Whether the case is tired legs, overcompensating for playing shorthanded, or the consistent speculation both nationally and locally that Derrick Rose is more likely to sit out this season than return that can be attributed to the Bulls slide recently, what’s certain is that they will finish with only the second sub .500 month in coach Tom Thibodeau’s tenure.
The first occurrence happened this season, back in November, in which they won six out of their 13 contests. Currently the Bulls are 4-8 in February with one remaining game tomorrow against the struggling Philadelphia 76ers (22-33).
The Bulls went 12-4 in January and their slide to begin February coincides with Hinrich being sent back home, to begin a stretch of 10 out of their next 12 games on the road, after dealing with reoccurring issues in his right elbow.
Since that time, there has been the consistent speculation that Rose won’t return after comments he made to USA Today and further speculated upon when older brother, Reggie voiced his displeasure with the current state of the roster potentially playing a factor in whether or not his little brother returns. Taj Gibson also went down last Sunday went a sprained MCL in his left knee and is expected to miss at least two weeks.
Never one to make excuses, Thibodeau shot down the notion that the Rose speculation has had any effect on his team/
“It’s the challenge that we face. Every day you’re faced with different things that can distract you if you allow it to,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “You have to guard against that, constantly. Sometimes, it’s injuries, schedules… Taj out, Kirk out – whatever it may be. You have to guard against all of that. We knew going in what the circumstances were going to be this year. There was no timetable. There was no date where we’re saying ‘he’s going to be back this day.’ It’s when he’s ready. We knew that going in. We can’t allow that to be an excuse for us not getting the job done. We got to get the job done. We’ve shown that we’re capable. Obviously, we’re capable of playing better than we have been recently.
“The challenge is to be a 48 minute team and that’s in all areas. You can’t be strong on one side of the ball and weak in the other,” he continued. “The teams that have success are well balanced, so you strive for that from the start of the season until the end. There’s going to be lulls that you have to work yourself through and we understand that. The only way we’re getting out of that is by the work we put into it. You get into something together, you get out of something together. And that’s the important thing, that we stick together, we keep fighting and just concentrate on improvement. If we’re doing the right things each and every day, we’ll improve.”
The Sixers enter tomorrow’s game losers of their last six. Head coach Doug Collins was openly critical following a loss to the Orlando Magic on Tuesday and vented his frustrations in an 11-minute postgame press conference.
With the way February has gone for the Bulls and their 15-14 record at home, they can’t take their struggling opponent lightly.
Well aware that they have to play with more a sense of urgency and with more intensity, Thibodeau is expecting his club to bounce back as they typically have during his tenure when facing adversity.
“There’s a fine line between winning and losing. That’s what we have to understand,” he said. “Oftentimes, it’s a loose ball here, a loose ball there, it’s one play. We can’t get down when we’re facing some adversity. We have to be mentally tough, get through things and I’m confident that we will. We just have to bounce back.”