Chicago Free Fall: Gut Check Time for the Bulls

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Chicago Free Fall: Gut Check Time for the Bulls

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The Bulls have suffered another embarrassing loss—this time a 30-point drubbing courtesy of the Toronto Raptors.

And Bulls fans again find themselves seeking answers.

Many of the questions surround Scott Skiles' ever-changing lineup, which has yet to achieve any semblance of consistency.

In Saturday's debacle, Skiles subbed all five Chicago starters at the start of the second half, in the hope that the bench would provide a spark.

By that time it was too little too late, though, and the Raptors shot a blazing 75 percent from the field en route to an easy victory.

The one constant for the Bulls has been their struggle to guard quicker and faster teams—a problem that has carried over from last season.

In '06-'07, the Bulls were able to effectively mask that flaw with potent offensive production. This year's campaign has been a different story.

Gone is the stellar offense that overshadowed the Bulls' glaring deficiencies: lack of size and a quality offensive-minded big man.

So where do Bulls fans find themselves six games into the NBA season?

Far from optimism, judging by the boos and "Kobe" chants heard at the end of each game.

While the Bulls have never been able to intimidate teams with their size, no one ever questioned their heart, intensity, or ability to come together under pressure—until now.

Perhaps that's the core of the problem: The Bulls aren't clicking as a unit, either on offense or on defense.

The solution seems simple enough: Get back to playing Bulls basketball.

Focus on what you do well—moving the ball and out-hustling your opponent—and maximize your strengths as much as you can.

Maybe it's time to see what this new group of Bulls can do with a consistent lineup. Maybe Ben Gordon needs to get posted up and shot over a few more times, so it can sink in that those "Kobe" chants aren't as far-fetched as they might seem.

Or then again maybe the teams that have beaten the Bulls really are that good.

The 76ers are coming into their own, after all, and Toronto is much improved as well.

In any event, the NBA East isn't the same conference it was a year ago. In the same way, the Bulls are no longer the "Baby Bulls" or a "surprise" team anymore—at least not surprising in a good way.

It's this realization that has Bulls fans nervously contemplating, of all things, a lottery pick.

"Since I’ve been in the NBA, this is the lowest I’ve felt," said Luol Deng to a Tribune reporter.

When your star player loses his confidence, you’re in big trouble.

If the Bulls can make effective adjustments before the All-Star break, fans won't remember the early-season nightmare.

If nothing changes, though, it might be a long year in the Windy City. 

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