Reality setting in for Thibodeau, Bulls

December, 10, 2013
12/10/13
11:07
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Tom Thibodeau is stubborn.

It's a character trait that has defined his career and ability to rise near the top of the NBA coaching ladder. He has certain principles and believes in his ability to get the most out of every team he coaches.

[+] EnlargeTom Thibodeau
Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports"We do have to put five guys out there," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said about the team's injury bug. "That is a requirement. That's what we're trying to do."
But after watching Tuesday night's 78-74 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, the veteran coach should retire one of his most familiar clichés for the time being.

Thibodeau and the Chicago Bulls no longer have more than enough to win with.

Between all the injuries to key players and lack of consistent talent on the floor, the Bulls have become what Thibodeau despises -- an inconsistent team.

Playing without Derrick Rose (knee), Joakim Noah (knee contusion), Luol Deng (Achilles) and Jimmy Butler (turf toe) proved to be too much for a Bulls team that is still more emotionally hurt than it is physically, which is saying a lot given the state of affairs on the injury list.

Even Thibodeau looks more dejected than ever. As he answered questions in the postgame press conference, he bristled at the notion that he had concerns regarding his team as it started the always treacherous four games in five nights stretch.

"We do have to put five guys out there," Thibodeau said. "That is a requirement. That's what we're trying to do."

What Thibodeau and the Bulls are trying to do and what they're actually doing are two separate things. This team never got over the fact that Rose went down for the year again and now Deng and Noah's latest injuries have affected their play even more. They say they still believe in Thibodeau's "more than enough" credo, but their actions on the floor tell a different story.

"It's huge," Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich admitted of losing Deng and Noah. "Those guys are our motors; we count on them every night. But it's not an excuse. We're all pros in this locker room. We all got to do our job. And me, personally, I'm just disappointed because I don't feel like I have done anything these last couple games offensively to help."

Hinrich has a point. Over his past four games he is shooting just 9-for-42 from the field. What makes it worse is that backup Marquis Teague went just 1-for-7 from the field and appears to have lost confidence in his jump shot.

The real issue for the Bulls is that Hinrich and Teague's struggles are just one part of a bigger problem hovering over this team. After playing tough, physical basketball over the past three years under Thibodeau, the Bulls are struggling to stay in games emotionally once they get behind. The injuries have taken a huge toll on this team, on and off the floor.

"It's still a long season," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. "But we just got to play like it's our last couple of games, because we're losing to teams that we should be beating. Especially at home, we can't lose games at home."

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
Derrick Rose
PTS AST STL MIN
15.9 4.3 0.5 31.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Noah 11.3
AssistsJ. Noah 5.4
StealsJ. Butler 1.9
BlocksJ. Noah 1.5