Navigating the lockout-shortened NBA schedule figures to be similar to playing a video game for the first time: Some obstacles will be difficult to avoid.
The Bulls seemed to hold a schedule advantage against Atlanta on Saturday. The Hawks were playing for the third straight night, while the Bulls were merely on their fourth game in five days.
Instead, the Bulls appeared to hit a wall no one realized was there. They fell behind 12-1 at the start, then by 29 in the third quarter as Atlanta rolled to a 109-104 victory.
"(Coach Tom Thibodeau) said there's no time to feel sorry for yourselves because the games just keep coming," center Joakim Noah told reporters after the game. "But he said it's a wake-up call. We don't have anything figured out. So it's on us. I think the reality is we have to do better."
"We just weren't clicking tonight," Derrick Rose added. "I take the blame because I didn't push the ball and they were trapping me as well."
The starters were oddly ineffective against the Hawks. Carlos Boozer (12 points) was the only one who scored in double figures. Noah finished with 1 point and 4 rebounds in 17 minutes.
"This one's on the people who started the game," Noah said. "Our second unit came in, got the lead back to four, then we went back in and dropped it again. There's a pattern and we just need to find a way to play better because it was embarrassing tonight."
There might be more lulls in store. Next up, the Bulls play their only set of three straight games, beginning tonight against Detroit at the United Center. They play twice more this weekend for a total of five games in six nights.
On the positive side, the Bulls are off to a 7-2 start and have played just two home games. Only Miami (8-1) has a better record in the East.
Howard ready to play with Rose:
Orlando center Dwight Howard had no interest in talking trade when the Bulls were in town on Friday, though his trade demand apparently still stands.
There has been speculation that Howard hasn't included Chicago on his list of preferred trade destinations because his shoe sponsor, Adidas, doesn't want its two biggest endorsers, Howard and Derrick Rose, playing for the same team.
Asked if he'd like to play with Rose at some point in his career, Howard said yes, sort of.
"We can play in the All-Star Game together," Howard said. "It will be fun. Come February (26th), me and Derrick will be on the same team. So I'm looking forward to All-Star Weekend."
Olympic dream dims:
There were reports this week that Bulls forward Carlos Boozer will not be a candidate for the 2012 Olympic team. He was on the gold-medal winning 2008 squad, when he played for the Utah Jazz.
The news wouldn't be much of a surprise, if true, since Boozer hasn't been a consistent all-star selection. The Bulls should have three participants in the 2012 London games -- Derrick Rose for the U.S., Joakim Noah for France and Luol Deng for host Great Britain.
Center Omer Asik had a chance to make it with Turkey. His national squad lost to Rose and the U.S. in the FIBA World Championships title game in 2010. But Turkey didn't fare well at last summer's European championships and did not qualify for the Olympics.