With the Bulls now led by hot-shot rookie Derrick Rose and entering Tuesday's game with a decent 11-12 record against what has been a difficult schedule, it has been easy to be positive about what lies ahead for the team. That is, until Tuesday night.
The Bulls fell to an under-manned Charlotte Bobcats team 110-101 in overtime, a reminder that this team still has a very long way to go before it starts winning most of the games it should.
Charlotte was riding a seven-game losing streak, had lost Monday night in Atlanta, was without Gerald Wallace - who was away from the team after the death of his father - and seven minutes into the game lost the newly acquired Raja Bell - who was ejected by referee Eli Roe.
In addition to that, the much maligned duo of Tyrus Thomas (22 points, 9 rebounds) and Joakim Noah (7 points, 6 rebounds) posted strong games.
In spite of it all, the Bulls still found a way to lose.
Yes, the previously mentioned Roe had something to do with this - calling a phantom foul on Rose with just under 20 seconds remaining in regulation to send D.J. Augustin to the line for three shots to tie the game at 94.
But the Bulls were beaten because of their weak defense. Allowing the league's worst scoring team to notch 110, shoot 24 more free throws then they did and frequently failing to stop Augustin (29 points, 7 assists, 13-for-13 at the line!) and Raymond Felton (21 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds!) in the lane, both of whom had what probably will be their best state-lines of the season.
Rose was terrible. Scoring just 6 points on 3-of-16 shooting and failing to summon any sort of competitive desire to stop fellow rookie Augustin. Here's the deal, before we start comparing Rose to the best point guards in the league, he needs to avoid being dominated by another rookie.
But Rose can be forgiven. After all, he's given the Bulls a huge shot in the arm this season. What fans and Vinny Del Negro should have very little tolerance for is the defensive apathy continually shown by much of the team. We know Ben Gordon's defense is a joke but what happened to Luol Deng? And the help defense provided by Drew Gooden and Andres Nocioni among others, was completely non-existent.
On a night when Thomas puts up those types of numbers and Noah actually does something positive - besides being a useless "energy" player - is a night the Bulls should win. Especially against a battered and undermanned Bobcats team.
Maybe I expect too much from this group. Winning on the road against weak teams is the key to being a good team and the Bulls are simply not there. Instead, their progress resembles the brutal traffic that many of us in the Chicagoland area had to deal with for much of Tuesday - frustrating, annoying, slow and possibly headed for a crash.
- On a side note, I'm really enjoying the work of the Bulls radio team of Chuck Swirsky and Bill Wennington. They already have great chemistry, bring excitement and make the broadcast much more conversational - even if that means missing the play-by-play for a basket here and there.
One request though - Wennington, please stop applauding everything (and I do mean everything) Aaron Gray does. It's bad enough hearing Stacey King do it on TV but we don't need the both of you celebrating this stiff. I realize that the both of you can relate because you were below-average big men in your careers but please, let's stop this before you start mentioning him as one of the conference's elite centers.