Bulls slump brings out varying media rationalizations

Jonathan Daniel

The Bulls have lost seven of their last 10 games. The local media has varying ideas on what's causing the team's recent struggles.

This fair site would seem to take little-to-zero satisfaction in the non-Bulls related basketball happenings around the league on any given night, but it feels important to point out that Wednesday really was fun in the Association. Stephen Curry hit 11 three-pointers and hung 54 points on the Knicks in a close loss, Monta Ellis drained a crazy buzzer-beater, Wes Johnson drained a crazy buzzer-beater, Trevor Ariza air-balled a potential buzzer-beater that caused one of the funniest reactions you'll ever see on a broadcast. There were sweet behind-the-back passes and killer dunks. Wednesday night in the NBA had it all. Now the Bulls and 76ers are here to ruin your life.

It isn't hard to see why TNT pegged Bulls-76ers for its prime Thursday night slot during the time when such things are decided. Calendar math said Derrick Rose would have been back by now, and putting a national spotlight on a game versus Philadelphia would have allowed plenty of time for all of those ready-made TV talking points. This could have been full circle for Rose's recovery, in the same arena, against the same team that he tore his ACL. Instead, the country will be left watching two immensely banged up squads at the low point of their existence.

More: The anatomy of a skid

Doug Collins' rant drew plenty of headlines earlier this week, but it only happened because his team is playing so poorly. The 76ers are missing center Andrew Bynum almost as much as the Bulls are missing Rose. Philly has lost six straight, with Tuesday night's loss to the lowly Magic triggering Collins' delightful screed. While the 76ers are 12th in defensive efficiency, they're 27th in offense. Sound familiar?

The Bulls -- fourth in defensive efficiency, 25th in offensive efficiency -- aren't much different. The similarities here are striking, though the win-loss records are quite the opposite. It's enough to make one very thankful the Bulls selected the correct big man in the 2007 draft.

The point remains: these are two teams that have seen better days. Following what might be Chicago's worst loss of the season, 101-98 home defeat to the Kyrie Irving-less Cavs, the local media finally started to kick dirt.

What's interesting to me is how the Bulls' struggles were framed by the different beat writers. We'll just focus on two of them right now: the Tribune's K.C. Johnson and ESPN Chicago's Nick Friedell. Each took a very different approach to describing the Bulls' recent woes.

The Chicago Bulls are exhausted. That's not the type of excuse that coach Tom Thibodeau loathes -- it is a fact.

These are Friedell's opening words, and they aren't exactly incorrect. Remember when the Bulls blitzed the Cavs in Cleveland in the second game of the season? Or the 26-point thumping the Bulls gave Cleveland at the United Center in early January?

Friedell's reasoning for the Bulls' struggles are surface-level: the heavy-minutes burden Tom Thibodeau places on Luol Deng and Joakim Noah has started to take its toll; injuries to Noah, Taj Gibson and Kirk Hinrich haven't helped, either.

Friedell paints a picture of a physically ravaged Chicago locker room after the loss to the Cavs:

The players didn't want to admit their fatigue but it was palpable throughout the locker room. Luol Deng soaked his aching body in the cold tub. Gibson hobbled around in a huge knee brace. Kirk Hinrich talked about finding a way to play through his elbow injury. There are going to be nights when the Bulls simply don't have enough and Tuesday night was one of them.

He also has another idea for why the Bulls might be struggling:

While there's no question players have talked about the comments amongst themselves, I believe that’s just part of the reason the Bulls have been struggling. Between Derrick admitting before the All-Star break that there was a chance he still may sit out the season if his leg didn't feel right and Reggie blasting the organization for not putting enough pieces around his brother to succeed, it was if the players in Thibodeau's locker room realized that making a real run this season may not be in the cards. All the hard work and determination was for naught, especially given the constant injuries the Bulls have dealt with all season.

It's not an excuse that the comments and the injuries have had an impact on this group -- it's a fact.

Blaming Reggie Rose's comments for the Bulls' recent slide down the standings might seem silly, but he's the one around the team on a daily basis. Besides, Friedell isn't out-right blaming Reggie Rose for the Bulls' losses, just saying the public criticism might be having a bit of a tangible impact. You can judge the absurdity level of it all.

Johnson took a different approach, one near and dear the collective heart of this community. His opening words:

Myriad theories are floating around regarding the Bulls' recent struggles. Most of them don't address the core issue, beyond the obvious that Rose has yet to play: This roster isn't as good or as deep as the one from the last two seasons.

Rose's torn ACL changed everything. The depth that arguably served as the team's greatest attribute besides Rose's transcendent talent went elsewhere in a series of mostly financial decisions cloaked in basketball reasoning.

It's a fitting lede on a night when Omer Asik finished with 16 points and 22 rebounds in 31 minutes against the Bucks. It also gets to the core of what YFBB, Jason and myself have been bitching about for months -- nay, years! It's nice to see a publication as prominent as the Tribune raise the same issues we've been raising. You know, no one reads blogs.

Johnson also does well to pile-on with the hopelessness moving forward. He mentions that this is a team with $72 million committed to eight players next season, one that will again be targeting bargain-basement free agents. Can the Bulls even bring back Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli next season? As uninspiring as each has been at times, they've still both given the Bulls a relative bang for their buck.

That's a topic for another night, though. For now, sit back and strap it down for Bulls-76ers. Or do something better with your night. I doubt you'll regret it.

$72 million committed to eight players

Ricky O'Donnell is an NBA assignment editor at SB Nation. Email at richardpodonnell@gmail.com or follow on Twitter.

Myriad theories are floating around regarding the Bulls' recent struggles. Most of them don't address the core issue, beyond the obvious that Rose has yet to play: This roster isn't as good or as deep as the one from the last two seasons.

Rose's torn ACL changed everything. The depth that arguably served as the team's greatest attribute besides Rose's transcendent talent went elsewhere in a series of mostly financial decisions cloaked in basketball reasoning.

- See more at: http://www.redeyechicago.com/sports/ct-spt-0228-bulls-chicago--20130228,0,7356037.story#sthash.EgIOITkE.dpuf

Myriad theories are floating around regarding the Bulls' recent struggles. Most of them don't address the core issue, beyond the obvious that Rose has yet to play: This roster isn't as good or as deep as the one from the last two seasons.

Rose's torn ACL changed everything. The depth that arguably served as the team's greatest attribute besides Rose's transcendent talent went elsewhere in a series of mostly financial decisions cloaked in basketball reasoning.

- See more at: http://www.redeyechicago.com/sports/ct-spt-0228-bulls-chicago--20130228,0,7356037.story#sthash.EgIOITkE.dpuf

Myriad theories are floating around regarding the Bulls' recent struggles. Most of them don't address the core issue, beyond the obvious that Rose has yet to play: This roster isn't as good or as deep as the one from the last two seasons.

Rose's torn ACL changed everything. The depth that arguably served as the team's greatest attribute besides Rose's transcendent talent went elsewhere in a series of mostly financial decisions cloaked in basketball reasoning.

- See more at: http://www.redeyechicago.com/sports/ct-spt-0228-bulls-chicago--20130228,0,7356037.story#sthash.EgIOITkE.dpuf
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