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Bulls' Del Negro: There's no easy answers
By Mike McGraw | Daily Herald Staff

Vinny Del Negro's Bulls are 18-25 heading into tonight's game against Toronto at the United Center.


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Published: 1/23/2009 12:05 AM

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A day after general manager John Paxson talked about something every Bulls fan already knew - the team hasn't been playing very well - coach Vinny Del Negro had a chance to respond.

Right off the bat, Del Negro said he didn't read Paxson's quotes and felt certain they covered topics that have already been discussed between the two of them.

"My mindset is every day I come in and do my job and work hard and try to get this young team getting going in the right direction," Del Negro said following practice at the Berto Center. "There's no easy answers to this stuff. Everybody thinks there is, but there's not.

"You need a lot of talent and you need dedicated guys. And when you have young guys who have had as many injuries as we've had, there's going to be inconsistencies. That's just part of the business. It's easy to play, it's hard to win."

The Bulls' 18-25 record is not very impressive, but at the same time, few people expected this team to be anything more than a potential challenger for one of the bottom playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. They're still meeting that expectation, trailing Milwaukee by 2 games for eighth place as of Thursday morning.

Frustration has grown recently with three straight losses by 5 points or fewer. The Bulls have been letting winnable games slip away because of careless late-game turnovers and defensive mistakes.

"Who isn't disappointed?" Del Negro asked. "I'm disappointed. The players are disappointed. There's nothing wrong with that statement. Everyone is disappointed. No one likes to lose. But we're preparing. We're organized. We're trying to get better. What are you going to do, sulk or go to work? I'm going to go to work."

One item that got plenty of media attention was Paxson's refusal to evaluate the coaching staff's performance when asked on Wednesday. Instead, Paxson said he only evaluates his own job performance.

Some might try to read the silence as a sign that Paxson isn't happy with the coaches. But the Bulls went into the season expecting some growing pains with Del Negro in his first coaching job.

"You can evaluate me every day if you want," Del Negro said. "If you're not willing to handle the fire, then you shouldn't do this job. Every week isn't going to be perfect. You're going to go through ups and downs. Guys are going to play well and then they're going to struggle. There's so much involved.

"I don't have the time to waste on articles and radio and TV. I could care less. All I care about is this team getting better."

The Bulls are back at home tonight against Toronto, a team they beat on the road 102-98 last week. The Raptors have lost seven in a row and started the season with higher expectations than the Bulls.

This is a critical point in the season because tonight's contest will be the Bulls' last appearance at the United Center for 18 days. They'll begin a seven-game road trip on Sunday in Minnesota.

"I'm more optimistic than a lot of people," Del Negro said. "Because I know how hard the guys have worked. I know what areas we can improve in and there's a lot of them. If we can get a little better in some areas, our chances are fine."

Added forward Luol Deng, "We're not executing well enough in the fourth quarter. But we're playing harder than we did earlier in the year. I know it's not all going to come at one time. Hopefully, we can get it together."