By Mike McGraw
After surviving a snowstorm and a postponed game in Indianapolis, the Bulls decided to skip practice Thursday, leaving another day to reflect on the state of the team after back-to-back blowout losses.
A road game in Indiana would have been a good barometer of their bounce-back abilities, but that one will have to wait for a later date.
Next up for the Bulls are home games against Washington (3-23) on Saturday and Charlotte (16-game losing streak) on New Year's Eve.
Part of the Bulls' problems can be explained by the quality of competition. They lost road games last week in Memphis and Atlanta (combined home record 22-8), then ran into a hot Houston squad that ran them off the court on Christmas night.
There is one statistical anomaly that stands out, though. In the first 20 games this season, the Bulls were outrebounded by their opponent just twice. In the last seven games, they've been beaten on the boards five times, usually by double digits.
Asked about the issue before the Houston game, coach Tom Thibodeau talked about how everyone needs to help rebound and asked for more contributions from the guards.
He makes a good point. The Bulls have relied heavily on Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer to control the rebounds. Noah is averaging 10.6 boards for the season and has bumped that total to 11.4 in the last 10 games.
After Boozer at 9.2 rebounds and Deng at 7.0, there's a long drop to Taj Gibson, who is averaging a career-low 4.4 rebounds. Their best rebounding guard is Kirk Hinrich at 2.5.
The Bulls led the league in rebound percentage last season, when they had Gibson and Omer Asik averaging 5.3 boards, plus Derrick Rose as one of the better rebounding point guards in the league. Through Wednesday's games, the Bulls are eighth in rebound percentage.
An argument could be made that rebounds are an overrated statistic in the current NBA, with few strong centers and a growing trend toward small ball. Miami, New York, Atlanta and Boston all rank in the bottom 10 in rebound differential.
One area where the Bulls are on the wrong side of the small-ball trend is 3-point shooting. They rank last in the league in 3-point baskets per game at 4.4.
The top five teams in that category are New York, Houston, the Lakers, Miami and San Antonio. All but the Lakers are in playoff position.
At the same time, the teams bringing up the rear, just ahead of the Bulls, are Memphis, Milwaukee and Boston -- also winning teams.
Issues are everywhere, but everything should look better with a couple of struggling opponents coming to town and Rose's impending return.
If nothing else, the extra day off will give Deng and Gibson more time to recover from sprained ankles. Deng's injury happened in the Houston game.