CHARLOTTE -- Pau Gasol's post-shootaround sessions with the media have become de facto state of the team addresses recently. The 15-year veteran has been honest in his assessment of the Chicago Bulls and the way this season has unfolded. Monday's update offered a glimpse into the frustration that Gasol and his teammates have been dealing with for a while as they continue to try and find some consistency in an inconsistent year.
"I’ve said it when we talked about the lack of consistency with the team. 'What's going on? What's wrong?' At some point you say, well, this is who we are," Gasol said. "There’s no mystery. The results speak for themselves, so this is the situation that we’re dealing with. And now how do we face it? We accept it, we embrace it, or we try to improve and change it? But right now this is who we have been for the last year and a half or so."
Gasol's admission is jarring in its honesty, because it only confirms from a player's perspective what fans have noticed for a long time -- the problems the Bulls are dealing with now under new coach Fred Hoiberg are the same ones they dealt with last season under former coach Tom Thibodeau. Some nights this group wants to play hard, and some nights it doesn't.
"Can we make that extra step?" Gasol continued. "Yeah, I think we can. But it would require a full roster to be available and main guys to be available. Obviously, we would love to have Jimmy [Butler] and Jo [Joakim Noah] and Niko [Mirotic], and Mike [Dunleavy] is getting back finally and that's going to take a little time to get rust out of his legs and game. There's a few factors that affect our performance as well. But I feel when we were full-throttle and the guys are available, we can be as good as anyone, but now we have to weather through this time and this moment that we’re going through."
The Bulls come into Monday's game against the Charlotte Hornets having lost 11 of their past 16 games. Gasol was asked if this is emotionally fragile group at the moment.
"Right now we’re going through a tough streak," he said. "It’s not a time that you have to feel sorry for yourselves or hang your head or anything like that. There's a time that you say screw it, what do we do? What are we supposed to do here?. It’s a time that you have to man up and prove it on the floor. Plain and simple. It’s all opportunities in life, they're all opportunities to show who you really are, what you’re really made of. And if you're going to step up or if you're just going to lay back. So let's see if we can step up.
"The last few games we’ve really competed, we haven’t been successful, we didn’t have enough to execute at the end to put the games in our pocket. Now let’s see tonight, last game of the trip, which is probably the most difficult one, the most challenging one from the energy standpoint, from the fatigue standpoint. The way things are, you just got to fight through it."
So what will it take to get these Bulls back on track this far into the season?
"I think it takes a tremendous amount of pride at this point," Gasol said. "I feel like on this trip we could be 5-1. The last three games we lost, they're all games that we could’ve won, and we were ahead going down the stretch. And we had our opportunities, but we lost all of them. But at this point, two games before the All-Star break, you need to take -- it takes a big amount of pride in being out there and doing whatever it takes and playing harder than your opponent to win the game, and I think that that's what it's going to take. When you’re shorthanded like this, when things are not going your way, you really have to dig in and find a way to get it done."