On the day before Valentine’s Day, the topic sure is appropriate. But this story is more about heartbreak than anything else.
I’ve been heartbroken these past few weeks, just utterly saddened to see the Bulls in such a tailspin. Of course, I was unable to watch the second half of the Bulls vs. Hawks game this week (too upset), and I saw a bunch of tweets about fans booing the Bulls at the UC. And booing at heightened volume levels.
Leave it to Taj Gibson, born and bred in Brooklyn, to pick up where Joakim left off a few years ago with the post-Luol departure speech for the ages. Don’t let our East coast “cold” facade fool you. Brooklynites really are sensitive.
Taj tried to assess the state of the Bulls following their implosion versus Atlanta (oh, did I mention Taj had to leave the game with a foot injury as well…sigh.)
“It’s frustrating,” Gibson said. “It’s very frustrating because we have more than enough to win. We used to win games with less than this. I think it’s our mental [approach]. It’s extremely frustrating and it hurts my heart.”
“I don’t think it’s quit,” Gibson said. “I just think at times we have a little doubt. That’s where the talking and leadership — we’re out there, we’re talking a lot, but I can’t seem to put a finger on it. It’s frustrating. I try and tell guys, we’ve got to get back to playing for each other. Just got to go out there and play, leave your heart out there and just lay it on the line. We got more than enough to win games. It’s just frustrating.”
First of all, he’s channeling his inner Thibs. And second of all, I know why the heart isn’t there. It’s because the Bulls let their heart (and soul), Joakim go when they signed Pau Gasol.
I know, I know – but Pau is a double double machine. Pau gets you 25 points / 10 rebounds / 2 blocks / night. He’s a two-time NBA champion.
Bulls management thought the two centers could somehow play together and be complementary. But I feel like Jo’s spirit was broken – that his leadership and abilities were called into question as soon as Pau entered the fold.
And Fredberg sending Jo to the bench before the season even began signified the start of what’s become the Bulls’ downward spiral.
I’m not sure why everyone has been questioning the Bulls’ leadership and identity. It was centered around Jo, his work ethic, enthusiasm, do whatever it takes, lead by example, defense-first mindset, which grounded the team.
The games weren’t pretty. The score was usually low. But you knew the Bulls, following Jo’s lead would play with heart. You were always inspired by their scrappy play and seemingly incomprehensible wins, when on paper, they should have lost.
Now that identity and heart are missing. And so are the wins.
Signing Pau was a defining moment. Trading Luol Deng was another milestone, which demonstrated the short-sighted mentality of Bulls management (GarPax). But the Bulls’ season may have been over before it began when the Bulls’ most important and dedicated player, the team leader (Jo) was relegated to sixth or seventh man.
I long for the days when the Bulls willed themselves to victories against better, healthy teams despite having half the roster on life support and the other half playing on crutches.
No, I won’t abandon my Bulls, but their seeming lack of joy for the game, for one another, and for winning sure does hurt me in the heart too.
On a more inspiring note, lest this blog conclude in the same way most of the Bulls’ recent games have, I take hope in some of the facts. CSN Chicago showed a graphic the other day – trying to cheer us all up, where they compared the records over the past five or so years as the Bulls entered the All-Star break.
Evidently, the Bulls had the same record just a few years ago, and turned it around in the final 30 games, winning more than half in the stretch run, and making it to the playoffs. With #s being far from my strong suit, I can’t exactly remember just how many games they won post-break record, and exactly what season it was is a bit fuzzy too. I want to say it was the 2012-2013 season.
No matter the stats, I heart the notion of a resurgence, and want to be the Bulls #1 fan again, really I do.
I want to believe Fredberg, and what he told the team going into the break: “And as a team we’ve got to find ourselves. I challenged them to whatever they’ve got to do over the break, look themselves in the mirror, find a way to get committed to this thing and go on a run. And that’s all we can do right now, is look forward.”
They best start running. And fast. Because next up, it’s those other guys (Cavs).
Beat the Cavs.