Melo can’t believe Dwyane Wade left Heat for Bulls



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CHICAGO — Like many people around the NBA, New York Knicks Jerseys superstar Carmelo Anthony couldn’t believe that Dwyane Wade actually decided to leave the Miami Heat Jerseys and sign with the Chicago Bulls Jerseys.

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“I was shocked,” Anthony said before Thursday’s Team USA practice at the United Center. “I was shocked more from a standpoint it was just hard to see. It’s hard to see some players in different uniforms and he’s one of those guys who I never thought I would see in a different uniform other than Miami. But it happened, and I got a chance to talk to him and sit down with him and really dig deep about his feelings and what happened. He’s at peace now. And when he’s at peace, I’m at peace with it.”

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Wade surprised many in the league by spurning the Heat to sign a two-year deal with the Bulls earlier this month. Anthony, who was wooed by the Bulls two summers ago but ultimately decided to re-sign with the Knicks cheap jerseys, acknowledged that the free-agency process can be mentally taxing for players.

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Carmelo Anthony, right, can’t believe that Dwyane Wade left the Heat. Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports

“I don’t think the masses really understand how difficult those decisions are,” Anthony said. “And what goes into those decisions. And as athletes what’s going through our mind during those decisions. A lot of people think we can just wake up and we can just make those decisions — it’s not that easy.”

Anthony’s comments come just a few weeks after two of the most successful Bulls in recent memory, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, landed in New York. Rose was dealt to the Knicks last month. Noah signed as a free agent.

“We love them,” Anthony said. “We love those additions. And we’re looking forward to getting the season going. And I think everybody is excited, the excitement is back. Right now there’s an adjustment on paper wholesale mlb jerseys, but of course we have some work to do putting it all together, making it work. But we’re going to ride the wave of this excitement right now.”

As for a rekindling of a rivalry between the Bulls and Knicks, Anthony said he knows that it’s possible with all the moves both teams have made.

“I know you guys want that,” Anthony said. “I know you’re living for that. But we embrace that. I think as players, as competitors, we embrace all of those challenges and rivalries, that’s what makes the sport great again, so we embrace that.”

Anthony seemed certain that when the schedule comes out, the Bulls and Knicks would be facing off against each other either on opening night or Christmas Day as one of the league’s premiere matchups.

“Oh, they’re waiting for that,” he said. “Might be opening night — one of the two. I guarantee you it’s one of the two.”

Vucevic, Hezonja lead Magic past Bulls

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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The Magic used a strong defensive effort and a big game from rookie Mario Hezonja to get a relatively easy win over the Chicago Bulls Jerseys.

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Nikola Vucevic scored 24 points, Hezonja added a career-high 21, and Orlando beat Chicago 102-89 on Wednesday night.
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The Magic coasted through the second half with leads as big as 22 points. Victor Oladipo had 17 points and Aaron Gordon added 13 points and 13 rebounds.

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Orlando led 60-50 at halftime and never saw the advantage go under double digits the entire second half.

”This was definitely a step forward,” Magic coach Scott Skiles said. ”I felt like our energy at the defensive end of the floor was good.

”And Mario had a lot of pop in his step. I thought it was overall his best defensive game. He did a nice job chasing people.”

Hezonja, the fifth pick in last summer’s NBA draft, has started three straight games in place of the injured Evan Fournier. Hezonja had 10 points in the first eight minutes of the game, hitting four of five shots, including a 3-pointer. He was matched up against Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy, who had only eight points on 3-for-9 shooting.

”It was good obviously because we got the win, but I’m never happy with myself individually,” Hezonja said. ”I made some mistakes in the first half, but we came up with more energy in the second half.”

Chicago never matched the Magic’s energy at any point in the game. The Bulls, coming off a lethargic effort in a 129-111 loss to Miami the nba basketball jerseys night before, were down by 14 just 10 minutes into the game and never made a serious run at the lead the rest of the game.

”It’s frustrating because we dig ourselves a hole again coming out of the gate,” Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg said. ”It’s a trend that must stop if you want to make any kind of push. They scored at will on us, especially on the fast break. Those are baskets that breed confidence.

”We’ve got 22 games left to figure this out.”

Derrick Rose led Chicago with 16 points, all in the first half. Pau Gasol had 12 points and Doug McDermott was the only other Bulls player in double figures with 11. Chicago has lost four straight games and dropped to ninth in the Eastern Conference standings.

”There are no excuses,” Rose said. ”The season is not over. We still have a shot to be in the playoffs. This is foreign ground to a lot of us. We’ve got to find ways to make it up.” View gallery ORLANDO, FL – MARCH 2: Nikola Vucevic #9 of the Orlando Magic Jerseys shoots the ball against the Chicago Bu …

Both teams were on the second game of back-to-backs and it looked it. Orlando hit only 40.2 percent, while Chicago shot just 38.4 percent from the field.

The Magic took a 17-point lead into the fourth quarter and were wholesale jerseys never seriously challenged. Rose and Gasol didn’t play in the final period and the closest the Bulls’ reserves could get was 90-74 with 8:14 left in the game.

The Magic hit five of six shots to start the third quarter, including a 3-pointer by Hezonja that helped Orlando take a 74-54 lead. Payton and Oladipo pushed the pace against the Bulls’ lackadaisical defense and the quick tempo provided plenty of open shots in the 15- to 18-foot range.

The Bulls’ offense also stayed on the perimeter, but without much success. Rose was 0 for 4 and Chicago hit only seven of 24 shots (29.1 percent). The Bulls had nba basketball jerseys only one basket the final three minutes and trailed 84-67 going into the final period.

BULLS FRUSTRATION SHOWING

Chicago’s fourth straight loss left players wondering what is happening to this season.

”Honestly, we have a lot of holes everywhere,” Dunleavy said. ”It’s kind of just across the board. As this thing goes and we continue to struggle, we are not losing too much ground cheap nba jerseys amazingly in the playoff race We just have to hang in there.”

Rose added: ”First off, we have to find out what’s the problem? Is it defense? Is it communication? That is something we are trying to figure out.”

TIP-INS

Bulls: Aaron Brooks Jerseys was ejected with 6:31 left in the game after receiving two technical fouls for arguing. … F Taj Gibson (hamstring) missed his first game this season. … G Jimmy Butler (knee) could rejoin the Bulls for practice Friday, but is not expected to play for another 10 to 12 days. … Chicago has given up 102 or more points in 15 straight games.

Magic: F Evan Fournier missed his third straight game with a sore wrist. … Elfrid Payton tied his season high with 12 assists. … Orlando is allowing opponents to shoot 47.8 percent and average 107.1 points in the last 27 games. … Vucevic made his second 3-pointer this season, just beating the shot clock at the 7:09 mark of the first quarter.

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Bulls: Host Houston on Saturday

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Playoff absence may be best move for Bulls’ future

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Ninth place in the Eastern Conference stinks.

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Eighth place equals four or five or six more games, an exercise in futility in which nemesis LeBron James puts them out of the NBA playoffs for the fifth time in seven years.

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Seventh place means matching up against the Toronto Raptors Jerseys, an opponent against whom the Chicago Bulls Jerseys oddly have had their “number” in recent seasons, though that could change considerably Monday night at Air Canada Centre (7:30 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass). The Raptors also have a dynamic All-Star backcourt playing the way Chicago’s was supposed to be and an acceptance that they have something to prove to the league — a humility that seems lost on the Bulls.

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(Oh, and there still is a chance that seventh place means a best-of-seven matchup with Cleveland, if the Cavaliers decide to rest and cruise into the postseason without regard for the East’s top seed.)

Sixth place means taking on a Boston team that has demonstrated how much better life can be with no stars than waiting for and worrying about “stars” the way Chicago has all season. Or it means Miami, the team that just completed its season sweep of the Bulls by scoring 240 points in two games in a span of 11 days.

Fifth place? Fifth place would get the Bulls a nose bleed. No way they’re climbing that high anyway, not over so many teams with so few games left.

So maybe it’s time for the perfectly mediocre, 32-32 Bulls — the team whose preseason billing as the “East’s second-best” now echoes as a taunt — to start making peace with the idea of a lottery finish rather than a last-gasp run to the wire. Breaking a sweat, skinning some knees, looking in the mirror and sneering at what stares back? Nah, that’s more accountability than this team has shown itself to be capable of during its 10-20 meltdown after waking up Jan. 7 with a 22-12 record.

For the folks who still fill the United Center 22,000 strong night after night, whether it’s out of habit, for the show-biz stuff between the basketball or because they’ve been on a waiting list since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen romped there, the 2015-16 season is a combination “Groundhog Day” and the “boy who cried wolf” parable.

Heat vs. Bulls

Goran Dragic goes off for 26 points with 9 assists as the Heat take down the Bulls 118-96.

This is Year 6 of championship dreams forsaken, a process built in reverse in which the Bulls reached the Eastern Conference finals in 2011, had the NBA’s Most Valuable Player that season, didn’t make The Finals and has been disassembling ever since. The scaffolding and girders that dominate the arena’s East side (future atrium and retail complex, with the Jordan statue as its centerpiece) is as stark and incomplete at the moment as vice president John Paxson’s and general manager Gar Forman’s master plan. One of them will be spruced up and completed fairly quickly, the other is going to get uglier before it gets better.

Injuries — to Rose, to Jimmy Butler, to Joakim Noah, to Nikola Mirotic, to Mike Dunleavy and, as of Sunday, to Pau Gasol (swollen knee) — have been crippling and undeniable. But as former Bulls forward Luol Deng noted late Friday, after his Miami team scored 64 points after halftime to yank a game out of Chicago’s grasp, those things predated Tom Thibodeau’s five-year run as coach and surely have post-dated Thibodeau this season.

What set management’s hair on fire as Thibodeau’s recklessness with players’ minutes now is written off as bad luck under new coach Fred Hoiberg, Paxson’s and Forman’s hand-picked successor with a veneer more acceptable to the executive suite. But the defense that was the Bulls’ face to the NBA under Thibodeau is gone now, too. And the offense that his bosses wanted Hoiberg to install as its keeping-up-with-the-Warriors idea is under construction more than your typical Chicagoland tollway.

Apparently the old joke about the city’s seasons applies to the Bulls as well. There’s only two — summer and team construction.

The notion that Butler (expected to play at Toronto Monday), Gasol (a week or two away) and Rose (flip a freakin’ coin) can come back, mesh with the role players (Dunleavy, Taj Gibson, E’Twaun Moore, Bobby Portis) and underachievers (Mirotic, Doug McDermott, Tony Snell, Aaron Brooks Jerseys) around them and flip some switch for the home stretch is naïve. Not to mention narrowly held.

The Bulls’ locker room remains empowered in unaccountability, residue from management turning its own coach into a lame duck all of last season? Telling a full roster of players “Aw, pay no attention to that guy, he’s gone” only makes it harder when you bring back that same roster and suddenly announced, “Now this guy is the one you need to listen to.”

The power in this dynamic resides with the players, more so now than with most teams. Rose made it clear when he tapped out before Friday’s loss to Miami that no team circumstance — a playoff berth in the balance, a game on the line — never again will get between him and his sense of secure game-fitness. Or maybe his marketability for 2017 free agency.

GameTime: Pau Gasol

GameTime sits down with Pau Gasol sits down to discuss Bulls’ season and what they can do to improve.

Butler seems to be moving along Deng’s trajectory in Chicago, game to play whenever possible but achingly aware of the physical toll it’s taking, and heeding it a bit more than his mentor did. nba wholesale jerseys Noah, his season done after 30 games with shoulder surgery, might have played his last game with the Bulls; he’s the heart of the team pulled out and shown to them, as if in a Bruce Lee movie, before they actually die.

As for Gasol, he’s smart enough to see what’s going on and to keep his options open this summer, literally in an early-termination of is contract and figuratively. A double-double guy with surprising triple-double capacity lately, the 35-year-old doesn’t even have to be that cerebral to grasp the math involved.

“The season is winding down,” he said, “and every game that goes by it is [fewer] games left to play, and our margin of error is gone.”

Chicago sports radio last week began bandying about the idea that the “second-best in the East” Bulls might miss the playoffs entirely and whether that might be preferable to the decidedly profitable two or three home playoff games in a one-and-done cameo. Folks who argue against it cite the run seven consecutive postseason appearances, the cachet that could help lure a free agent or two this summer and a subconscious organizational fear of ever returning to the team’s 1999-2004 bleakness.

But with Gasol’s opportunities elsewhere, Noah’s uncertainty and both roster flaws in general and mismatches between the talent base and Hoiberg’s preferred style of play, some serious roster reworking is going to be required regardless. Might as well begin it with a longshot lottery pick.

Maybe ninth place doesn’t stink as bad as the spots just above it for the Bulls this season.

Hoiberg tried to perk up his players’ pride and motivation over the weekend when he spliced into the team’s video breakdown a clip from “Animal House.” It was the one in which John Belushi’s character mangles history in his “Nothing is over” speech.

Frankly, the Bulls coach should have used the Kevin Bacon one from later in the movie.

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. Trending

Playoffs have long line of series-changing injuries

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The NBA playoffs are only a couple of weeks old, and already we’ve seen them radically changed thanks to a couple of key injuries.

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Golden State’s presumptive MVP Stephen Curry, who led the NBA in scoring during the regular season at 31 points per game, sprained his ankle in Game 1 of their first-round series against the Rockets, then returned in Game 4 and suffered a knee injury that could keep him out for two weeks. More recently, during Game 4 of the Clippers’ series against Portland, Los Angeles point guard Chris Paul suffered a fractured hand, which will sideline him indefinitely, and Blake Griffin re-injured his quadriceps, which means he will miss the rest of the playoffs.

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Injuries are an unavoidable part of sports. Over the last few years, we’ve seen teams trying to preserve players by sitting them out of games and limiting their minutes. And along the way, we’ve also learned that nobody seems able to avoid the fickle hand of bad luck, particularly where injuries are concerned.

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This season is not the first time we’ve seen an NBA team in the playoffs have its destiny altered by circumstances beyond its control. Let’s take a look back over the last 15 years at some of the injuries that have had a significant impact on their team’s postseason plans…

Derek Anderson Jerseys, San Antonio Spurs

Playoff series: 2001 Western Conference semifinals vs. Dallas

Injury: Separated shoulder in Game 1

How it affected the series: The Spurs finished the 2000-01 season an NBA-best 58-24, with Anderson the team’s second-leading scorer behind Tim Duncan, averaging 15.5 points in 82 games. Anderson injured his shoulder on a flagrant foul from Juwan Howard, although the Spurs went on to beat the Mavericks in five games. Anderson returned during the Western Conference finals, but the Lakers swept the Spurs in four games.

Peja Stojakovic, Sacramento Kings

Playoff series: 2002 Western Conference semifinals vs. Dallas

Injury: Sprained ankle in Game 3

How it affected the series: Coming off an All-Star season as Sacramento’s second-leading scorer, Stojakovic’s injury kept him out nearly three weeks. He finally returned to help the Kings win Game 5 of the Western Conference finals, although the Lakers bounced back to win Games 6 and 7 and advance to the NBA Finals.

Chris Webber, Sacramento Kings

Playoff series: 2003 Western Conference semifinals vs. Dallas

Injury: ACL injury in Game 2

How it affected the series: Webber was Sacramento’s leading scorer during the regular season, averaging 23 points. The Kings were leading 1-0 when Webber went down, and without Webber, Dallas was able to eliminate the Kings in seven games. Although, as Dallas was about to learn, the injury bug is inescapable.

Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks

Playoff series: 2003 Western Conference finals vs. San Antonio

Injury: Knee in Game 3

How it affected the series: The Mavs finished the regular season tied for the NBA’s best record at 60-22. After beating the Spurs in Game 1, Nowitzki strained his knee going for a rebound in Game 3, and missed the rest of the series. The Spurs went on to win the series and, eventually, the NBA championship.

Sam Cassell, Minnesota Timberwolves

Playoff series: 2004 Western Conference finals vs. Lakers

Injury: Hip injury in Game 1

How it affected the series: The Wolves had won a regular season franchise-best 58 games and entered the postseason as the top seed in the Western Conference. Point guard Cassell was injured one minute into Game 1, and wasn’t nearly as effective as he was during the regular season. The Lakers won the series in six games to advance to the NBA Finals.

Joe Johnson, Phoenix Suns

Playoff series: 2005 Western Conference semifinals vs. Dallas

Injury: Broken orbital bone in Game 2

How it affected the series: Johnson had played 287 consecutive games for the Suns before a foul from Jerry Stackhouse caused an eye injury that resulted in a minor concussion and required surgery. Johnson missed the rest of the series, as the Suns were able to defeat the Mavericks in six games. Johnson returned in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, but the Suns lost in five games to the San Antonio Spurs.

Yao Ming, Houston Rockets

Playoff series: 2009 Western Conference semifinals vs. Lakers

Injury: Fractured foot in Game 3

How it affected the series: After the Rockets finished the regular season with 53 wins, they won their first-round matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers. In Game 3 of the conference semifinals, Yao had to limp off after suffering a stress fracture. The Lakers would go on to win the series and, eventually, the NBA championship.

Kendrick Perkins, Boston Celtics Jerseys

Playoff series: 2010 NBA Finals vs. Lakers

Injury: Knee injury in Game 6

How it affected the series: Perkins wasn’t Boston’s most dynamic player, but his defensive presence and leadership were valued by the Celtics. The Celtics held a 3-2 lead going into Game 6, but an early Perkins injury derailed Boston, as the Lakers went on to win Games 6 and 7 and take the NBA title.

Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls Jerseys

Playoff series: 2012 Eastern Conference first round vs. Philadelphia

Injury: Torn ACL in Game 1

How it affected the series: Rose was the NBA’s reigning MVP, and had led the Bulls to the Eastern Conference finals the previous season. In 2012, Rose led the Bulls to a first-place finish in the Central Division and they were one of the favorites to contend for an NBA title. Rose’s knee injury in Game 1 was catastrophic for Chicago, as they went on to lose the series in six games.

Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

Playoff series: 2013 Western Conference first round vs. Houston

Injury: Torn meniscus in Game 2

How it affected the series: One season after a trip to the NBA Finals, the Thunder finished the regular season with a 60-22 record, best in the Western Conference. Westbrook had played all 82 regular season games, averaging 23.2 points and 7.4 assists. Westbrook collided with Houston’s Patrick Beverley and came up limping, and ended up needing surgery and missed the rest of the postseason. The Thunder ended up winning the series behind Kevin Durant, but lost the conference semifinals to the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Starters: Beverley vs. Westbrook

The Starters discuss the heated rivalry between the Patrick Beverley and Russell Westbrook along with their respected teams.

Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder

Playoff series: 2014 Western Conference semifinals vs. Clippers

Injury: Calf injury in Game 6

How it affected the series: One season after losing Westbrook in the postseason, the Thunder were still harboring championship aspirations. But during the Thunder’s Game 6 victory over the Clippers, Ibaka suffered a calf injury. A day later, the Thunder announced that Ibaka was done for the rest of the postseason. But after the Thunder fell behind 0-2 to the Spurs during the Western Conference finals, Ibaka returned in a limited role but the Spurs would go on to win and advance.

Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers Jerseys

Playoff series: 2015 Eastern Conference first round vs. Boston cheap nba jersey

Injury: Dislocated shoulder in game 4

How it affected the series: After the Cavs added Kevin Love and LeBron James to a young core, they finished the season as the best team in the Eastern Conference. But during Game 4 of their first round series against Boston, Love and Kelly Olynyk became tangled going after a loose ball, and Love suffered his season-ending injury. The Cavs had enough interior depth to win the series and eventually advance to the NBA Finals, but soon learned there were more injuries ahead…

Love’s Injury

Kevin Love leaves the game after injuring his shoulder while battling for the rebound with Kelly Olynyk.

Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers Jerseys

Playoff series: NBA Finals vs. Golden State Warriors

Injury: Patella fracture in Game 2

How it affected the series: Irving actually missed two games against the Atlanta Hawks Jerseys in the Eastern Conference finals with a knee injury, but returned to play against the Warriors’ strong backcourt in the NBA Finals. Irving suffered the injury during overtime of Game 1, knocking him out for the rest of the series. The Cavs would go on to lose the Finals in six games.

Kyrie Irving’s Injury

Kyrie Irving drives, lands awkardly and appears to sustain an injury on the play.

Lang Whitaker has covered the NBA since 1998. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. Trending

Despite defeating Cavs, Bulls left with plenty of questions

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CHICAGO — The Chicago Bulls Jerseys finished 7-1 against the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. They outplayed the Cleveland Cavaliers Jerseys in the fourth quarter and beat the defending conference champs in a playoffs-like atmosphere at United Center on Saturday.

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And yet, after the final two games on their regular season schedule, the Bulls are headed home. To lick wounds, to mine what positives they can from their wildly mediocre and extremely unreliable 2015-16, to press their noses occasionally against the glass of the postseason party to which they uninvited themselves and to spin. Always to spin.

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What Bulls fans will get when it’s all officially over, after the Philadelphia 76ers Jerseys drape black crepe Wednesday over another lost season, will be more eulogy than autopsy. “Injuries” will be mentioned a lot and, while they existed and nagged, there’s been nothing like the Derrick Rose blowouts around which Chicago navigated nonetheless to the three most recent of the franchise’s seven consecutive playoff appearances.

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There will be talk about new coach Fred Hoiberg’s challenge in fitting a touted pace-and-space offensive style to a group of players more familiar and comfortable with predecessor Tom Thibodeau’s bark-and-park halfcourt game.

And fans who keep showing up at United Center 22,000 strong, thereby providing no tangible urgency for change, will hear about an offseason devoted to every last button, pulley and lever, about Bulls management being committed to using every apparatus available — draft, trades, free agency — to restore Chicago to playoff respectability.

It might even match in sincerity and staying power the justifications belched up a year ago for paying Thibodeau and his .647 winning percentage as much as $9 million to go away.

So no, the eulogies aren’t going to offer much in the way of explanation for what went wrong for the Bulls this season, literally from the get-go of Rose’s “I’ll be a free agent looking for another pay day in July 2017” Media Day comments in September 2015. For that, you needed to have been paying attention over the past week or so, as Hoiberg, Jimmy Butler, veteran Pau Gasol and a few others dissected the team’s failings while it still was a few blips shy of flatlining.

They definitely step up their game when they see me.

– LeBron James

Gasol rattled off three of Chicago’s most galling failings earlier Saturday, citing “a lack of sense of urgency,” “a lack of awareness” and “a lack of maturity” in the locker room.

“There’s been times where we dropped games, lost games, that we should never have lost, especially at home against certain teams,” the 35-year-old center said. “Those are the times that guys don’t realize how big of a price that you can pay at the end of the year and how much of a different position you’re going to be [in] by those games in November, December, January. ‘Ah, there’s still 40 games to play, there’s still 50 games to play.’ No, those games are just as meaningful as the ones we’ve been playing for the last week or two where our life has been on the line.”

Gasol, whose defensive lapses are as gaping as any of the Bulls, does an admirable job of laying out the what of things gone wrong for the Bulls. What he does not or cannot explain is the how of those nasties infiltrating what was brought back as an experienced, allegedly savvy intact roster from last season.

Was there no one to nip it all in the bud early? No voice that could rise above the rest and command his Bulls teammates to plant their sneakers and say no to that noise? Well, Gasol and Rose don’t have the personalities or the volume in their voices. Joakim Noah, he of the awkward game but fiery heart, was hurt and marginalized.

As for Butler, he grabbed too directly at the team’s leadership reins, generating more eye-rolls than followers. By last week, the self-made All-Star was dropping third-person references to “Jimmy Butler,” still the only Bulls player he really could call out.

Butler did call out Hoiberg early, after a desultory loss to the Knicks in Madison Square Garden on Dec. 19, saying the first-year NBA head coach needed to “coach harder” in holding players accountable. There are those who think Hoiberg’s immediate response should have been to sit Butler out of Chicago’s next game, a loss to Brooklyn, to make his authority known up-close and personal. But he did not. Chicago got a nice 7-1 bump (including six playoff-bound opponents) to reach 22-12 on Jan 7, then began its slide back to blah.

Butler’s challenge persists, in its candor and its perspective, as the defining moment of Hoiberg’s first season. It was brought up again, four months after the fact, in pregame questioning Saturday: So, will you be louder and more direct next season?

Jimmy Butler: Should Bulls Trade Him?

Rumors are that the Bulls will explore trading Jimmy this offseason, but should they?

“When I go back and look at the different segments of the season,” Hoiberg said, “we got off to a pretty solid start with this thing. Then some things happened. I think most of that comes from the one comment that was made after the New York game by Jimmy. We had some pretty heated moments with our group, in the locker room, the in-film session. Would I change it and be more vocal, more direct? Maybe. Again, we’ll evaluate that as we go into the offseason.”

Add it to the list, already a long one. Gasol almost certainly is gone, the early-out in his contract offering him at a chance, as he turns 36, to land with a legitimate contender for some late-career fun. General manager Gar Forman’s comments about Gasol as a building block for the Bulls — at a price significantly higher than his current $7.7 million — rang hollow as soon as he said it in February, offered more to stifle chatter about next season than to lay out a real blueprint.

Noah might or might not be back, his game less valuable to the Bulls than his presence. Rose and Butler claim they’ll work out together this offseason to improve their chemistry and communication, though it’s easy to imagine a summer stalemate in which the former in L.A. and the latter in San Diego each expects the other to make the I-5 drive.

VP John Paxson and Forman are safe because that’s the way newly enshrined Hall of Famer, Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, rolls with his executives. And Hoiberg has the dual job security of being Forman’s choice as coach even before the position was vacant and of having four years and $20 million left on his deal. It wasn’t Hoiberg’s fault he was undercut well before his arrival, by management telling the locker room “Aw, don’t worry what the coach wants” all of last season.

The Bulls’ championship ambitions, for this bunch at least, are ending with more whimper than bang. LeBron James, who normally puts them down each spring, instead gave them a pat on their heads and a sideways shot on his way out of town Saturday, heading to far better things.

“The Chicago Bulls Jerseys team that plays us is not going to be the one that’s struggling a little bit off and on, as of late,” James said. “They always play well versus us. It’s like human nature — when they see me, it’s like ‘OK.’ They wish I wore every uniform at this point. They definitely step up nba basketball jerseys their game when they see me.”

Except that the struggle hasn’t been a little bit, merely off and on, or just of late. It got addressed in this space quite a while back, both here and here.

What it has been is an embarrasingly blown opportunity in which Rose has played in 66 games, Gasol at 35 has put up 46 more double-doubles and Butler again reached All-Star status. The defense drooped, the offense never got traction, and rosy talk in training camp about Doug McDermott, Tony Snell and Bobby Portis has given way to rosy talk on the brink of elimination about Cristiano Felicio, Justin Holiday and E’Twaun Moore.

But hey, the Bulls are 7-1 against the best in the East and 11-5 against the top six teams in the NBA this season. You can do the math for how they’ve done against everybody else, those more of their ilk.

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. Trending

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