Once more into the breach.
When last we saw the Chicago Bulls, they were staggering off the court after successfully squandering a 27-point lead in the second half at home and we here at Bulls 101 were contemplating why exactly we were bothering to watch this team.
Two days later, the Bulls get a team in much the same position they themselves are in. The Dallas Mavericks are a game under .500 while their star is on the bench with a knee injury. They recently gutted a championship-caliber squad and had to reload on the fly. They also feature elite coaches.
Yes, the Mavs had considerably more flexibility than the Bulls, but since the Bulls voluntarily slashed productive players to sign (thus far) unproductive ones and hard-capped themselves in the process, they lost any sympathy they might otherwise have received.
The Bulls could easily have had OJ Mayo. They could have signed him outright, using the mid-level exception that instead went to Kirk Hinrich. They could have worked out a sign and trade and used the $5 million trade exception they got for dumping Kyle Korver for nothing.
Anyway, here are the facts: The Bulls supposedly "new and improved" bench unit has sucked this year. In fact, Tom Thibodeau got fed up with them and flatly refused to play bench players who were not Nate Robinson, Jimmy Butler or Taj Gibson. From the standpoint of not playing terrible players, that's great. From the standpoint of playing your players who are actually good entirely too many minutes, it's really not. The key will be trying to spread the minutes out semi-evenly, such that none of the high-paid but actually talented players die on the court.
Mayo has been very, very solid for the Mavs so far, and it's going to be important for the Bulls to keep him in check. As Dallas' only really consistent perimeter shooter, the Bulls can keep their outside shooting-inflicted injuries to a minimum. Monday's loss started with the Bucks starting to actually hit jumpers, and it would be nice if the could avoid having that happen to them tonight.
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