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 DEERFIELD, Ill. (AP) -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.''
Now would be a good time.
nd Dallas.
``It's critical,'' guard Kirk Hinrich said after practice at the team's headquarters. ``Everybody knows that.''
One would think they do, at least. It's hard to tell, though, since the Bulls haven't been on the same page the last year-and-a-half.
Torn apart by individual agendas last season, they stumbled to 33-49 after back-to-back playoff appearances. That cost coach Scott Skiles and interim coach Jim Boylan their jobs, and it's been more of the same under Vinny Del Negro.
The unselfishness and hard-nosed play that defined the recent playoff teams haven't been seen much this season.
Hughes, who is owed about $26 million on a contract that expires after next season, made it clear early on that he wasn't happy with a reduced role - and now, he has none at all. He has been locked to the sideline the past seven games, with the Bulls trying to trade him.
Gordon has an uncertain future, too, even though he's averaging a team-leading 20.0 points. He's due to become an unrestricted free agent after the season, and he stepped into the middle of a drama last week when he confronted Del Negro about a fine after practice. Reporters heard the usually laid-back Gordon unleash several expletives during the exchange, although they were directed at the punishment itself and not the coach.
Del Negro and Gordon later dismissed the flare-up, calling it a non-issue.
re is the Bulls' struggles, particularly late in games recently. Four of their losses during this skid were by five points or less and they've been outscored by 21 points in the fourth quarter over the last five games, meaning they could easily be close to .500.
``We're just having mental breakdowns,'' Gordon said. ``It's frustrating. That's all I've got to say.''
Against Minnesota, Rose had chances to win it at the end of regulation and in overtime but forced shots.
With 23.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter, he dribbled away too much time and drove the wrong way before forcing an off-balance shot over two defenders. In overtime, he got cut off in the paint and picked up his dribble before forcing an off-balance floater that missed.
``The last few games, we weren't playing under control - making the wrong pass or whatever,'' said Rose, the No. 1 draft pick and a leading candidate for Rookie of the Year. ``But now, we're doing these late situations where I think it's helping our team.''
Rose said Tuesday's practice was the first where the Bulls focused extensively on late-game situations. Del Negro said that's not true; they practice them all the time.
But they agreed on this much: The execution has to improve, and the Bulls have the talent to put together a win streak.
of the season, I felt we weren't playing quite as well but we were getting it done in the fourth quarter. Lately, I feel we're playing better, but we're not making plays in the fourth.''
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