SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Nobody seems to know the exact reason why the Chicago Bulls continue to be in a season-long fight against themselves to find consistency, but Pau Gasol has some ideas. Hours before his team's game against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night, Gasol stood around a small group of reporters trying to figure out what the big problem is.
"At the end of the day we all have to look ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves, are we doing enough?" Gasol said during a long, thought-out answer. "Are we doing enough to contribute? Am I worrying about the right things? Am I worrying about the collective or am I just worried about what I do on the floor or the shots that I take, how much am I scoring, how much am I playing? All those things are the wrong approach to winning, so I think if we are able and capable of changing that approach individually and collectively, I think we'll be in a better place."
Gasol has discussed similar feelings in the past, but not with as much depth. The 15-year veteran acknowledged after Sunday's blowout loss to the Los Angeles Clippers that the Bulls lacked discipline. It feels as if he's simply tired of watching this group make the same mistakes over and over again. He wants the Bulls play with a collective pride and toughness that they haven't shown through much of the season.
"I mean habits are hard to break," Gasol said. "It doesn't happen overnight, but you can build on them, you can build out of them. I think that's a conscious effort that needs to happen, and it can happen. Once you put yourself to the side and you start putting the team first, and doing what's best for the team. Understanding what do I have to do personally and individually for the better of the team, that's when things start to work out and things happen the better way for you."
About 11 hours later near the same spot on the floor where Gasol had delivered his message to the media, the Bulls picked up a much needed 107-102 victory over the Kings. The fact that they did so without All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler, after a surprise late scratch because of knee tendinitis, made this victory even more satisfying to a group that was in need of some positive vibes.
Without Butler in the lineup, the Bulls needed to pick up slack all over the floor. Gasol played his part by chipping in with his customary 16 points, 13 rebounds and 4 assists. Derrick Rose did his thing to the tune of 21 points, 9 assists and 6 rebounds. But it was backup E'Twaun Moore who stole the show and rattled off a career-high 24 points, setting an early tone for a group that continues to miss Joakim Noah (shoulder), Nikola Mirotic (hematoma removal and appendectomy) and Mike Dunleavy (back).
"It was something to build on," Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg said of the performance. "I talked to the guys about that. It was fun basketball tonight. The ball was swinging side to side. We were getting it in the right guys' hands. We shifted the defense before we got into the ball screen and good things happened with that so hopefully we'll carry this one over for the rest of the season."
For the first time since earning a win over the struggling Los Angeles Lakers almost a week ago, the Bulls actually seemed to be enjoying playing with one another and moving the ball up and down the floor. Moore talked about how the Bulls played with good "pace," a favorite Hoiberg buzzword, and Rose was open about the confidence he hoped the game would help build within the group.
"We could be playing five people in the park," Rose said. "Any wins, period. When you win it takes care of a lot of things. You're able to sleep more comfortable at night. You're able to wake up more easy, go through shootaround easier. You don't have that much anxiety before the game, because you want to get the win so bad. I know for me, I'm more comfortable. Tonight is going to be a good peaceful night."
The Bulls did what they had to do Wednesday, but why should anyone feel confident that this particular win will be followed up by more consistent play? Gasol didn't have the answer, but he knew what his team's should be as they continue this seven-game trip Friday against the Denver Nuggets.
"How do you build on it?" Gasol said after the game, as several portions of his aching body were wrapped in ice. "Well, you keep in mind what you've done well. How you gave -- the things that you did well in the game and positive, and you kind of carry them over and build on them. That's how you build I think continuity. Just being aware, being on top, being locked in, being focused on every single game and aware of what goes on in every game. So I think that that's how you do it."