Chicago Turning Into Road-Team Oasis

a

CHICAGO – All the Los Angeles Lakers need to do to end the kvetching is to drop by the United Center for a game. If the Timberwolves want to get healthy, skip Lourdes and detour back to the Chicago Bulls’ crib on W. Madison St. Sacramento fans might even be able to save the Kings if they can steer their heroes through the cleansing waters of the visitors’ showers of the UC.

There is a famous statue of Michael Jordan outside the east end of the United Center, but these days the big gal from New York harbor would be a better fit. The NBA’s tired, its poor and its huddled masses all have taken refuge there lately.

The Phoenix Suns were the ones yearning to breathe free Saturday, dragging a 12-game road losing streak to Chicago on what would be its fourth away game in five nights. What happened? Big exhale for coach Alvin Gentry and his guys in a breezy 97-81 victory.

On Dec. 31, Father Time wanted to slap Baby New Year after sitting through Chicago’s 91-81 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats, which ended the 18-game losing streak of former Bulls superstar Jordan’s squad.

There was the Christmas stinker against Houston in which the Rockets thumped the Bulls by 23 lumps of coal, er, points. Two UC losses to division rival Milwaukee in which Chicago coughed up leads of 27 and 15 points. And a hot mess against New Orleans way back in early November that seemed to set the tone, losing to the Eric Gordon- and Anthony Davis-less Hornets.

The Bulls are 10-10 at United Center this season, compared to 10-5 on the road. They are shooting worse and scoring fewer in their own building than in other teams’. None of this bears any resemblance to the Chicago-in-Chicago record established in coach Tom Thibodeau’s first two seasons, when it went 62-12 while grabbing the East’s No. 1 seed in both 2010-11 and 2011-12.

It’s starting to look as if the Bulls haven’t had a home-court advantage as much as a hometown one, named Derrick Rose. No Rose equals home woes. Once as welcoming as the Bates Motel, United Center now offers the warm neon glow of a “Vacancy” sign to weary travelers.

“It’s not any given night, that’s the problem,” Bulls center Joakim Noah said after the Suns’ loss, which essentially canceled out Chicago’s rousing road victory at New York the night before. “We’re 10-10 at home, that’s not very good. It’s very average. There’s obviously a problem if we’re going on the road and beating some of the best teams, and then coming home and facing lower-echelon teams and not even competing. We have to fix it and it’s definitely something we can solve.”

That was the sense of dread before the game Saturday for many in the UC stands, that the Bulls might again play down to the competition. Then again, do that enough and you become one of those lesser teams.

Thibodeau sounds as if he has reached the point where herding the Bulls onto a plane, circling O’Hare for an hour, then busing them to a Windy City hotel Sunday night in advance of their Monday home game against Atlanta might be an option. It is little consolation to him that the rest of the Central Division is 25-50 on the road, compared to his team’s plus-5.

“I have to take a hard look at everything,” Thibodeau said. “I don’t think it’s a starting lineup, substitutions. I don’t think that’s it. It’s a team-wide thing.”

One  common denominator – and the most obvious place where Rose’s absence cripples them – has been inefficient offense. The Bulls shot 36.4 percent against Phoenix, the seventh time in their 10 home losses in which they were at 41.7 percent or worse. There are few easy buckets these days for Chicago.

They’re compounding their problems, too, by boiling over instead of digging deep. In the second half Saturday, rally notions got back-burnered by four Bulls technical fouls (Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, Nate Robinson and Thibodeau).

Said Noah: “We complain way too much. When things aren’t going our way, we have to find a way to stick together more and not act like it’s the end of the world. It’s just too negative.”

Considering the postgame mood, Thibodeau had a pretty good quote on the sort of team he expects. “They tell you you’re playing at midnight on the roof, you have to have guys that say, ‘Let’s get the ladders.’ “

A greater test, though, comes once they’re up there and someone takes the ladders. That’s what it feels like at United Center lately.

13 Comments

  1. SaYO says:

    when you lose your star player
    i kinda think home field is harder to play lol
    cause your crowd is use to that star.. and hes not on the court… and now your feeling pressured to do good…
    while your on the road… thinking.. “We can do this.. lets show the world”

  2. RedAndBlack says:

    They lose their motivation against poorly ranked teams. They don’t feel challenge, and are not mentally prepared against these kind of teams. I do the same thing at work. When I have to accomplish a task that I, for some reason, consider to be comparatively trivial, I dont spend much time in preparation, and even dread the task. That’s what they do. Then when there is two minutes left of the fourth and a big gap, they are disappointed? I think its great that it is being brought to attention, then they will change. #DIGDEEP

  3. CrazyRack says:

    I feel like the bulls losing all these games at home is nothing to worry about see once D Rose comes back the home record will take care of itself now 10 games lost at home is a bit much though but like I said nothing to worry about the road record is nice though bc we’ll need to win tough games on the road in the playoffs.

  4. Bulls2012 says:

    I rather be beating and competing the contenders of the league and losing to below average teams. When Playoffs come coach Thibs is the best coach in the East and have the best game plan against who ever we play. Well get it together at home. We wont let ppl walk into the UC and beat us all year..DONT WORRY BULLS FAN WE ARE 5 GAMES ABOVE .500 AND WE DONT HAVE THE BEST POINT GUARD IN THE NBA ON THE COURT YET.

  5. bj says:

    do they have enuff flow to get to playoffs, then its all good- because thats when the games begin, good or bad stats

  6. josefa says:

    Maybe it’s the Chicago pizza that makes the Bulls sluggish. They shouldn’t eat it before games.

  7. FirstTake says:

    The Bulls lost so many key bench players in the offseason. They won’t be making too much noise even when Rose comes back. The team they had last year with a healthy Rose could have gone to the finals.

    • Noit says:

      I absolutely agree. Bulls need to sign Malcolm Thomas to the bench. So that he can do the bench SF role and share PF with Taj. Taj can then share center with Nazr M. Then Jimmy can go and lock down the SG position while sharing it with Beli for offense.

      I would like it if we could get Aron Afflalo somehow though, like a trade for Rip. Rip has been shooting super efficient lately though.

  8. Sohan says:

    Ok the MAIN thing Cicago needs to do is not complain espacially Thibodeau it is not the end of the world…. Just stay calm trust your self out there and think you don’t even no derrick rose because I recon that is the only thing that going to help you. Trust me thinking it is the end of the world is not a good thing. One more thing get to no each other a bit have you seen the movie remember the titans well I know it is a MOVIE and it is about football but you need to get to know each other a bit more and don’t overreacted and you will be fine

    I HOPE THIBODEAU READS THIS

  9. Noit says:

    Thank you for this article. I am so disappointed in the Bulls losses. One thing to note though: Like Stacey and Funk mentioned last night the refs do call for the more aggressive team. However the refs called the fouls made by the Bulls so tightly they didn’t let the Bulls get aggressive.

    Regardless we do pull out wins when we are reffed against on the road so we must do that at home.

    Thanks for the article agree with it.

    • Noit says:

      It is an extremely good sign that we play well on the road, I think we just become complacent when we come home. Just as complacent as when Rose came back last year and started to carry them. Bulls need to play like they played in quarters 1 – 3 vs the Knicks the other night all them whether at home or on the road, and whether Rose is playing or not, if we do this then championship guaranteed.

  10. IceBerg Slim says:

    I’m disappointed in how the bulls play at home.Defend your madhouse where’s the madness. Remind Teams that when they come into the madhouse that they in for a fight and I did not see that in my Bulls last night,Better luck next time I guess!!!!