The Bulls' 118-83 loss Wednesday night to the Hawks at Philips Arena will do nothing to quiet the disgruntled fans asking for Vinny Del Negro's head.
That's nine losses in 10 games, seven of them blowouts and one to the team with the league's worst record.
Only the Bulls coach, general manager Gar Forman and executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson know what is said behind closed doors about Del Negro's job status.
Del Negro described their daily talks about the state of the team as positive. And though the season's worst loss can make things fluid, a coaching change doesn't appear imminent.
Forman and Paxson know the Bulls' roster, which carried only 12 healthy players on the first day of training camp, isn't designed to absorb injuries. It's built as much for 2010 as 2009.
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Weekend may determine Vinny's future
Here’s some quick perspective on the Bulls’ sudden disinterest in playing competitive basketball:
Last Friday in Cleveland, the Bulls played a good first half and held a 2-point lead with eight minutes left in the third quarter. They’d posted a 7-9 record against one of the league’s toughest schedules and could look forward to a home-heavy month of December, as well as getting two of their top seven players back from injury.
Doesn’t sound so bad, right?
From that moment in Cleveland, though, the Cavs went on a 24-7 run and won the game going away. Since then, the Bulls have lost by 32 and 35 points, and in between dropped a home game to a team off to the worst start in NBA history.
Wednesday’s trip to Atlanta seemed like a certain loss, with the shorthanded Bulls playing the second leg of a back-to-back against a rested team on the road. But their effort in a 118-83 loss was weak even considering the circumstances.
Whether or not Vinny Del Negro is to blame for this sudden deep lull, an absence of effort reflects poorly on the coach. So his future probably depends on the Bulls showing up ready to play Friday against Golden State. They complete a stretch of four games in five nights against Boston on Saturday, which has a chance to be ugly.
Del Negro answers critics: 'I'm a fighter'
Chicago Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro came out on the offensive Thursday afternoon after practice with a message for his critics who think he should be fired.
"It's easy to sit back on the sidelines, and everyone has all these great ideas and all these things that people think they know what they're talking about," Del Negro said. "But until you live it and do it, no one has an idea.
"All you guys have to write and do your job and come up with stories and things, and that's all great, and you have to do that, but you guys really don't know what it's like, because you've never done it."
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Del Negro, a second-year coach, has faced a lot of scrutiny over the past week while his team has plummeted in the standings. The Bulls head into Friday night's game against the Golden State Warriors having lost nine of their last 10 games, including a 35-point drubbing in Atlanta on Wednesday night.
"My thing is, I'm a fighter," Del Negro said. "We fight as a team. We stick together as a team, and that's all you control is your effort, your preparation, the opportunity that's ahead of you.
"The NBA is tough. Pro sports is tough, man. You can't be soft. You got to after it. Guys want to rip your heart out. And you just got to be tough enough to continually persevere and find ways to get better."
Del Negro also said the criticism surrounding him has been unfair.
There should be no rush to dump Vinny Del Negro
If you accept, as the Bulls' roster indicates the team has, that the purpose of the 2009 season is to prepare for 2010, then you lose the right to demand the club fire coach Vinny Del Negro now.
As long as Del Negro is replaced by summer, when the Bulls' commitment to winning an NBA title resumes, there's no hurry.
It really doesn't matter if the Bulls have a news conference to announce the firing of Del Negro on Friday, Christmas Eve or April 15. What matters is everybody who understands the Bulls' plan fully expects that news conference will come before the next draft and free-agent signing period.
Understandably, nine losses in 10 games and three Tim Floyd Era-like blowouts have sparked urgent speculation that Del Negro's days absolutely, positively have to be numbered. Bob Stoops already has denied interest in the job, and Charlie Weis has told friends he would like to be considered.
Sorry, wrong coaching searches. It's hard to keep these things straight.