Two teams that some thought to put into the pool of contenders at the beginning of this NBA season, the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets, have seven consecutive losses between them, and both might not make the playoffs if the current state of things lingers on.
The Bulls hit the All-Star break with four consecutive losses, falling to 7th in the East (27-25), only one game ahead of the Detroit Pistons. Broken spirits or simply bad basketball? There’s the Joakim Noah injury affecting things, and now Jimmy Butler is out for a while. It seems everyone has regressed under Fred Hoiberg, including Derrick Rose who is never ever getting back together to what he used to be and in general, this team might be closer to making a trade with Pau Gasol and giving up on this season than figuring it out and braving through their problems.
The Houston Rockets didn’t hire a new coach at the beginning of the season. They waited for an awful start and then fired Kevin McHale, despite making the conference finals last season. Daryl Morey put together the right group of individuals in terms of personality and McHale gets fired for it. He’s not the best or most creative head coach in the NBA, but with every loss, as the latest one drops them out of the top 8 in the West, it’s becoming clearer that the moves to join forces between James Harden and Dwight Howard isn’t going to win this team a championship.
Maybe Hoiberg would like to see Gasol gone. It might mean the Bulls giving up on making the playoffs this season, but it would take care of the imbalance on this team when it comes to frontcourt and backcourt players. Hoiberg prefers a team that reminds him of his Iowa State, which means higher tempo, less reliance on defense and like in college basketball, not stuck with the necessity of having a true center on the floor. Not to mention getting something from Gasol’s expiring contract.
While there are motivational problems in Chicago as we keep hearing from Jimmy Butler after every loss, this has been the issue in Houston for a very long time. No one is saying it outright, but Harden is at the center of almost every complaint. As Jason Terry said after their most recent loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, this team has no f***ing chemistry. The Rockets do present the odd case of a team that plays great fantastic basketball for a few minutes before doing a complete 180 and not giving a damn about anything for an entire quarter.
It’s hard to see both teams blowing up the rosters and heading into the uncertainty period of taking, be it in the way the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers are doing it or taking an approach that’s more in line with how the Boston Celtics and perhaps the Atlanta Hawks approach roster refurbishments. Either way, the old concepts these two teams have been going with for the last few years, including the key players they’ve been counting on, might be in for a drastic change.