Central Notes: Bulls, Pistons, Cavs

The Bulls are dealing with an identity crisis, writes Michael Lee of The Washington Post. Lee cites the arrival of Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic as well as Jimmy Butler‘s transition from role player to All-Star caliber performer as reason the team has become less blue-collar and slightly more finesse in its on court approach. This is different from the style of play that fans are used to seeing from a team coached by Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls’ recent poor play has led some to wonder if the coach should be fired. Talk of replacing Thibodeau seems drastic as Chicago remains in good position to make the postseason with a record of 27-16; however, the Bulls sit eight games behind Atlanta for the No. 1 seed that many expected the team to earn this season.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Getting Joakim Noah and Mike Dunleavy back from injury will be key for the Bulls to resume contender status in the Eastern Conference, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago. Chicago has gone just 2-6 in its last eight games. “Here’s the thing,” Thibodeau said after Wednesday’s practice. “We’ve had our starters for 15 games. That’s not a lot of games. It’s missing a lot of games. So when the starters have been intact, [the record] has been very good. Our issue has been when they’ve been out, can we hold the fort?” Chicago is 12-3 in games that Noah, Dunleavy, Pau Gasol, Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler all start.
  • A mutual trust between Stan Van Gundy and Pistons owner Tom Gores has been key to the team’s turnaround, writes Keith Langlois of NBA.com. The Pistons are 17-26 on the season and 12-3 since they released Josh Smith. Earlier in the month, I asked if the Pistons could make the playoffs and over half of Hoops Rumors readers believed the team will make the postseason.
  • The Cavs are starting to figure out how to play as a team and win games, as Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today points out in a short video. Cleveland has won four straight games, which includes wins over playoff-caliber teams like the Clippers and Bulls. The team currently resides in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 23-20.

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