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News » Bullish on these Bulls

Bullish on these Bulls

Bullish on these BullsAfter the Bulls were blown out for the fourth consecutive time, this time at the hands of the Utah Jazz on Thanksgiving night, TNT's Charles Barkley weighed in on the team.

''Michael Jordan is rolling over in his grave watching these Bulls play,'' Barkley said.

Jordan is alive and kicking, but Barkley's point was clear. The Bulls have played poorly on this road trip and looked particularly bad against the Jazz. Those able to fight off their tryptophan hangover and stay awake until tipoff probably were lulled to sleep by the Bulls' lethargic play. As losses go, this was a doozy -- a 19-point defeat that wasn't even that close.

''Anything we should say to put this one in perspective?'' TNT's Ernie Johnson asked. ''Or should we move on?''

They wisely decided to move on. And now that the five-game Western swing of the six-game circus trip is finished, the Bulls must do the same. Because they're not as bad as they have looked in the last four games and the season is still young.

The Bulls' four losses in a row shouldn't come as a surprise. We knew they had little chance to beat the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets or Portland Trail Blazers on their home courts. And they caught the Jazz, which was coming off an embarrassing loss of its own, at a particularly bad time.

But things should start looking up soon. After a winnable game Monday against the Bucks in Milwaukee, the Bulls will spend most of December -- 11 of 15 games -- playing at the United Center. By the end of next month, we will know a lot more about their outlook.


That's not to say the first 14 games haven't taught us a few things about the 2009-10 Bulls . For starters, points aren't coming easily. The Bulls have scored 100 points only once. Their outside shots aren't falling, and they have no scoring presence inside. Until further notice, their best hopes of creating scoring opportunities are through defense and by hitting the offensive boards because their halfcourt offense gives new meaning to the word ''stagnant.'' It must be painful for fans to watch.

We know Derrick Rose has gotten off to a slow start, obviously hampered by the injured right ankle that caused him to miss a lot of the preseason. We know John Salmons has found the transition to becoming a go-to guy difficult. We know the always-streaky Kirk Hinrich, who sat out against the Jazz with a thumb injury on his left (non-shooting) hand, hasn't been shooting well. We also know Tyrus Thomas, who has a broken arm, has been missed.

But it's not all bad news. On the plus side, Luol Deng, healthy once again, has played well. Joakim Noah has become one of the top rebounders in the league, averaging nearly 12 a game. And West Coast blowouts aside, the defense is better than it was last season. As Reggie Miller said early in the TNT broadcast Thursday: ''The Bulls have nothing to be down about. Just because you got blown out by three upper-echelon teams doesn't mean you're not doing things right.''


The Bulls' biggest problem has been their poor shooting. Does that mean they miss Ben Gordon? Not in the win-loss column, they don't. Their 6-8 record is the same as it was after 14 games last season. People tend to remember Gordon's hot streaks, but he had just as many dry spells. And he always was a liability on defense.

No, it's not about Gordon. It's about Rose and Salmons being unable to make three-pointers. And with defenses sagging, begging them to shoot, Rose can't penetrate. The problem is compounded by the fact that none of the Bulls' forwards is talented enough offensively to command being double-teamed inside. And the vicious offensive circle goes round. So the Bulls need to work harder on the offensive end than most teams. Let's see them do it.

Like a lot of other organizations, the Bulls have been gearing up for the 2010 free-agent class, with the hope they can nab a superstar or at least an All-Star. But there's no need to look ahead to next season already. The Bulls were a .500 team last season, and with the improvement of Noah and Deng and (hopefully) Rose and Thomas, there is no reason they can't better that record this season.

With the exception of a victory against the Sacramento Kings, this trip has been a downer. But I'd like to think we've seen the Bulls at their worst. And I hope they prove me right.

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: December 1, 2009


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