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Tuesday, October 27

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Bulls Tue Nov 20 2012

Bulls And Their Circus Trip Freak Show

Bulls_200.pngIn the first three games of the their "Circus Road Trip," the Bulls defense has made their opponents level of play look like the Ringling Brothers' "The Greatest Show on Earth." You expect the team's offense to play as passively as they have, however, this defensive display of late is perplexingly offensive. Over that span of three games the Bulls have surrendered an average of 103 points per contest. After winning ugly in Phoenix on Wednesday, the Bulls lost uglier back-to-back games over the weekend.

The team is losing in different ways, too. Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers they lost via lobbed dunks and Jamal Crawford's off-balance jumpers. Sunday they suffered defeat outside the paint at the three-point proficient hands of the Portland Trailblazers.

In their two setbacks, the Bulls were down 23 to LA and 15 to Portland. They made runs and lessened the leads of their foes, but when they are fighting for every high percentage shot and not connecting on low-calorie burning spot-up threes or simply making free throws, the Bulls were doomed to run out of gas. The problem with the Bulls as a whole is that they have two players who play the entire game on both sides of the ball (Joakim Noah and Loul Deng) while the rest of the team is comprised of situational oddities. It would appear that the Bulls have brought the circus with them on the road trip.

With that being the case it's now time to "step right up, step right up" and behold the Bulls rotational freak show:

Carlos Boozer is basically a volume jump-shot shooting guard playing power forward who can get loose boards but puts you in tight spots if his shots are off. Like circus tightrope walkers, he's just going down a straight line and not doing much else to impress. Kirk Hinrich, to use a Chicago Bears cliché circa 2007, is the human Kyle Orton: he won't lose you games but he won't go out and win you them either. Taj Gibson struggles may be similar to what Noah went through when he signed a big contract extension. He's trying to do too much and it's affecting his play, with diminutive averages of only four rebounds and six points on the young year. Gibson needs to reignite his fire-breather flame and ditch being just a spectator in the ring. Marco Belinelli is effectively an inefficient version of Kyle Korver. Bellinelli was supposed to be throwing daggers, not self-inflicting wounds by swallowing swords.

Nate Robinson can get to the lane but his floater is more Ben Gordon than Derrick Rose, it only goes in half the time from the half-pint point guard.

Nazr Mohammed is nothing but the pole that pitches the tent; he's at center, sturdy, but has no influence on the show itself. Vladimir Radmanovic and Marquis Teague have developed their own juggling act of meaningless minutes or DNP-CD (did not play-coaches' decision).

One of the few spectacles hitting the mark on the Bulls' circus trip freak show is the play of Jimmy Butler. In the last two games he's played an average of 17 minutes, a trend that needs to continue. Though from a small sample size, he's shooting 60% on the year and attacks the offensive glass, so when Boozer or Gibson put up 15 footers and Noah is boxed out, Butler positions himself for put-backs or just pulls down the board. Butler doesn't need the ball like Belinelli does to be productive. Though Butler may not be the main event, he does warrant long looks in a featured role.

The team's most complete lineup Coach Thibodeau has used is with Robinson at the point, Butler and Deng as wings with Gibson/Boozer (depending on if the Bulls have the lead or not) and Noah at center. Hinrich doesn't create shots and he's entrenched in a season-long shooting funk. When Butler is out there you can afford a Robinson drive or shot from long range. Noah and Deng will have those nights they can't win the game for you like Noah did in LA and Deng had in Portland. They lead the league in minutes per game (Deng first, Noah fifth) and will continue to be the reason this team wins games when they do.

The Bulls need a vacation from their business trip. The circus is all about memories, but this circus trip for the Bulls is forgettable. Fortunately for them, they only play two games this week, which should give Ringmaster Thibodeau plenty of time to get this team back to the competitive "big-top" team they still can be.

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