Five games in seven nights. That’s just ahead of the Chicago Bulls (21-24), who come back from a trip to Paris, France with a win better than a week ago. It’s quite shifting gears that requires a renewed mindset.
Also en route from the United States, the Bulls earned a feel-good victory, defeating the Golden State Warriors 132-118 before beating the Detroit Pistons 126-108 across the pond.
But before that, they suffered a three-game slip that followed an identical length winning streak.
They need to make sure they’re locked into a potentially season-defining stretch over the next week with the Bulls still hanging around in a muddled Eastern Conference. If they’re going to get locked up and stay put, it has to start at the top, and veteran DeMar DeRozan takes it upon himself to carry the message.
“‘This is the time,'” DeRozan told his teammates, according to NBC Sports Chicago’s KC Johnson. “And it’s on us. We have to show how badly we want it. Every single game from now on is basically like a do-or-die. And don’t look at it as pressure or a bad thing. It’s an exciting thing.”
The Bulls’ tilt against the Atlanta Hawks on Jan. 23 will be the first leg of a back-to-back game and one of just two home games during this difficult stretch, both booking a three-game outing. The good news is that it precedes a four-game homestand.
This is DeRozan’s second game in the last two weeks.
DeRozan is averaging 26.1 points with 59.6% shooting true this season. He missed three games with a strained quad as the Bulls went 1-2 without him. His return against Detroit got him back on track with 26 points, nine rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block.
More importantly, the bulls have a net efficiency difference of plus 1.8 with him on the ground and minus 3.7 without him.
“That’s what you want,” said the five-time All-Star. “To get on the list as one of the best, you have to go out and compete and face the challenges that are in front of you. This is a great challenge that we can grow with.”
DeRozan is expected to become the 143rd player in NBA history (151st including ABA history) to reach 1,000 games played. He became the 50th player to reach 2,000 points in October while continuing to defy father time in his 14th NBA season.
“I never, ever took that for granted,” DeRozan told Johnson. “That’s one thing I’m emphasizing to the younger guys now. I look back on my career, the number of players I’ve played with suddenly disappears in the wind. As much as I love this game, if you look at it from that perspective, the game can be taken away from you at any moment.”
Hopefully his wealth of knowledge will pay off for the Bulls in Siegen.