[Thanks to Easy Eis for today's game preview -yfbb]
As their final game before the All-Star break against the Atlanta Hawks awaits them this evening, the Chicago Bulls appear to be on the precipice of disaster. They are losers of twelve of their last seventeen games, inter-player communication is at an all-time low (interdepartmental communication is doing great, however), and even the media is beginning to openly question the competency of GarPax. The silver lining of tonight is that the Bulls are playing at home (even though they appear to be limping into a loss) as this game mercifully marks the end of the miserable road trip that saw the team go 2-5. Yuck.
The Hawks are a far cry from their team that won a franchise-record sixty games last season. They excel in certain areas but have dropped off significantly in others. Advanced stats rank Atlanta as a top five team in both defensive efficiency (100 points per hundred possessions), true shooting percentage (55.2%) and assist ratio (19%); however, they have fallen down to middle-of-the-pack offensively with an offensive efficiency rating of 102.9 pphp (14th overall, down from 6th last season). They also currently find themselves as the very worst rebounding team in the league (47.3% rebounding ratio) and are one of the worst teams in the league at taking care of the ball with a turnover ratio of 14%.
There are a lot of similarities this season between the Bulls and the Hawks. Both teams entered the year coming off of extremely disappointing playoff loses to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Both teams find themselves in a scrum with six other squads vying for playoff space below the Cavs and the Toronto Raptors. Both teams are now being called "fringe contenders," and this has given both front offices a lot to think about with respect to their futures. Of course, this is where the teams start to deviate, as while Atlanta appears to be openly considering moving anybody and everybody on their roster, the Bulls seem to be staying put. Much of the Bulls' absence as we reach the home stretch towards the trade deadline appears to be health-motivated given the team's injuries, but it is nevertheless frustrating to see a team so desperate for a trade remain steadfastly stagnant year after year. I guess a captain goes down with his ship, even if the ship is sinking in the first place because the captain let too many people on from Iowa and New Mexico.
This Bulls team is abhorred right now, so watch at your own discretion. Atlanta may be certainly treading in their own murky water right now, but they still have more talent at this present meeting than the Bulls can compete with, especially considering they will only be without Tiago Splitter (hip injury). Anyone predicting a victory with confidence is kidding themselves. This Bulls team is capable of beating almost anyone when motivated and healthy, but right now they are neither. As I said before the game against the Kings a week ago: Nuclear Winter is here, Chicago Bulls fans. Watch the game tonight, then take a deserved week-long break from dedicating yourself to supporting this island-of-misfit-players (there's a photoshop joke opportunity there for someone) that the front office has attempted to pass off as an NBA basketball team.
Tip is at 8:00 PM ET/7 PM CT on Comcast SportsNet and Fox Sports South East. Joakim Noah, Nikola Mirotic, and Jimmy Butler are all still out with various injuries. #FireGarPax