Struggling Bulls convinced they can turn things around
BY JOE COWLEY Staff Reporter December 15, 2013 6:35PM
Toronto Raptors v Chicago Bulls
Magic AT BULLS
The facts: 7 p.m., Ch. 9, 1000-AM.
Updated: December 15, 2013 8:43PM
There is a fine line between confidence and denial, and the Bulls seem to be walking it now.
Back-to-back home losses to the Pistons on Dec. 7 and Bucks on Tuesday, a road loss to the Knicks on Wednesday, a narrow road vic-
tory against the Bucks on Friday, then a complete fourth-quarter no-show in a home loss to the Raptors on Saturday has the Bulls at 9-13. That’s a far cry from a team that was labeling itself ‘‘special’’ in camp.
Because they are over the salary cap again and have movable pieces, the Bulls are a perfect candidate to change their roster by the trade deadline Feb. 20. But one source said general manager Gar Forman hasn’t even explored that option, and if there have been calls about the availability of forward Luol Deng, Forman has been receiving them, not getting them.
The Bulls told Deng, who will be eligible for free agency after this season, in late summer that contract talks were being put aside. But that might not be the case if Deng and agent Herb Rudoy are willing to come down on their asking price. That’s a big if, considering the Deng camp thinks he’s worth $13 million to $15 million a year and the Bulls have him valued at $8 million to $9 million.
There’s a good chance the Bulls will keep Deng for the rest of the season, see if they can make the playoffs and get hot in the postseason, then let him walk into free agency. So the idea of blowing up the roster really isn’t something the front office or the players are entertaining right now.
‘‘I haven’t even thought about that scenario,’’ backup big man Taj Gibson said after the loss to the Raptors. ‘‘Man, that’s something I don’t even want to think about. None of us do. [It] being brought up right now to me is the first time it’s entered my mind. We’ll fix this thing before that happens. My
focus is on staying healthy, working on my game and getting us wins.’’
And Gibson isn’t the only player who thinks the Bulls can turn things around. Maybe it’s their confidence in coach Tom Thibodeau or the fact they’ve had so much regular-season success since the 2010-11 season, but those in the Bulls’ core seem to be ignoring reality.
‘‘I’m definitely confident,’’ Deng said when asked if he thought the Bulls would turn things around. ‘‘We’re going through it right now, up and down, guys getting hurt. We’ve had seasons where everybody was healthy, and at the end of the year people got hurt. Hopefully, it’s the other way around this year.
‘‘Just got to stay positive. I think we’re going to get better as the year goes on. Hopefully, guys can stay healthy. It’s a long season. We learned in the past it’s really who is the healthiest team and the team that has the best rhythm at the end of the year that’s going to win it.’’
That’s just what Thibodeau wants to hear.
‘‘The thing about the NBA is you’re trying to build the right habits each and every day, then it’s the teams that are playing the best and are the healthiest going into the playoffs,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘So that’s what you’re aiming for — to continue to improve. And anything can happen.’’