I'm guessing with a home loss (by 10!) to the Timberwolves, we can now accept that it isn't merely a product of the schedule, this Bulls team just isn't good.
And beyond not good when Gooden and Deng can't play. (Hinrich too, though I'd guess his minutes would come from Rose and Gordon as opposed to from Hughes...)
And it makes me angry. But not merely because of the results, but because this team is too talented to play like this. I predicted a 43 win season, and that was before seeing how incredible Derrick Rose would be as a rookie, making them seem to me more like an upper-40s win team.
And in the East, there's not much beyond the top-5 (Celtics, Cavs, Magic, Hawks, Pistons). And while getting a 6th, 7th, or 8th seed means a likely first-round destruction, it's not a meaningless goal.
Injuries have certainly made it tougher, but the Bulls are losing so many games, by so huge of a margin, supplemented by a constant sideshow of locker room strain...I'm not sure they can dig out of it.
But they'll certainly get better. They have to, right? I always figured there'd be some early strains, then a midseason trade to clear out the obvious roster imbalance, and that, coupled by a fairly soft end-of-season schedule, would provide plenty of wins and a playoff spot.
But that theory started with a trade...I almost figured it as entropy. It's going to happen because it has to. Hughes, Gooden, and Thabo would be the first to go, Nocioni and Kirk if possible, and Tyrus and Noah if necessary.
But injuries to some of those players haven't helped, and this Vinny Del Negro thing...quickly bordering on disaster. He was supposed to 'rebuild the Bulls spirit' (or something similar Pax said), not play the role of Skiles without the coaching talent. I underestimated the importance of coaching experience, not in X/Os (figured that'd be rough), but in handling an NBA locker room. It's tough, especially with guys playing for contracts, or playing for themselves (or both). Paxson needed to see how much of a powder keg this was going to be (before this trade...that's going to happen) and how Vinny needed to be a defuser, not a match. Getting a respected veteran who could contribute on the court (i.e., not the Michael Ruffin type) would've helped...but would such a guy buy into Vinny in the first place?
So as a result, I'm not sure a trade (though it still has to happen) can save this season's record. And even worse, not sure that there hasn't been too many guys already lost in the locker room for any new blood to matter. I suppose fixing some roster problems, and winning as a result, will help some of it. Simply getting Larry Hughes completely away (don't doubt that Vinny was rolled over by him and others noticed) could likely do wonders.
Because honestly: Rose is tremendous, Gordon's playing some of the best ball of his career, Tyrus has had a very solid December (even when not getting his minutes jerked around for 'matchups'), Noah's actually doing better this season than last (when he was that crappy team's MVP)...get Deng back (and involved), make a trade for any vet big man who can clog the lane and hit a jumper (hell, I'd settle for either of those things), and trade away (or at the least, de-emphasize) the nonessential and mostly harmful contributions of Hughes, Nocioni, etc...and this team is pretty good.
Unfortunately it may be to the point where Vinny doesn't have the respect (a bit much to ask for him to have the skills...you mean a defensive nightmare lineup of Rose/Gordon/Hughes/Noc/Gray isn't going to get it done in the 4th?) to get a pretty good team to play like it. Right now it's a below average team playing completely terrible.
But again, it starts with a trade. Now-ish.
And unlike some fans, I'm not upset at this team because they can't play, I'm upset because they can.