Gasol: Bulls paying for lapses throughout season

ByNick Friedell ESPN logo
Saturday, April 9, 2016

CHICAGO -- Bulls All-Star center Pau Gasol said Saturday that his team has had too many stretches this season when it played without a "sense of urgency."

"There's been times where we dropped games, lost games, that we should never have lost, especially at home against certain teams," Gasol said after Saturday's shootaround. "Those are the times that guys don't realize how big of a price that you can pay at the end of the year and how much of a different position you're going to be [in] by those games in November, December, January. 'Ah, there's still 40 games to play, there's still 50 games to play.' No, those games are just as meaningful as the ones we've been playing for the last week or two where our life has been on the line.

"So that's just a lack of sense of urgency, a lack of awareness, a lack of maturity that we have dealt with."

The Bulls head into Saturday's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers(8:30 p.m. ET, ABC) with their playoff hopes all but gone. They would have to win their last three games, and the Indiana Pacerswould have to lose their last three games, for Chicago to earn the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Gasol, who is expected to opt out of his contract with the Bulls at the end of the season, was asked if he felt like this has been a wasted campaign.

"Only one team wins a championship, so at the end of the day, this season has not gone well for us in many ways," Gasol said. "I wish we were in a different position right now, but we're not. When you go into a season, and the way I approach it, if you give it your best and you try as hard as you can and things at the end collectively don't work out, I would never consider it a wasted season. If I was slacking all year and not doing what I'm supposed to do and my mind and heart weren't in it, then I'd say I wasted a year. I feel bad about it, but I feel like I've done what I could, and I still feel proud of the effort and the work that I put in, that we put in.

"So disappointment? For sure. It's still not over. Just focus on tonight and try to beat Cleveland."

First-year coach Fred Hoiberg is trying to keep his team loose, saying he spliced in a movie clip to the team's film session.

"We watched film. We watched the clip of 'Dumb and Dumber' where Jim Carrey says, 'So you're telling me there's a chance,'" Hoiberg said. "You just got to go out there and fight. We're still in it. That's got to be our mindset, come out with great urgency, great energy, and hopefully we do that. We're going to have to if we want a chance to be in it at the end of the game."

Hoiberg, who spliced in a clip from "Animal House" to a film session earlier in the season, acknowledged that his players were much more familiar with "Dumb and Dumber" than the '70s classic.

The 43-year-old coach said he believes he has a stronger relationship with his players than the outside world believes as his team struggles to the finish line.

"I've got very good relationships with these guys," Hoiberg said. "I've met with several of them this morning. I meet with them regularly. My relationship with Pau is -- Pau and I went to dinner after the Indiana game and talked about a lot of things. You meet with these guys to try to have those relationships to where you need them, and I think we've done a solid job with that this year to have those relationships. You've got to continue to build them, and it's going to be a big thing we do this summer."

In injury-related news, Taj Gibson (rib fracture) and E'Twaun Moore (hamstring) will not play against the Cavaliers, and Hoiberg acknowledged that it's likely that both will be shut down for the rest of the regular season.

"We will not get either E'Twaun or Taj back tonight," Hoiberg said after the shootaround. "Those guys will both be out for tonight, for sure, and it doesn't look great for the rest of the year either. ... Not 100 percent [they will be shut down], but it's looking that way."

Gibson has not played since being taken out of a March 29 win over the Pacers. Moore has not played since Sunday after re-injuring his hamstring.