Fresh ink: January 28, 2009

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Brian Hanley of the Chicago Sun-Times: “A quick glance at Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro’s practice schedule Tuesday showed time set aside for ‘EOG’ situations. ‘End-of-game plays,’ Del Negro said, ‘we work on them all the time, almost every practice.’ The way the Bulls (18-27) have coughed up late leads during their current five-game losing streak, they need the work. They try to turn things around tonight against the Los Angeles Clippers in the second stop of a seven-game trip. Through Monday, the Bulls were 2½ games out of the last Eastern Conference playoff berth, but had four teams separating them from the eighth seed. ‘We’re at a critical time in the season, and we need to make a run as soon as we can,’ guard Ben Gordon said. ‘We have a large area we could improve in. We need to focus on that, then the wins will come. We can’t just say, ‘OK, we want to be a playoff team,’ and not focus on the things we need to get better at.’”

Melissa Isaacson of the Chicago Tribune: “Regardless of the losing streak, which included a game the Bulls (18-27) gave away with less than brilliant play Sunday in the closing seconds of regulation in Minnesota, Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said he sees progress. ‘Guys know and feel we’re playing better,’ he said. ‘The stats and tapes and everything shows that, but we need to get some results.’”

Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: “Asked whether he should consider putting the ball in someone’s hands other than Derrick Rose’s in late-game situations, Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said no. But he also included both Rose and Ben Gordon in his crunchtime assessment. Rose has gotten the call far more often than any of the other Bulls when the team needs a late hoop. ‘Ben and Derrick have consistently played well in the fourth quarter for us,’ Del Negro said following Tuesday’s practice at the Berto Center. ‘But as a team, we haven’t executed as well lately. It’s not one person’s fault or one particular player’s fault, it’s a team.’”

Andrew Seligman of the Associated Press: “Between Ben Gordon’s animated exchange with his coach and Larry Hughes’ ongoing desire to be traded, the Chicago Bulls are having no trouble grabbing headlines. The most disturbing aspect of their season, though, is this: It seems like last year. The Bulls woke up Tuesday in 12th place in the Eastern Conference at 18-27, on a five-game losing streak and looking more like a team headed back to the lottery than the playoffs. Clearly, they need to make a run. But can they? ‘We’ve got a run (in us),’ point guard Derrick Rose said. ‘We just don’t know when.’”

M. Spencer Green of the Associated Press: “With the team’s return to the UC on the heels of an eleven game losing streak not out of the realm of possibilities, does Vinny have anything to worry about? When the Bulls return to Chicago, will he even be with them? While it’s not even a year into his first go ’round as a coach (of any kind, at any level) we wouldn’t mind seeing GM John Paxson pull the plug on this experiment. We questioned the hiring at the time, and Del Negro’s done nothing to pursuade us otherwise. A coaching change may be the only way to shake up this team.”

Aren Dow of the Bleacher Report: “Since the end of the ’06-’07 season, there has been a common theme throughout the Chicago Bulls organization. Underachievement and frustration. The potential has been present since the ’04-’05 season where the key cogs of the current roster where implemented. Rookies Ben Gordon and Luol Deng were to join Kirk Hinrich and their youth could push opposing teams for 48 minutes. Andres Nocioni signed that year, bringing intensity and hustle as well. Fast-forward to the ’07 playoffs where the Bulls finally pushed past the first round and teased the Pistons to six games. Since then, it has gone downhill for John Paxson.”

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