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Loss to Knicks highlights Bulls’ big turnover problem

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BUllS AT BUckS

The facts: 7:30 p.m., CSN, 1000-AM.

Updated: December 14, 2013 12:04AM



Blame Kirk Hinrich.

Hinrich did.

Or blame Joakim Noah.

Noah’s fine with that.

Pick a name on the roster, point a finger, and that Bull will gladly wear it.

That’s the good news in this mess of an offense on display at an arena near you. The players are all accountable, and all are in agreement that it’ll be a quick fix. But do they have the personnel to fix it?

Not right now. Not with Luol Deng still sidelined with a bad left Achilles tendon and Jimmy Butler working through turf toe.

When they’re back, maybe. At least the 107-87 victory Dec. 5 against the Heat showed it’s possible. But it has to start with taking care of the ball.

“There are probably a lot of factors,’’ Hinrich said when asked about the rash of turnovers. “There’s some indecision there, a lot of moving parts, different lineups and stuff, but we’ve got to do better. Our offense has been pretty poor, and I take a big responsibility in that. It’s my job to help it run smoothly, and it just hasn’t.’’

The Bulls are turning the ball over 16.8 times per game, 27th-worst in the league.

“The thing is, we’ve always been a low-turnover team,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “That’s what I expect from us. Guys have to understand what their job is. Part of the problem is we have a lot of moving parts, so you have guys that are not used to playing with each other. But we can’t use that as an excuse.

“When you analyze turnovers, they usually fall into one of two categories: You’re trying to thread the needle [with passes] or you’re going one-on-one. Against a good team, you start dancing with the ball, and the results are not going to be good.’’

That was on display Wednesday against the Knicks. The Bulls committed 12 turnovers by halftime and were down 46-32. That second-half comeback at least showed some fight, but moral victories mean little for a team that was projected to be a championship-level contender at the start of the season.

“We’ve been playing kind of low-energy offense, and there’s been a lot of indecision,’’ Hinrich said. “[You can’t have] indecision in this league, especially against good defensive teams where you start fighting against the clock as well. We just have to sharpen things up and trust each other. It seems like we’ve kind of been digging these holes, and it’s a natural tendency for everyone to have good intentions in trying to help, but they try to go on their own. We just haven’t been the same, like things that we work on every day.

“Just keeping it simple. If you’re open, shoot it or move it on.’’

The expected signing of D.J. Augustin will give the Bulls more bodies at point guard, but that doesn’t mean he’s the quick fix.

Deng, on the other hand, is. His cutting game and ability to move without the ball will make the offense smoother, and that’s why the hope is a weekend return.

Butler, who could be back by next week, will add athleticism and another cutter. So help is on the way, and it can’t come soon enough.

“Losing sucks,’’ Noah said. “We’ve been through a lot this year, a lot of adversity.

‘‘We have a positive group, so we can’t get too down on ourselves. We’ve just got to move on to the next game, and as guys come back and understand what their roles are, I think our team will be a lot better.’’

It can’t get much worse.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com



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