Remember the fun-loving, fast-paced Chicago Bulls that smiled, threw alley-oops and told anybody who was listening how much they liked each other?
It sounds like that was the message from Fred Hoiberg at Sunday’s practice, along with some harsh truths of a film session that showed the raw, ugly footage of three straight bad losses.
"I talked to them about this – right now, it’s a drag" Hoiberg said. "You look out there, our body language, our inability to fight through adversity these last couple games – going back to what made us successful early in the season, that was a confident basketball team that was having fun out there. This game is hard to play when it’s a drag."
The only solace the Bulls can take is that the Eastern Conference aside from Cleveland and Toronto hasn’t established much consistency, as the third through 10th spots are separated by two games.
The Bulls, many thought, were poised to elevate themselves over the muck of the rest of the conference. It hasn’t happened just yet and there’s no sign it will occur.
"The big thing we had early was just the swagger we were playing with, the confidence we were going out and playing with, getting down the floor and throwing lobs," Hoiberg said. "It was fun."
[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]
The Bulls’ offense has dragged along, the defense has been a step slow and the Bulls have had their doors blown off in the last 10 quarters, dating back to their 21-point lead over the Minnesota Timberwolves that evaporated in the last three minutes of the second quarter.
"You wake up this morning and it was 25 below, you get your butts handed to you a couple days in a row, you got to come in here and find a way to reverse that," Hoiberg said. "Again, hopefully today we made some steps in the right direction."
The steps apparently included doing training camp activities, and trying to increase the competition in the two-hour session.
"We did a lot of the same drills," Doug McDermott said. "We got up and down quite a bit, scrimmaged more than we have all year. I think it was really good for us. It was competitive, guys were getting after it."
McDermott said Dwyane Wade spoke up in the film session, telling his team they are just 26 games into it, with plenty of basketball left before April.
"He's been through tough seasons, he's been through championship seasons," McDermott said. "There's still a lot of basketball to be played. You can't hang your head. Nobody's going to feel sorry for us in this league. You have to continue to work and good things can happen."
It’s not just work that will fix the Bulls’ myriad problems. McDermott said Hoiberg put in some new actions that will hopefully add some spice to a dull offense devoid of perimeter shooting.
The fourth quarter numbers were already ugly even through some of the Bulls’ inspiring wins, but now its permeated to the other three quarters and it’s made life almost wholly dependent on Wade and Jimmy Butler to produce.
"I need to shoot threes and trust myself and they'll fall," McDermott said. "I think Rondo's been doing a great job of finding me. We put in some stuff today that really god the ball moving, and I think there will be more opportunities for me and guys like Niko (Mirotic) and Isaiah (Canaan) and our other three-point shooters to get looks. They're going to start falling."