Wary Bulls have Hamilton, Deng vs. Wizards

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Wary Bulls have Hamilton, Deng vs. Wizards

DEERFIELDWhen Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau started his breakdown of the Wizards, his teams next opponent, after Fridays practice by saying theyre good, at the time, it could be chalked up to the coachs habit of showing almost reverential deference to every squad in the league. But after Washington won its fourth game of the season later that evening, beating a Magic team that has impressed observers thus far in the campaignalbeit not the most talented club and playing without arguably their best player, injured power forward Glen Big Baby Davisto snap an eight-game losing streak, one can assume that the Bulls will do everything in their power not to let Thibodeaus cautionary advice become prophecy.

If you look at their record, you would say, Oh, OK, theyre not having a great season, and once you look deeper and you see that, OK, theyve had a lot of injuries, Thibodeau rhapsodized after the Bulls shootaround Saturday morning at the Berto Center. John Walls been out virtually the whole season, Nene was out for a good chunk of that. So, you take a quality big like Nene and a good point guard off your team, youre going to feel it, and theyve had an opportunity to have some time together, guys are coming back, their bigs are tough to match up with.

Jordan Crawford is a load, Bradley Beal is a bright young player, Martell Webster has been a good player in the league for a long timeand hes had some health issues to deal with in his careerbut those all are quality players and then you add in a couple of guys like D-League call-up point guards Garrett Temple and Shelvin Mack, two quality players that are under the radar, that are very hungry, so theyre a dangerous team, he continued with his breakdown. To me, theyre a quality team and the reason their record is like it is, is more because of the injuries that theyve had, but they played very, very well last night. Theyve played well in a lot of games that they lost, so we know how good they are. We have to be ready.

To face those aforementioned juggernauts Saturday night at the United Center, Thibodeau will have the services of Rip Hamilton, the Bulls starting shooting guard, who broke into the league with the Wizards, after the veteran missed nearly a month of action after tearing his left plantar fascia in a Dec. 1 win over Philadelphia. The coach wouldnt divulge it to the assembled media but Hamilton will playand start, moving understudy Marco Belinelli back to the bench, though the reserve will likely play the bulk of the minutes at the position, with Hamilton in a limited-minutes rolea source told CSNChicago.com.

Well see before the game. He went through shootaround, Thibodeau said. Everything is good so far. If there arent any problems, hell go.

Like Hamilton, bookend starting wing Luol Deng is a game-time decision after spraining his right ankle in the teams Christmas Day loss to Houston. Deng was also a full participant in the morning session and while Thibodeau wouldnt confirm whether or not the small forward and league minutes-per-game leader would suit up, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, Deng will also play Saturday.

Thibodeau is more focused on the Bulls righting the ship after two consecutive double-digit defeats than informing the media of his plans and with the opportunity to log some practice time, the coach indicated that the specific aspects that troubled him the most in blowout losses to the Hawks and Rockets were addressed.

Weve had the opportunity to have some quality practice time, so well see when we get out there, he explained. Usually, you have slippage in a lot of areas and often times, when you look at your schedule, you see that you havent had a lot of practice time and youre trying to make your corrections in film sessions, walk-throughs and sometimes, you need to be on the floor to get it done.

We had the opportunity to watch and see some of the things were not doing well, and you have to correct those first. I think the big thing is to eliminate all the ways in which you beat yourselves first. We know if we defend and we rebound, and we take care of the ball, you do those three things, youre going to be in position to win, so we have to get back to taking care of those three things.

Aside from his own team, Thibodeau also touched on the coaching fate of Avery Johnson, who he coached in San Antonio. Johnson was fired from his position as the Brooklyn Nets head coachassistant P.J. Carlesimo is the teams interim head coach, but among the names who are being speculated to potentially be permanent replacements are Phil Jackson and current TV broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy, Thibodeaus former bossThursday after being named the Eastern Conferences Coach of the Month in November.

Johnson is a hell of a guy and I think hes a great coach. Its a the unfortunate part of this profession. It seems like its awfully quick. They got off to a great start and they had some injuries, so I wish him well, Thibodeau said. I know him personally. I know the type of coach that he is. Hes a terrific coach, so I feel badly for him.

Dwyane Wade tweets apology to fans after Bulls' lopsided loss in Atlanta

Dwyane Wade tweets apology to fans after Bulls' lopsided loss in Atlanta

For the opening three quarters in Atlanta, the Bulls were off. 

So off, in fact, that Dwyane Wade tweeted an apology to Chicago fans after the game. 

Thanks to a furious run by the Bulls' bench, the final score ended at a respectable 102-93. In reality, though, the Hawks dominated. 

Wade and company trailed by 29 points at half and 30 at the end of three. The 35-year-old shooting guard finished with a minus-18 and just four points while All-Star starter Jimmy Butler posted a team-low minus-22.

The Bulls will look to shake off their lopsided loss against the Sacramento Kings on Saturday. 

 

Fred Hoiberg after Bulls' embarrassing loss to Hawks: 'We're gonna look at everything'

Fred Hoiberg after Bulls' embarrassing loss to Hawks: 'We're gonna look at everything'

The bus was warm before the game started, as the Bulls looked like they wanted no parts of the Atlanta Hawks.

It was evident from the jump that playing with a full and healthy squad for one of the few times this season wasn't enough to arouse their competitive juices, as they put together arguably their worst 48-minute showing in a 102-93 loss at Philips Arena, dropping them to 21-23 in a game they trailed by as many as 34 points.

The practices have apparently been the sterling jewel of effort and competitiveness for the Bulls but it hasn't carried over through the season as the inconsistency continues to be maddening — one that seems to go beyond the "growing pains" mantra that's been fed by all involved so far this year.

"It could be things but I don't want to share it with the media," a sunglasses-clad Dwyane Wade said outside the locker room, in a rare mood of not being elaborative following a loss.

It appears even the professional's professional has gotten a bit more frustrated than usual — understandable considering the way the starters came out with a lack of energy, with more turnovers (eight) than field goals (six) in the first quarter.

"Continue to try to lead behind the scenes," Wade said. "Can't stop when it's bad, when it's good. You gotta be the same."

Fred Hoiberg, fed up with the starters, ran with the reserves for the fourth quarter and outscored the Hawks by nearly 25 points, bringing the lead to 95-90 with a minute left before a Dennis Schroeder jumper restored order with 52.6 seconds left.

Four Hawks scored in double figures led by Schroeder's 25 points and six assists and Paul Millsap scoring 14 while making all four of his shots in just 22 minutes of run.

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Perhaps it's the Hawks being the same kryptonite to the Bulls that the Bulls are to the Toronto Raptors — except the Bulls simply frustrate the Raptors, not embarrass them.

"I have been, we have been, tired of this. I gotta come out better," said Jimmy Butler, who led the Bulls with 19 points in 29 minutes. "I gotta play better from the jump, 48 minutes. That's not the way we're supposed to play. 

"The way we practice is not the way we play in the game. Don't ask me why, I don't know. Starting with me and going down the line, we gotta be better as a whole. Otherwise we'll keep getting our asses beat and it's bad."

The Hawks shot over 60 percent for most of the night until the game devolved into what amounted to a pickup game late. After all, the Hawks seemed to be battling boredom by half, leading 65-36 and shooting 68 percent from the field and hitting 67 percent from three.

"We're gonna look at everything and we'll see how we go out and start tomorrow and a couple days after that, hopefully we figure some things out," Hoiberg said. "They shot over 70 percent in the first quarter and you dig yourselves a hole and it's impossible to get out."

Hoiberg said he would evaluate everything leading into Saturday's game at home against the Sacramento Kings, but Friday didn't seem to present any realistic lineup changes based on performance.

Bobby Portis scored 10 with seven rebounds off the bench, with Jerian Grant scoring 12 and Paul Zipser 10. Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic combined to shoot two for nine, so one wonders where Hoiberg can go.

"I don't know. Practice is good. Practice is great," Butler said. "Practice is not gonna win you games. We gotta take what we do in practice and take it over to the game."

The Bulls weren't about to make it any more suspenseful than it had to be, as they started off missing their first 11 3-pointers, often missing multiple open looks on the same possession.

It wasn't relegated to just shooting as the Bulls squandered easy opportunities in easy situations, like Denzel Valentine turning a three-on-one fast break into an airballed finger-roll attempt that he caught himself — a violation, of course.

"I don't know, I can't put a word on it. Because it's just talk," Butler said. "Doesn't matter what you say, if we don't go out there and do it, what the hell is talking gonna do? We've been up and down all year. If we don't guard and turn the ball over, games get out of hand very quickly."

This one was over a few minutes into it, as the Bulls looked like a lifeless squad with no direction and very little fight, short of a minor dustup between Dwight Howard and Robin Lopez in the third quarter.

At that point, though, all Howard had to do is point at the scoreboard, where a 30-point lead did all the necessary talking.

The Bulls trailed by 20 even before Tim Hardaway Jr. hit a 35-footer to end the first quarter, sending the Hawks off on a high and seemingly demoralizing the Bulls.

Even Butler's 19-point night, hitting six of his eight shots in 29 minutes, rang hollow. The Bulls could've trotted out a D-League team for the second half to gear up for Saturday's game against Sacramento and been better off than how they performed Friday night.

And for the Bulls, they can't simply just go back to the drawing board. There looks to be something fundamentally wrong with this bunch — either that, or the Atlanta night got the best of them Thursday.