Chicago Bulls

Bulls fail to match Miami's physical play in loss

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Bulls fail to match Miami's physical play in loss

MIAMIThe scene in the visiting locker room at American Airlines Arena was forlorn. Empty stall after empty stall, no typical postgame chatternot even angry whispering, as usually occurs after tough lossesand save for a few stragglers, an exiting assistant coach or two and the teams equipment manager, nobody to talk to about the Bulls 83-72 loss to the Heat Thursday night.

Joakim Noah was there, at least physically. Mentally, however, the normally-charismatic center was in another world, speaking in short, clipped answers and in a monotone.

We didnt play well down the stretch, he said. We didnt play well offensively. Seventy points isnt going to get it done.

They wanted it more than us tonight, but well be back, Noah continued. To Miamis physical play, the Bulls didnt respond great, but well be back.

When asked about Heat reserve James Jones flagrant foulwhich led to the sharpshooters ejection and sparked the chippy play that pervaded the contestNoah tersely replied, I think he was just trying to keep me off the boards and just part of the game.

Of LeBron James devastating screen, which knocked diminutive point guard John Lucas III to the floor and led to further skirmishes between the rival teams, Noah was even less forthcoming.

It was cool, he answered. Its fine.

Itnot just the isolated play, but the Bulls mentality as a wholeclearly wasnt fine to his coach.

Every time we play them, thats the way its going to be, so you have to have the mental toughness to get through all that. You cant shy away from any of that stuff. Its going to be there and thats the way we like it. The missed shots, you can deal with that, but your defense, your rebounding, I thought we got loose with the ball in the second half and we paid for it, said Tom Thibodeau. There was a lot of stuff going on, but thats to be expected. Youre on the road, theyre a good team, were fighting for the same thing. Were going to have to deal with that more effectively.

We have to deal with it, he went on to say. A hard-fought games going to be like this. Youve still got to be able to executeI just want to see them respond.

It wasnt necessarily an overall indictment of his tough-minded team, but Thibodeau, a veteran observer of the late-90s playoff wars from when he was an assistant in New York, was clearly disappointed in his teams lack of preparedness for the games physical nature. That was exemplified by Miamis 45-40 rebounding advantage, despite being outsized by the Bulls.

Rebounding was poor. We didnt close out the second quarter the way we should have and we started the third quarter lethargically and then, the fourth quarter, we had a shot. We had a shot, 68-65, and we had a few bad possessions in a row that swung the game open, swung it the other way, and you cant do that. In a minute in this league, the game can go the other way on you and it did, said Thibodeau. They went. They were physical, they pursued, they had a multiple-effort mentality. The more you go, the more you get. Theyre quick to the ball. Youve got to play through the contact and I thought they were more aggressive.

His players even sported war wounds from the gameAll-Star Luol Deng suffered a cut above his eye; I didnt see the play. I didnt see exactly how he got the cut, but that was the nature of the game. It was pretty physical, said Thibodeaubut at least publically, the coach pledged to move on, despite failing to clinch the Eastern Conferences top seed Thursday.

You deal with it like you deal with it all year. We lost tonight. We go home, we study, get ready for Dallas. This game will reveal certain things to us, things that need to be corrected, he said. Were not going to get caught up in 1 games, 2 games, whatever. Keep doing the things that we need to do to win. Thats all that we have to focus in on.

But knowing theyll likely have to go through the Heat to reach their goal of a championship, Noah didnt mince words when asked what the Bulls have to do next time they inevitably face the Heat.

Outwill them. They wanted it more than us tonight, he said. I mean, we wanted it bad, but they wanted it more. That cant happen.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Bulls the worst team in NBA?

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Bulls the worst team in NBA?

David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Nick Shepkowski (670 The Score) and Dan Cahill (Chicago Sun-Times) join Kap on the panel. Jake Arrieta will return to the rotation to face the Brewers. Can he recapture his pre-injury form? Mike Glennon gets another start Sunday but should he get the hook if he struggles again?

Plus, the guys discuss the one metric that says the Bulls are the worst team in the NBA.

A 'woke' Doug Collins returns to provoke thought — and we'll find out who's asleep in Bulls' front office

A 'woke' Doug Collins returns to provoke thought — and we'll find out who's asleep in Bulls' front office

Doug Collins made it clear, that his return to the Bulls organization won’t result in a return to the sidelines as head coach, meaning Fred Hoiberg has nothing to worry about in the way of looking over his shoulder.

What Collins did admit, though, is he’s back with the Bulls to provoke thought. Anyone who’s listened to Collins as a broadcaster for ESPN or Turner Sports, or talked to him in any basketball capacity, knows he’s not only a hoops lifer but also someone who can have strong opinions, capable of quick dissection of a complex picture in a moment’s notice.

“I’m not here to be a decision-maker. I want to provoke thought. My mind is very active,” Collins said Tuesday afternoon at the Advocate Center. “And I think to get into a room and to bounce ideas off each other or whatever, at the end of the day, Gar, Michael, Jerry, Pax will make those decisions. The beauty of it is is that when there’s a level of trust when you’re talking about things, you can speak openly and honestly with people knowing the only thing that matters is that whatever happens is the best for the franchise.”

Announcing Collins as a senior advisor to executive vice president John Paxson adds another voice to the Bulls’ braintrust and is probably an admission this rebuild will require more than what the Bulls already have, be it in terms of connections, observation and even innovation.

Collins’ connection to Paxson and Jerry Reinsdorf, a growing relationship with Michael Reinsdorf and ability to relate with Hoiberg due to the misery of coaching should align a front office to the floor in ways that has been in doubt for the past several seasons.

“Given Jerry's relationship and my relationship with Doug over the years, we thought, hey, let's see if maybe this isn't a good time for Doug to come back into the fold,” Paxson said. “So we approached him and it was very casual, no expectations other than he's been a friend of ours for so long. But the more we kind of dug into the prospects of this and what it means, the more we kept asking ourselves, why wouldn't we do this?”

Collins made it clear he won’t be giving up his family life, as he already has residence in Chicago and his son Chris is coaching Northwestern and a son-in-law coaching a high school team outside Philadelphia.

“The hours and the time commitment that Fred Hoiberg puts in on a day and the energy that he spends and being on the road and being away from his family,” Collins said. “(This) worked perfectly in my schedule when I talked to Pax that I could be a part of something special, the Chicago Bulls, and I love the Chicago Bulls.”

His energy and passion can light up a room, and though he tried his best to say that’s died down at age 66, claiming “I can sit and do a crossword puzzle for three hours now”, people wired like Collins don’t lose their fervor for the game.

“I think there’s this feeling that I’m a guy who’s always on and fired up,” Collins said.

But that fire and passion and presumably a willingness to be uncompromising with the truth should be something that’s welcome inside the Advocate Center. In addition to his acumen, one of Collins’ greatest strengths is his fervor, and it shouldn’t be scaled back.

That’s not how rebuilds work successfully. Lines have to be crossed and people have to be made uncomfortable in their line of thinking, even if it’s Paxson or Hoiberg or general manager Gar Forman.

It’s not hard to see the Bulls following the thinking of the Golden State Warriors when they added Jerry West in an advisory role years ago, resulting in several key moves being made, most notably West’s objection to Klay Thompson being traded to Minnesota for Kevin Love before Love was eventually moved to Cleveland.

West’s guidance played a part in the Warriors’ upward trajectory to championship status, and he hopes to have a similar affect with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Comparing West with Collins on its face is a bit unfair, considering West’s experience as an executive and championship pedigree dating back to his days with the Lakers.

At least with West, he’s not trying to convince anyone he isn’t anything but a tortured basketball soul at age 79. Collins reminded everyone he’s a grandfather of five and at a spry 66, West would call Collins a “spring chicken.”

What Collins can bring is a keen eye for observation, and expecting him to be a passive personality doesn’t quite seem right, especially leaving the cushy job at ESPN that allowed him maximum exposure and a schedule to his liking.

Perhaps the way Collins left the NBA, with a massive gambit in Philadelphia falling flat when Andrew Bynum’s knees rendered him useless and sending the 76ers franchise into “The Process,” left him with a bad taste in his mouth.

Maybe his competitive juices got him going again and the broadcast booth just wasn’t cutting it, along with having a front seat to the injury that changed the course of the Bulls franchise when Derrick Rose tore his ACL in 2012 against Collins’ 76ers.

Maybe the crossword puzzles just couldn’t get it done anymore. After all, the man once cried on the sidelines as his Detroit Pistons beat the Bulls in a regular-season game in 1997. Curbing that passion would be a disservice.

“See how things quickly change? The NBA is cyclical now,” Collins said. “Other than the San Antonio Spurs, over the last 20 years, every elite franchise has gone through this moment. And so now what you got to do, you got to dig yourself back up.

“We got to start doing all the things that are necessary to gain assets day by day, to put all the work, so we’re going to give ourself a chance, when we continue to get better players and more talent, that you’re going to win more basketball games.”

Collins said he has old-school values, all while being caught up with the times that he called himself “woke” as a nod to the current culture.

If he truly is, we’ll also find out who’s asleep in the front office, in desperate need a loud wake-up call.