EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—Five minutes passed, then 10, then 20. And finally the postgame meeting came to a close.The Bulls lost a game Monday night, a 99-83 stinker to New Jersey, their 14th straight on the road.
Team captains Jalen Rose and Fred Hoiberg wanted to make sure they didn't lose more than that.
Jamal Crawford and coach Bill Cartwright during the game, Rose and Hoiberg gathered Crawford and fellow point guard Jay Williams for a post-shower meeting, clad only in their towels.
They met to air frustrations and to boost confidences after Crawford went off and Williams, playing 10 minutes from where he grew up, shot 2-for-13.
"It was just a meeting of the minds, making sure we're pulling in the same direction at the same time," Rose said.
The veteran, who suffered through a poor shooting night himself en route to 16 points, knows that losing is damaging enough. Controversy, which this team has mostly avoided, could be devastating.
Crawford took exception to being pulled for Williams at the 5-minute-49-second mark of the second quarter after committing a turnover. The typical rotation has Crawford playing the entire second quarter.
As he walked to the bench, Crawford shouted at Cartwright, who returned fire.
"It's frustrating," Crawford said. "I want to play."
Crawford played just one minute in the third quarter. But Cartwright offered an olive branch of sorts by playing Crawford the entire fourth quarter, by which time New Jersey had built a 24-point lead.
"It wasn't a big deal for me," Cartwright said. "We'll see if it is for him."
Until Monday, Crawford had accepted a reduced role professionally in what has been a trying season. He lost his starting point guard job. His grandmother died.
That's why Cartwright is eager to see how Crawford responds to this latest challenge.
At the time of Crawford's outburst, the Bulls were still in the game. Tyson Chandler hit all four first-half shots and Marcus Fizer scored 13 of his 16 points as the Bulls trailed 50-44 at the break. This was despite Donyell Marshall playing just seven minutes because of foul trouble and Rose shooting 3-for-11.
Then came the third quarter.
Cartwright called a 20-second timeout just 43 seconds in after Kenyon Martin threw down a dunk, Rose threw up a wild shot hoping to draw a foul and then intentionally fouled Jason Kidd at the other end to exhibit his frustration.
The Bulls spent much of the night complaining to officials, in particular Don Vaden.
Cartwright's timeout didn't stop the bleeding as New Jersey, paced by Lucious Harris' 20 points, ripped off a 14-2 run.
"We came out and attacked them inside and had three of their front-line guys in foul trouble," Cartwright said. "Then our focus went out the window. We took outside shots and allowed them to get in transition. It's disappointing."
New Jersey has now won 10 straight at home and is a league-best 15-1 at Continental Airlines Arena, exactly the opposite of the Bulls' road fortunes.
"I'm tired of it," Cartwright said. "Sometimes, it just comes down to saying, 'That's enough.' I guess we haven't had enough yet."