Before the NBA season began, the Eastern Conference was considered a two-horse race between the Chicago Bulls and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Well, halfway through the season, those franchises haven’t played like the two best teams in the East. In fact, Chicago (27-16) and Cleveland (22-20) are fourth and fifth, respectively, in the playoff standings, with the Bulls trailing Atlanta by 7.5 games and the Cavaliers trailing by 12.
Cleveland’s struggles have been well-documented, and, to be fair, the Cavs have won three straight games. The Bulls, however, have lost four of five and six of eight after a 25-10 start.
How bad has it gotten? Derrick Rose called out his entire team after Chicago’s 108-94 loss to Cleveland on Monday, leading some to believe that head coach Tom Thibodeau could be on the hot seat.
“Yeah, Derrick Rose’s comments the other night that ‘We’re not on the same page’ were very strong comments,” SheridanHoops.com NBA insider Chris Sheridan said on Tiki and Tierney. “Derrick even threw in a coupe expletives, which he never does in public interviews. There’s a lot of frustration on that team. There’s a lot of vets on that team that feel that Tom Thibodeau is pounding them into the ground.”
The Bulls played their last four games over six days – and Thibodeau wanted to practice the next day.
“(The players are) like, ‘Hey, wait a minute. We need a day to chill here. We need a day to get our bodies back together and be right. We’ve got two days off before we face the Spurs,’” Sheridan explained. “Yesterday, the Bulls went and canceled practice and that’s a really rare thing to do for Tom Thibodeau. But he plays his key players more minutes than any coach in the league. He drives his players hard in practice as much as any coach in the league. And he’s got to figure out the balancing act between, ‘Hey, when am I going to give these guys a little bit of a break?’ and then ‘When am I going to decide to push them as hard as I can?’
“And right now, with them having lost four of five games and still adapting to having Pau Gasol in the offense and how that’s impacting Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah, there’s a learning curve going on with the Bulls in a lot of different areas (in terms of) personnel on the floor and with how Tom Thibodeau is managing the team. But I’ve got people telling me he’s losing the locker room because he’s working those guys so damn hard.”
It doesn’t help that the Bulls have a rough slate upcoming. They play seven of their next nine on the road, including games against the Mavericks, Warriors and Rockets. As for the two home games? San Antonio and Miami.
“When you’ve lost four out of five and you got to a stretch coming up that includes the Spurs and the Mavericks and the Rockets and the Warriors, there’s a chance you could lose eight of 10, nine out of 10 games,” Sheridan said. “And if that’s the case, (owner) Jerry Reinsdorf is going to be the ultimate authority that says, ‘Hey, do we need another voice in here? And do we need it sooner rather than later?’”