Chicago Bulls turn in 'worst game' of season with turmoil surrounding club

Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade come off bench in Chicago's home loss to Miami

CHICAGO – As the late, great Darryl Dawkins famously put it – and as the Chicago Bulls lived it over 48 hours this week – “When everything is said and done, there’s nothing left to do or say.”

After two days of sniping and melodrama that opened an emotional and energy sink hole in their hardwood, the Bulls had little left on the court and even less left for the locker room afterward. With every reason to play angry or at least avoid further embarrassment, they produced what coach Fred Hoiberg called their “worst game we played all year.” Final: Miami 100, Chicago 88.

The night began with stars Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade sitting on the bench, a secondary penalty for going public with harsh criticism of teammates after a collapse against Atlanta Wednesday (Butler, Wade and Rajon Rondo reportedly also were fined). It ended with no one making any rhetorical points, never mind scoring enough points at all.

As a way to prepare to play at their sport’s highest level, how the Bulls spent Thursday (Rondo’s rebuke of Wade and Butler plastered on Instagram) and Friday (a team meeting, followed by serial ‘fessing up to assembled media) ranks just shy of jetting off NFL Giants-like to Florida for fun and sun.

“It’s been an emotional 48 hours,” Hoiberg said, while refusing to use it as an excuse. “A lot of guys talked about not sleeping the last two days just thinking about everything that has gone on with our team.”

Hoiberg held Butler out only for the game’s first 5:07. He subbed in Wade 28 seconds after that. They wound up playing 33 and 28 minutes, respectively, with forgettable results. Chicago dropped to 23-25 while the less-talented Heat, 17-30, won for the sixth consecutive time.

Wade scored 15 points but shot 6-of-17 in the process, was a minus-5 and had four turnovers. Butler, an All-Star starter next month for the East, had perhaps the worst game of his NBA career. He scored three points on 1-of-13 shooting and was a minus-23.

Rondo, who didn’t suffer any bonus punishment because he already has been coming off the bench, had a solid game with 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting, seven rebounds, seven assists and a plus-8.

Rondo agreed with Hoiberg that this is a “critical time” for a fragile team. “I believe we have [enough] confidence,” he said. “We’re still optimistic about the season. My expectations are pretty high as well. I just look forward to getting back into it tomorrow, and getting to work.”

Butler smiled through his brief postgame chat with reporters and said neither the turmoil nor the bench role affected his play. “Disengaged? Nah. It was a little different,” he said. “I was still into it. I knew what I was supposed to be doing. I still took the shots I always take. That’s fine.

“I’ll be back. I promise. I’m not worried about it at all.

Wade praised his former team from Miami and, when asked how the Bulls might best stick together and improve now, said: “Show up for practice at 12 o’clock [Saturday]. And get to whatever’s the practice plan. And try to come out Sunday with a win [at home against Philadelphia].”

The Bulls, who have dropped four of their past six games and seven of 11, face the 76ers, then hit the road for a two-week, six-game Western Conference trip.

Hoiberg, still facing speculation about his job status, clearly disliked the short-term effect of this week’s reality-TV mess.

“I hope what happened this morning has long-term benefits,” the coach said. “It’s something where we have to get back together, we have to work, we have to regroup and we’ve got to find a way to … put this one behind us and find a way to stay together going forward.”

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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