Bulls

Fred Hoiberg plays 'Dumb and Dumber' clip for Bulls, laments early-season losses

fredhoibergdumbanddumberslide.png

Fred Hoiberg plays 'Dumb and Dumber' clip for Bulls, laments early-season losses

The regrets haven’t started yet but the Bulls can certainly look at the not-too-distant past as to why they’ll be on the outside of the postseason, looking in for the first time since 2008.

LeBron James can certainly put his personal stamp on yet another Bulls elimination with a Cleveland Cavaliers win over the Bulls at the United Center, but sitting one game under .500 and three full games behind the Indiana Pacers meant the Bulls lost plenty of games they shouldn’t have.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg remembers the games well, although he tried to lift the team’s spirits by pulling a clip from the movie “Dumb and Dumber”, with Jim Carrey’s famous line, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance?”, in reference to the Bulls’ ridiculously slim playoff hopes.

The Bulls must win out and the Pacers must lose all three remaining games or the inevitable will happen, to which Hoiberg’s pointing out several early-season losses occurred before things went haywire with the injuries and unfortunate circumstances that have taken place the past several weeks will prove to be fortuitous.

Pau Gasol remarked about games in December when the Bulls had an easier home schedule the first two months of the season, to which the losses could fall under “Dumb” and “Dumber”.

“Those were the games early in the season that comes back to haunt you at this time of year,” Hoiberg said. “We had a great home schedule in December and didn't take advantage like we needed to. We had leads where we didn't have that killer mentality to where we could close those games out. We’d be in a different position right now had we won some of those games.”

[MORE BULLS: Tom Thibodeau explains why the Bulls won't make NBA Playoffs]

In the first two months, they lost to Minnesota, Phoenix, and Brooklyn at home, along with dropping a game to the New York Knicks at Madison Square, which many will remember prompted Jimmy Butler to call out Hoiberg after.

There’s others that will come up as black marks in a lost season, but losing to definite lottery teams at home left a sour taste in the Bulls’ mouths then—but not enough to change fortunes.

“Those are the things you look back on, that killer instinct mindset that you have to have, that all the really good teams playing in the next month,” Hoiberg said. “If they don't have it, they develop it. It's unfortunate we lost some of those early games that are coming back to haunt us now.”

Gasol, who wouldn’t commit to saying this was a lost season but sounded like a man who wished everyone would’ve taken things more seriously before it turned into an impossible situation.

“Those are the times that guys don’t realize how big of a price you can pay at the end of the year,” Gasol said. “And how much of a different position you’re going to be in because of those games in November, December, January that, ‘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. That’s just a lack of sense of urgency, a lack of awareness, a lack of maturity that we have dealt with.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

While Derrick Rose was recovering from orbital bone surgery, Butler was relatively healthy, the season hadn’t taken a huge toll on Gasol and Joakim Noah was still active, before his season-ending shoulder injury in January against Dallas.

“If we won those games, even as many issues as we've had, you look at Jo going out, what happened with our defensive efficiency and then the other guys being in and out of the lineup, you can make up for some of that if you take care of some of those early games we absolutely should've won,” Hoiberg said. “We had no business losing, early on, with the schedule the way it was. A lot of those things, you look at the process, are the reason we are where we are now. A lot of that is inconsistencies, and lack of killer mentality we needed to have early this season.”

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

wendell.png
AP

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

Don't tell Wendell Carter Jr. the center position is a dying breed.

The 19-year-old rookie hasn't exactly been able to ease into the NBA, finding himself up against a handful of All-Stars and powerful frontcourts just five days into his career.

It culminated Monday night with a date against Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan, and once again the seventh overall pick held his own. It was much of the same as it was against Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Detroit's Andre Drummond last week (and Nikola Jokic in the preseason finale): some good, some bad, plenty of poise and zero backing down. The NBA is unforgiving, but this could very well be the toughest stretch Carter faces all season.

"He’s playing against top level centers now," Fred Hoiberg said before Monday's game. "It’s a great experience for him. He’s going to learn and get better and he plays within himself, we will continue to look for him to be more aggressive."

He was as aggressive as the Bulls have seen him against Jordan and the Mavericks. He blew by the 20 and 18 minutes he played in the first two games of the year, totalling 32 minutes. His final line won't tell the story - 4 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a block - of a Carter who defended well at the rim, picking and choosing his spots on when to attack shots and when to simply use his verticality.

He wasn't credited for a block but he contested a Jordan dunk that turned into a Bobby Portis dunk on the other end. Plus-minus isn't always a good indicator of a player's worth, but Carter was a +5 in a 14-point Bulls loss. He even attempted a corner 3-pointer early in the shot clock, showing no hesitation. Carter's had his moments, but it's also apparent he's got a 19-year-old body going up against veterans each night. That'll come with time in the weight room. For now the experience is 

"I appreciate the fact I’m able to play against these very talented bigs early in my career," Carter said after the loss to the Pistons. "What I need to work on is I have to get stronger; that’s the first thing I recognize; just being up against the best. I love the competition. It’s always a great feeling going against the best."

What the Bulls are finding out is they have a player mature beyond his years. As he progresses he'll continue to get more difficult assignments. He had his rookie moment late in Monday's loss, committing a turnover in the backcourt after the Bulls had cut the deficit to five with 35 seconds left. The fouls are also an issue, as Carter has committed 10 in three games (after committing 17 in five preseason games).

That doesn't necessarily seem important for a Lottery-bound team, but considering the continued struggles of Robin Lopez (and Cristiano Felicio is entirely out of the rotation) it is. Lopez had 2 points and 1 rebound in 10 minutes while committing five personal fouls. In three games he has 11 personal fouls and 11 points, and also has more turnovers (five) than rebounds (four). If the Bulls are going to compete until Lauri Markkanen returns, Carter will need to hover around the 32 minutes he played Monday.

He'll get a much easier test on Wednesday when the Charlotte Hornets arrive in town. Cody Zeller doesn't exactly have the credentials of a Jokic or Embiid, meaning Carter may have a little more room to work. 

The Bulls know they have something in Carter. It'll be abother month until they can deploy him alongside Markkanen, but if the first three games are any indication, Carter won't have any problems matching up with some of the league's best.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Moral victory for the Bears?

lorin_bears_pats.jpg
USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Moral victory for the Bears?

David Schuster, Adam Jahns and Patrick Finley join Kap on the panel.

0:00- Dave Wannstedt joins the panel to discuss the Bears 38-31 loss to the Patriots? Was it a moral victory? Is Matt Nagy crazy to say Mitch Trubisky didn’t play that bad?

13:00- Joe Girardi pulls his name out of the Reds managerial search and Jon Heyman reports that industry sources believe he might wait to see if there’s an opening in Chicago. What are the chances that he replaces Joe Maddon?

14:30- Adam Amin joins Kap to preview the Bulls/Mavericks game and discuss the lack of defense in the NBA.