Forget, for a second, headbands. The Bulls need bandages.
They need to patch up a porous defense, heal listless homecourt play and get stuck on something other than autopilot.
The NBA schedule-makers sent a get-well card in the form of the defensively challenged Knicks.
And the Bulls took advantage, sweeping the home-and-home series over four days with a 102-85 victory Tuesday night at the United Center.
Victories are the surest cure for any off-the-court issue to disappear, and the Bulls are in no position to judge theirs for style points.
"We need wins any way we can get them," coach Scott Skiles said.
The Bulls pulled away late, with both Kirk Hinrich and P.J. Brown scoring four points in a 10-2 run to break up a close, if not pretty, game.
After vowing to do so many times, Skiles finally shortened his rotation, with only eight players logging 10 minutes or more and rookies Tyrus Thomas playing three minutes and Thabo Sefolosha one in garbage time.
Brown flashed his steady veteran mettle, finishing with 14 points and eight rebounds. Ben Gordon led five other Bulls in double figures with 23 points.
Ben Wallace, who didn't wear a headband, finished with eight points and 12 rebounds.
"We're going to play better than that," Skiles said. "But we got good performances from several people, which is a formula for success for us. Luol [Deng] was active. Big Ben was very active. Chris [Duhon] had a big second half. Ben [Gordon] got the hot hand. P.J. was great."
The Bulls were playing their first home game in 17 days, long enough for another dreadful circus trip at 1-6 and for Wallace to pull off his headband stunt in New York. Players, tired of talking about the issue, continue to insist bad basketball is more of a concern.
"Something like this could get worse," Brown said. "But Ben's a veteran, and we have a lot of mature guys on this team that can handle this and move on. I expect us to keep moving forward."
The schedule affords that opportunity. Tuesday night began a stretch of nine of 10 home games, including a franchise-record eight straight.
Despite the victory, the Bulls know they need to play better.
The first half looked about as pretty as Richard Simmons in a headband, unless you like lane violations, turnovers and fouls. The Bulls somehow led 47-46 at halftime despite shooting just 35.4 percent and getting outscored in the paint 30-10.
And the Bulls, who entered ranked a dismal 25th in opponents' field-goal percentage, allowed the Knicks way too many easy baskets. New York, led by Eddy Curry's 24 points, scored 56 points in the paint.
"We're working on defense every day like we have for three years," Skiles said. "We haven't committed to that end from top to bottom. When we do, we'll be a very good defensive team because we have the foundation."
Wallace, obviously, was signed to be exactly that. The last few days of off-the-court controversy that he created proved that it's a work in progress, kind of like Tuesday's victory.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times