Bulls reach play or go home game in Charlotte


Apr 14

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So here we are–game 82 against the Charlotte Bobcats. Win or go home. Can it get better than that?

OK, the Toronto Raptors could lose, and that would send the Bulls to the playoffs as well. But you can’t count on that against the Knicks.

Hanging above all that is change.

If the Bulls don’t make the playoffs, especially given the simmering controversy this week involving coach Vinny Del Negro and management, it’s not only likely Wednesday would have been Del Negro’s final game as Bulls coach but given free agency the end of their Bulls careers for who knows how many players.

But Del Negro said before Wednesday’s game that’s not something that’s entered his mind and nothing he’s heard talk about with the players.

“There’s too much going on,” said Del Negro. “You don’t have time to focus on that. You focus in on the task at hand and handle things as best and professionally as you can and move forward. All those things will handle themselves as the end of the year.”

There were numerous stories following Tuesday’s win over he Celtics regarding the dispute between Del Negro and executive vice president John Paxson.

But you’d never know it from the players. It seemed just another night as players filled out ticket requests in the locker room, watched the game film and listened to music. I heard one player joke about it all, and Bobcats coach Larry Brown added his own.

“They’ve had some terrible injuries,” Brown said about the Bulls. “To put themselves in the position they have, I think, is pretty neat… even with people fighting.”

There was no rim shot, though Brown added, “Just kidding.”

Actually, Brown went on to say he doesn’t see any issue in it all.

“I’ve been with general managers, assistant coaches, where you have a disagreement,” said Brown. “That shows me you care. Obviously, it hasn’t hurt that team. They’ve moved forward and been pretty darned good. I think it’s people that care.”

Brown also said he cares and it’s why he is conflicted about the game. He said he’d like to rest players like Tyrus Thomas and Gerald Wallace because they have injuries, but said they’d play because he also feels it’s an obligation to play his best players to try to win for the dignity of the game. Brown also said he’s planning to be the Charlotte coach amid reports he is headed to Philadelphia.

“People are resting guys all over our league,” Brown said. “I want to be true to our players and fair to the teams fighting for a playoff spot. We’ve always said we’ll play the right way and respect the game. So I assume these guys will play and try to do their best to win.”

And so will the Bulls. With the back-to-back, Del Negro said the reserves will have to do well.

“The players have done an unbelievable job,” said Del Negro. “We focus on what we can control. Guys have stuck through a lot of things. The effort last was fantastic and we need a similar effort to win in Charlotte. We’ve stepped up the last few games and have to do it tonight. We’ve got to seize the opportunity. It’s in our hands now. We’ve got to play well to try to find the energy and emotion. Guys have done that, especially lately. You cannot let fatigue get in your mind.”

Back to the dispute with Paxson, Del Negro denied a report as “100 percent false” that he was an aggressor.

“It’s unfortunate that had to come out,” said Del Negro. “The most important thing tonight is to focus on your effort and all those other things will take care of themselves at the end of the season, which hopefully won’t be for awhile.”

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