Kudos to blog-brother PeachTreeHoops for finding this paradox from the Bulls locker room after giving up 129 points to the Hawks on Sunday:
In truly dysfunctional team news, Andres Nocioni:
"It's personal, you know? Everybody needs to take the challenge. If we don't play 'D,' we will be out of the playoffs for sure. Today was terrible, terrible defense. We need to stop the ball one-on-one. hen nobody helps or crowds guys or takes a charge. So everybody can drive the basket or get offensive rebounds. It's energy. It's attitude. And that's it."
versus head coach Vinny Del Negro:
"It's definitely not the effort. Guys are playing hard and giving me what they can."
Wait, I think Larry Hughes has something to say:
"I'm not a spot-minute guy. I don't play well in that situation. If you want me to produce, I have to be out there. I can make a difference at both ends if I play."
Remember, it was merely weeks ago when another defensive stalwart, Drew Gooden, offered to coach the team on that end of the floor.
Even Nocioni comes off as someone completely out of touch with reality. You know what would be a good attitude, Noc? Maybe having the 'passion' to stay with your man instead of making your head magnetically follow the ball, maybe having the 'grit' to challenge a shot without clubbing the shooter across the arms (or flail backwards into someone's ACL), or the 'toughness' to accept an official's call without whining to them.
(is he just an endearing rube? Does he really think he's not one of the main culprits in giving up offensive rebounds? Though it's not exactly his fault for the times when Vinny plays him at center...)
Though what is worse: that Larry Hughes (not bad for a couple steals, but not exactly committed to team defense...or 'team' anything) and Andres Nocioni (just completely hopeless on the defensive end) are speaking up as the saviors of the defense, or that Vinny seemingly believes them, since they played the entire 4th quarter. And I don't doubt for a second that if Drew Gooden were healthy, he'd have been out there in the closing period as well, no matter what Thomas has been doing the past few games (another story, I admit).
I was fine with hiring a rookie head coach, the retread wheel isn't always that appealing. But Paxson had to know that he couldn't put someone this green in charge of such a mismatched mess, and he has to be actively trying to get it fixed...not waiting for the perfect deal, and not waiting for everyone to be healthy. I fear that in a locker room where the vets so often question the coaching, it's the beginning of a season going off the rails.
And it's not that hard to find out who needs to go: start with the guys who are speaking out yet not playing what they preach. I'm guessing it'd make Vinny's job a bit easier (whether that ultimately makes a difference or not...) to have these wanna-be assistants out of his fantastic hair.