past and present – have been begging Derrick Rose to forgo his dismal outside shot and simply help the team by attacking the rim. It only took more than a season of pleading that case, but the point guard is finally listening.
Rose’s scoring per game has gone up each month since November, and he closed out the last five games averaging 19.4 points.
3. Mike Dunleavy finally returned: The one player considered the “glue’’ of the team returned from back surgery just before the break, and the hope is that Mike Dunleavy’s addition will not only make the Bulls a more efficient team, but a deeper one at the small forward spot.
WHAT WENT WRONG IN THE FIRST HALF
1. No one died, but … : Different coach, same injury story, as this roster just can’t stay healthy. Joakim Noah (shoulder) has been lost for the season, Nikola Mirotic will slowly be returning after surgery for an appendicitis, Butler’s knee is still a concern, and there’s always that tricky “general soreness’’ that seems to keep Rose out of games.
And the kicker this season is you can no longer pin it on Thibodeau.
2. Draft misses: Since the 2011 drafting of Butler, there have been more misses than hits for the Bulls in the draft. Rookie Bobby Portis has shown signs, but the jury is still out on Doug McDermott and Tony Snell, while Marquis Teague was a bust.
The lack of consistent depth has been exposed this season, and that falls directly on Gar Forman and John Paxson.
3. No identity: Hoiberg has had to dummy down his playbook, and while the offense has struggled for consistency that once proud Bulls defensive DNA has all but disappeared. This team’s in a bad place right now, as agendas and ego have made them lose their way.