Bulls' mentality must change in a hurry


Bulls' mentality must change in a hurry

The key number after the Bulls Saturday-night loss to the Suns at the United Center wasnt the 97-81 final score.

Its the teams home record, which fell to 10-10 on the season after losing to the second-worst team in the Western Conference, previously losers of 12 consecutive road games and playing in their fourth game in five nights.

Making the defeat even more jarring is the fact that just the previous evening, the Bulls played mostly brilliantly in taking down one of the Eastern Conference elite teams, the Knicks, in the hostile environment of Madison Square Garden.

It can happen once in a great while thats part of the game but its too much, so I have to figure it out. My job is to have us ready and we have to play with more intensity, more of an edge and were not doing that, so we have to correct that, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said afterwards. We have to be ready for everybody and we have to know everybody, inside and out. We have to do better with that. I have to do better with that. I have to make sure were ready. Ive got to get intensity out of our team. Ive got to take a hard look at everything right now.

Its a team-wide thing and when youre having success, you do that together and when youre struggling, you do that together. We have to circle the wagons. Weve got to take a hard look at everything that were doing and everyone has to do it, starting with me, so Ive got to get more out of our team and thats my job, he continued. Theres no such thing in the NBA as a non-marquee team, in my eyes. If youre a player in this league, you are a great player and everybody that youre playing against, every team that youre playing against, is capable of beating you and so, I think the teams that ultimately have great success, it comes down to the degree of how hard youre willing to play each and every night, the degree of how smart youre willing to play each and every night and the degree of how together youre willing to play each and every night, and thats what separates teams. Every team in this league is extremely talented, from top to bottom, so its your willingness to make that commitment for each other, understanding readiness to play, how important the first quarter is and its easy in this league, to get sidetracked and distracted.

When you have the right type of commitment thats necessary to win, you dont allow that stuff to get in the way. Youre ready whenever they tell you to throw the ball up, youre ready. If they say, were playing at midnight on the roof, you should be saying, lets get the ladders. Thats the way it is. Youve got to have the right guys.

Thats certainly a mouthful especially the classic, get the ladders remark but all of it is pertinent. Thibodeaus players, while phrasing things a bit differently, share similar sentiments, particularly the holdovers, who are used to the Bulls giving a consistently hard effort on a nightly basis, regardless of the competition, and dominating at the United Center.

Weve got to fix it. I think if we all knew what the problem was, wed try to do something. But shootarounds are the same time. Weve got to compete, compete harder, play together and play for one another. But I think that it just was not a great effort tonight. They played very well. The way we competed was not great, Joakim Noah said. Its not any given night. Thats the problem. Were 10-10 at home. Thats not very good; thats very average, so theres obviously a problem if were going on the road, beating some of the best teams and coming home against lower-echelon teams, and not competing,

I think its okay to be wrapped up in big wins and I think youre supposed to be happy after you win. When its the big game, we come ready to play. We have to make a conscious effort as players, as coaches everybody I feel like we complain way too much. When things arent going our way, we have to find a way to stick together more because its just too negative. We have to support one another when things arent going well because right now, things arent going our way. Its like its the end of the world and you have to move on to the next play, and unite together because I dont feel like were doing that right now.

Luol Deng, who uncharacteristically picked up a technical foul in the contest, chimed in: I just think we could play a lot harder than we did tonight. Whatever you want to call it relax or thinking that were that good and were just going to walk over them its a lot of things. The bottom line is its an NBA team, theyve got good players, youve got to respect that, come out and get the job done.

Its a long season. Every team has their problems or their issues, whatever you want to call it, and what makes you a good team is recognizing those things and getting better at it. I think right now were showing up in the big games and games like tonight, especially at home, where weve got to dig deep and find a way to be a better team because so far, we havent been, he continued. Every team, if you go up and down the league, even the team with the best record, they have something theyre not good at or something that they need to improve, and I think right now, we need to tackle that. At the beginning of the year, it was playing the whole 48 minutes. I think were getting better at that and now, its games like this weve got to get up for.

Whether its the Suns or Knicks, the Heat in Miami or the Bobcats at home on a holiday, the Bulls game-to-game mentality must change in a hurry. In the past, they didnt play down to competition and defended home court, regardless of circumstances, and to a man, one got the feeling from observing the competitive bunch, if Thibodeau informed them that they had a game at midnight, theyd be willing to get the ladders.

Bulls announce signing of shooting guard R.J. Hunter

Bulls announce signing of shooting guard R.J. Hunter

Minutes before they opened their regular season Thursday against the Celtics, the Bulls announced the signing of shooting guard R.J. Hunter.

Hunter was a first-round pick of the Celtics in 2015 but was waived this preseason. In his lone year with the Celtics he appeared in 38 games. He struggled from the field, shooting just 36.7 percent from the field and 30.2 percent from deep. He ultimately lost out on a roster spot this preseason in a crowded Celtics backcourt.

"Not surprised he got picked up," Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said. "We said the other day, we had more than 15 NBA players (in training camp) and so it was just a matter of time who he was going to get picked up by. It was good that he did."

Fred Hoiberg was asked at Thursday morning's shootaround about the possibility of adding a player like Hunter. And while he couldn't specifically mention Hunter - as the deal was not official - he did discuss the continued need for outside shooting.

"It’s something that obviously we feel that we’ve got some shooting with this team but you can never have enough, so I’ll say that," Hoiberg said. It’s something where if we can get our playmakers in the paint to be able to spray it out to guys that can spread the floor, that’s obviously something that can help our team.

"So again we feel good about where we are with our playmakers and if we can get some guys to knock down shots I think we have a chance to have an effective year."

Hunter was the darling of the 2015 NCAA Tournament playing for his father at Georgia State. Hunter hit a game-winning 3-pointer against Baylor to propel the 14th-seeded Panthers to an opening-round win.

Hunter was a two-time Sun Belt Player of the Year, averaging 19.7 points per game as a junior.

Hunter's first chance to suit up with the Bulls will be Saturday when they host the Indiana Pacers.

Dwyane Wade ready to balance minutes, substitution patterns with Bulls

Dwyane Wade ready to balance minutes, substitution patterns with Bulls

Dwyane Wade’s minutes per game have decreased in each of the last four seasons, and he’s missed a combined 102 since the start of the 2011-12 season. Those facts are hardly surprising for a 14-year veteran who will turn 35 before this year’s All-Star break, and one who has dealt with knee injuries much of his career and has logged nearly 37,000 minutes between the regular season and postseason.

Wade still has plenty left in the tank, as witnessed by his impressive performance in last year’s postseason and the fact that he played in 74 regular-season games, the most since 2010 when LeBron James and Chris Bosh first joined him in Miami. The Bulls showed this summer they believe Wade has something to offer when they gave him a two-year, $47.5 million deal to return home.

Wade averaged 22.3 minutes per game in six preseason games, playing between 24 and 27 minutes in the five games after he logged 12 minutes in the preseason opener. He also sat the second of a back-to-back in Milwaukee. It’ll be up to Wade, head coach Fred Hoiberg and the coaching staff to come up with a plan to keep Wade as fresh as possible over the course of the next five-plus months while also allowing putting the Bulls in the best position to win each night.

“(Hoiberg) hasn’t said, ‘You’re going to play 30 minutes exactly,’” Wade said at Thursday’s shootaround. “A lot of it is just, looking at preseason, I think I’m going to be around 30-32 minutes just by the substitution patterns that (Hoiberg) is thinking about for me. I’m good with it. We haven’t had a (direct) conversation, but we’re both cool with it.”

Wade said that those substitution patterns will be more important than the total number of minutes he logs each night. He joked that in a perfect world the Bulls would have a big enough lead where he could sit the entire fourth quarter. How the game plays out will dictate the number of minutes Wade plays, but both he and Hoiberg will do their best to keep Wade fresh by timing when he subs out and returns to the game over a 48-minute span.

“I’m not a kind of guy that wants to stay out for 10-12 minutes on the clock because I’m gonna get a little stiff. I’m also not a kind of guy that wants to go for 12 minutes straight, so I think (Hoiberg) is learning me, and we stay in constant communication about when I’ve got a little break and I’m ready to go again.

“I don’t need to be out there the whole quarter neither. Take me out when you need to, I’ll get a break and I’m ready to go again. So it’s all about figuring it out and we’re doing a good job of it.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

When the Heat got off to a 15-9 start last season Wade played fewer than 30 minutes in 11 of the 23 games he appeared in, and five of the first eight contests to begin the year. So while he may take some time to get his legs underneath him, Hoiberg noted that on multiple occasions in the preseason Wade asked to return to the game in the second half to build up a rhythm for the regular season.

“A lot of it will depend on how he’s feeling. We have an idea about where we want him with his minutes, we’ve talked about that with him,” Hoiberg said. “But if he’s feeling great, maybe one game he’s not feeling so good, we’ll go away from it. But we’ve got an idea of where we want him with his minutes and we’ll try to stick to it.”

Wade said he doesn’t have a particular goal in mind for the number of games he’d like to play this season. But after 13 years in the league he has found the best way for him to attack the game each night while also keeping an eye toward the bigger picture, when the Bulls will need him down the stretch in April and potentially into the postseason.

“I want to take advantage of every moment and opportunity as I can and help get my team a chance to win,” he said. “So it’s my job to try to take care of my body away from the game of basketball, and then when I’m on the court I pray and knock on wood that I don’t get injured and can stay out there.”