Bulls going through a tough stretch
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By Mike McGraw
Not much is going well for the Bulls right now. Their short-handed lineup fell short at Indiana and San Antonio in the past four days.
There's still no telling when Derrick Rose (knee surgery), Kirk Hinrich (sore foot), Taj Gibson (sprained knee) or Richard Hamilton (back spasms) will be back in the lineup.
The Bulls' team plane malfunctioned on the way to Indiana, forcing them to borrow Mark Cuban's Dallas Mavericks team plane for the trip to San Antonio.
On top of that, Rose sent word through his Twitter account Thursday he was having a bad day. Rose started by writing that family is the most important thing in his life.
"I'm just having a bad day and want u to know 'The Boy,' lol, does have down days, but thinking about y'all having my BACK makes me feel good," Rose's third message read.
Gosh, does this mean Rose won't play against Utah on Friday? He's probably not ready yet, anyway. Only Rose knows how his reconstructive left knee feels right now or how close he is to playing. That information was not shared.
In some ways, it's possible the worst might be over for the Bulls. They've gone just 6-10 since Feb. 1, but that stretch included 11 road games and 12 opponents currently in playoff position.
Of the Bulls' 11 remaining road dates, only three are against teams with a winning record as of Thursday morning.
Missing the playoffs seems far-fetched, since the Bulls have a 10½-game lead over ninth-place Toronto with 21 games remaining.
Looking in the other direction, the Bulls are just a game behind Brooklyn for fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings. So a better finish to the season remains a possibility if the team can get healthy.
"Right now we're average, pretty average," Joakim Noah said after Wednesday's 101-83 loss to San Antonio. "It's frustrating because the potential is there.
"But we all have to look at each other in the mirror, every single one of us, me included — I didn't play well tonight — everybody, and do more. Just do more."
Disappointment is understandable, but the reality is the Bulls put up a pretty good fight against the Pacers and Spurs under the circumstances. They trailed Indiana by just 1 point with two minutes remaining and led San Antonio until late in the third quarter.
Of course, it's not like coach Tom Thibodeau to excuse a loss, no matter how many players are sidelined. He didn't appreciate the Spurs shooting 54.1 percent from the field.
"We've got to be more competitive," Thibodeau said, according to espn.com. "We've got to compete out there. We've got to be into the body. We've got to be disciplined, and we've got to get things done defensively. You allow a team to shoot 54 percent or whatever, that's not good."
The Bulls are just 2-11 against the top eight teams in the Western Conference, but one of those victories came at Utah, which visits the United Center on Friday.
The Bulls will play their next six games against teams from the West, including next week's California trip, with games against the Lakers, Sacramento and Golden State while the Big Ten men's tournament fills the UC.
The Bulls should have no trouble finding their way to Los Angeles, but the team's usual charter may still be in the repair shop.
Team broadcasters Bill Wennington and Stacey King went on the radio Thursday to describe a harrowing attempt to fly to Indianapolis last weekend.
Wennington said he could hear a loud noise as the plane headed down the runway for takeoff.
"We take off fine, and about five minutes later, two more booms — Boom! Boom! — and a couple people saw flames and sparks and stuff flying out," Wennington said on ESPN Radio. "We're all thinking, 'Well, it's been nice.'"
The pilots were able to return to O'Hare and land safely. The Bulls reportedly used the Blackhawks team charter for the trip to Indianapolis.
"Honestly, it was really scary," King said on ESPN Radio. "I'm not going to sit up here and lie. If I had a teddy bear, I probably would have been grabbing it. It was a frightening situation. Our pilots did a good job of getting us back down."
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