Think back a moment. On December 22, the Bulls lost to the Knicks in New York and fell a season-worst seven games below .500. And mind you, that was only one night after they choked away a 35-point lead in an epic home loss to the Sacramento Kings.
I have to admit, coming back from 10-17 looked like an impossible uphill battle. Especially considering how badly the Bulls were playing outside of Chicago. Or in Chicago, for that matter.
And yet since January 9, the Bulls are 14-6…including 9-4 on the road.
There’s been so much drama this season. All the early regret about letting Ben Gordon go to the Pistons. Derrick Rose’s preseason injury and subsequent slow start. Tyrus Thomas’ injury and his subsequent descent into frustrated semi-rebellion. The disappointing play of John Salmons. All the negative buzz about coach Vinny Del Negro. The constant trade rumors. And, most recently, the joint exits of Salmons and Thomas. Seriously, these are the kinds of events that can break a team.
1st timeout: Warrick missed 18-footer
2nd timeout: Warrick turnover
3rd timeout: Warrick missed 6-footer
4th timeout: Murray missed three-pointer
5th timeout: Deng missed 21-footer
6th timeout: Deng missed jumper
Ouch. Not a single play was successful coming out of timeouts…and the new guys were featured in four of the six post-timeout plays. Can we chalk this one up to working new players into the mix? Yeah. Probably not.
NBA: Who's Hot? Who's Not?
We're in the stretch run of the NBA regular season now and with the 2010 NBA trade deadline right behind us, we have a pretty good idea of what teams will look like when the playoffs kickoff in just less than two months. Several trades league-wide made for significant roster shake-ups and, in turn, new rotations with some young players seeing expanded roles over the last week and for the next several as well. Let's take a look at the best and worst performances from around the NBA over the past seven days.
Eastern Conference Rookie: Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls – The departure of incumbent starter Tyrus Thomas to the Charlotte Bobcats at Thursday's trade deadline meant more opportunities for Gibson and the 6-9 forward has responded in a big way. Gibson set or tied career-highs in points (20), rebounds (16), offensive rebounds (11), field goals made (nine) and field goals attempted (14) this week. The former USC Trojan registered two double-doubles in four games this week as the Bulls went undefeated and Gibson averaged 13.5 points, 12 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots while shooting .625 (25-40) from the field.
Eastern Conference Team: Chicago Bulls – The Bulls had a perfect week, going 4-0 and, despite the fact that they played the Knicks (twice), Timberwolves and 76ers, are looking like a team with new life since the All-Star break. Chicago allowed its opponents an average of just 94.5 points per game and had bookend victories by 33 on Tuesday (118-85 over the Knicks) and 32 on Saturday (122-90 over the Sixers). The 122 points Chicago scored on Saturday was the highest scoring game by the Bulls this season and the team's average margin of victory this week was 19.3 points.
It's still possible for Bulls to land 2 top free agents
The Bulls' $30-million free-agent plan was tantalizing.
With a couple of phone conversations next July 1, they might have been able to land two top-line free agents and conceivably hosted a new conference featuring Joe Johnson and Chris Bosh seated at the same table.
That plan didn't work out, though, because the Bulls hung on to Kirk Hinrich at the trade deadline. I believe general manager Gar Forman when he said Thursday the Bulls did not want to trade Hinrich. Of course they didn't want to, but I suspect they would have if the Lakers agreed to give back expiring contracts, or if a Tracy McGrady deal with Houston and Sacramento worked out.
Now the Bulls head into the summer with $20 million of cap space to spend. In some ways, this scenario is better for fans because the Bulls, 19-9 since Dec. 26, should finish the season well above .500 and be primed for a competitive playoff series.
One NBA scout walked into the arena this weekend shaking his head at the Bulls' envious position - $20 million in cap space and a winning nucleus already in place. Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Hinrich are all locked in beyond next season.