Guard Jerry Sloan, who played in agony with a damaged knee until last week, when a cartilage operation put him out for the season, says, "You can tell it isn't the same for Motta. Some games I've noticed he just hasn't been in it. His mind wasn't there. Of course, some games I haven't been in it either."
Motta's chief tormentor, the effusive Butterbean, may speak for the coach as well as all the old Bulls when he relates his feelings about this most perplexing of teams.
" Chicago is racist," Love begins the litany of moans and groans. "They boo me on the floor. I don't get respect. I don't get endorsements. The coach plays me like a mule, then he doesn't pay me what I'm worth. I'd love to get out of here and play somewhere else. Then I remember this team is a part of my life.
"The Bulls," Love adds softly. "It seems we built the Bulls like a house, and I know every little room, every detail. Chet, Norm, Jerry, Tom Boerwinkle. The Bulls. I love those guys. The Chicago Bulls will always be a part of me."
Possibly preoccupied with similarly touching thoughts, Love missed practice recently, because, he said, his car wouldn't start in the sub-zero temperatures.
"Must be an epidemic. Love's got four cars," somebody said.
"I've got two cars," Love said.
The next night at Buffalo, Love was benched, only to come in later to score 25 points and lead the Bulls to victory. Afterward Motta was asked about the disciplinary measure. "I figure if his car won't start, why should he?" Motta said.
The Bulls keep goring on.