The Bulls would prefer we pay attention to their victory over Golden State on Friday rather than the taped-off crime scene that was the previous few weeks of Basketball ''action.'' And the 26-point loss to Boston at home Saturday? You can almost hear the rationalizing: Those things are going to happen against a very good team.
If you believe beating a bad Warriors team is a turning point, stop reading right now and return to your opium den. The rest of you realists can read on about the nine losses in 10 games that preceded it.
How low did the Bulls go in that span? Let's put it this way: It's generally not a good thing when TV announcers who are calling an NBA game get into a debate about the BCS title game.
It was hard to blame ESPN's Jon Barry and Mark Jackson for seeking a means of escape from the dreck that was being passed off as Bulls Basketball Wednesday. If they had started discussing foreign policy or belting out Broadway show tunes, well, we all have our coping mechanisms. Frankly, anything from ''Annie'' would have been preferable to watching the Atlanta Hawks obliterate the mellow fellows from Chicago.
It's one thing -- a very bad one thing -- to lose to the lowly New Jersey Nets one night and be given Washington Generals status by the Hawks the next. It's another thing to have two of your players declare that the effort isn't there.
TO TELL THE TRUTH
The coach, whose name has been legally changed to The Beleaguered Vinny Del Negro, said his team was playing hard.
Either Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah were wrong, or Del Negro was. If you had the misfortune of watching the Bulls do a bad imitation of playing defense the last two weeks, then you know who is telling the truth.
Defense is all about effort. The middle of Wyoming isn't as wide open as many of their opponents' shots have been, including the Celtics' on Saturday night.
It brings us to the person who is ultimately responsible for the Bulls' energy crisis: the head coach. Yes, the players are the ones who are supposed to be giving the effort. They're adults making huge money to play a kid's game. It's their sweat, their pride, their manly tats.
But when you're talking about who is in charge of how hard a team plays, you're talking about the person most in danger of losing his job because of poor effort. That would be Del Negro.
The nine losses were by an average of 18 points. The Celtics beat the Bulls 106-80 Saturday. Imagine if Boston had actually involved Kevin Garnett offensively.
At the rate his team is going, Del Negro soon will be eligible for the Scott Skiles Fired-by-Christmas Neediest Coaches Fund. It's every bit as grim as a 35-point loss to Atlanta the day after a loss to 1-19 New Jersey might suggest.
''When things ain't going well, change is going to happen somehow,'' Luol Deng said after a recent practice.
Del Negro was feisty last week. If only he can make his team feisty. Or talented.
''It's easy to sit back on the sidelines and everyone has these great ideas,'' he said of media criticism. ''People think they know what they're talking about. But until you live it and do it, no one has an idea.''
CRITICISM IS VALID
That's like saying you're not allowed to have an opinion on a movie unless you've acted. Yo, Vinny: A person doesn't need a beyond-the-grave reference from Red Auerbach to see how emotionally fragile your Bulls are right now. They see a little difficulty in front of them, and their defensive stance looks suspiciously like the fetal position.
Del Negro said some of the criticism of him has been unfair but declined to be specific. If he wants to defend his odd use of timeouts last season, the line of willing debaters would be about a mile long.
The only currency a coach has is playing time. If Del Negro thinks someone isn't hustling, he can introduce the player to the bench. That goes for Rose, Deng, John Salmons -- anybody. I know what you're thinking: Good Lord, more Aaron Gray?
Did I mention the Bulls recently lost nine of 10?
They are in Matadors-sized trouble if Del Negro believes his team was hustling in that blowout loss to Atlanta.
If you want to cut Del Negro some slack because he's without Tyrus Thomas, fine. But just remember that Thomas' time in Chicago has been defined by his underwhelming play and the trade rumors that have followed him like a bloodhound.
The biggest question now is whether Del Negro can last the season.
Another is, who do you like in the national championship game, Alabama or Texas?
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