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Chicago Bulls disappoint president in loss to Washington Wizards
WASHINGTON — For the country's sake, let's hope President Barack Obama's stimulus package is more effective than his pep talk to the Bulls.
For the Bulls' sake, Friday night had better serve as the nadir if the playoffs and progress are goals.
One day after welcoming the Bulls to the White House, Obama sat courtside and watched his hometown team perform dreadfully in a 113-90 loss to the Wizards.
The Eastern Conference's worst team allowed a Ben Gordon jumper on the game's first possession but never trailed again, placing a rarely seen eight players in double figures and leading by as many as 25 points.
"I'm speechless," Gordon said. "It's inexcusable. We didn't do anything well. We just played awful."
Indeed, after Gordon's basket, the Bulls missed their next seven shots and committed two turnovers to trail by 15 in the first quarter. Coach Vinny Del Negro said he would "think about that" when asked about changing his starters.
"We didn't come out with any toughness or urgency at the beginning," Del Negro said. "We let them get in a rhythm. Our starters didn't get off to a good start. We have to get more physical. They killed us on the glass and in every aspect.
"We didn't play together. We didn't play hard enough."
And that was with Obama playfully motioning that the Wizards were fouling Bulls on drives and fist-pumping on one Derrick Rose score in the fourth quarter.
The Bulls pulled to 49-45 by halftime, fell behind by 14 again as Antawn Jamison (27 points) and Mike James posted huge third quarters for the Wizards but then appeared to gain momentum from a Kirk Hinrich three-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer.
But Washington grabbed seven of its 19 offensive rebounds in the fourth and turned the blowout into a dunk contest, consistently beating the Bulls on backdoor cuts.
"We didn't play with any sense of urgency," Hinrich said. "We got our butts kicked, which is what usually happens when you play like that."
John Salmons scored 25 points to lead the Bulls. About the only bright spot came when players and Del Negro rejected the theory that the team might have been distracted by an emotionally charged Thursday with Obama and news of the deaths of franchise titans Norm Van Lier and Johnny "Red" Kerr.
This loss will test the message of Obama's pep talk.
"He said we're a young team, but if we work together and stay together, good things can happen," Del Negro said.
Obama left to a standing ovation with 4:29 left and the Wizards up 103-86. With their fourth game in five nights coming Saturday, Del Negro replaced Rose with Lindsey Hunter.
Not long after, one player took a long look at a box score in the locker room after the game, crumpled it up and said, "Are you [expletive] kidding me?"