Opening Tip: Bulls trying to 'stick with it'

December, 6, 2013
12/06/13
9:00
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls have had so many ups and downs over the past two seasons that their recent skid of six losses in their past seven games really hasn't dampened player's feelings as much as fans may think. The Bulls have a veteran group full of proud players, so they are still confident they can bounce back over the course of a long NBA season.

"Look at the East," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said recently. "The East is really an up-and-down kind of side. You get two straight wins and you'll be in fourth or third place. We just really got to get a groove going. It was a good testament to being home, but we just got to get some wins at home."

That is the feeling throughout the Bulls' locker room. Despite all the losing, they are convinced things are going to turn around.

"I think right now a lot of things are not going our way," Bulls forward Luol Deng said. "I think we got to stick with it and keep fighting and just keep working hard and it's not going to turn around by itself, we got to make it happen. I think we're losing a lot of close games right now and it's something we got to learn from. It's something that as a group we got to get better with. And individually, I got to get better at making better plays at the end of the game."

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Deng struggled in playing the role of closer late in Monday's triple overtime loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, a role he was used to seeing Derrick Rose fill for Chicago before his latest injury. Deng had seven turnovers on Monday but is hopeful things will turn around once he adjusts to the fact that he is the man Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau will turn to now late in games.

"It's something that I got to really get better on," Deng said. "I think so far right now I haven't done well with. It's a new experience but I got to keep working on it and working on my game. And every time I'm in a situation like that try to be smarter and make smart plays."

Deng has hit a few shots late in the fourth quarter to win games for the Bulls in the past, but the burden of being a "closer" usually fell on Rose in years past, or Nate Robinson last season. Now, it's up to Deng to find the answer late in games.

"I work on my game every day," he said. "I think the situation -- it happened. I can't control that. I think either way whether I'm in that situation or not, I work on my game every day whether it's the last shot or the first shot or a shot in the second quarter, I try to make every shot I take. It's definitely a different situation that I haven't been in, but at the same time there's times in the past where, not as often as right now, but there's times in the past when I've been in those situations."

Butler still recovering: Don't expect to see Jimmy Butler in the next few days. Thibodeau said before Thursday's game against the Miami Heat that Butler still hadn't practiced and remains "week to week."

The last word: Gibson on the Bulls' mindset: "In this league when you start feeling bad for yourself the wolves come. The wolves are not going to feel sorry for you. Every team's going to come in smelling blood and feel they need to get a win. Luckily for us, we got guys that understand that when [your] backs are against the wall you got to dig your way out of the hole. You can't make excuses or [say,] "We're tired." You just got to keep playing. It's a long season. I'm real optimistic. Just got to get guys back healthy and give it our best shot."

Nick Friedell | email

Chicago Bulls beat reporter
Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jimmy Butler
PTS AST STL MIN
20.4 3.2 1.8 39.7
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 11.8
AssistsD. Rose 4.9
StealsJ. Butler 1.8
BlocksP. Gasol 2.2