The Chicago Bulls' five-game win streak has not quelled speculation about the job security of head coach Vinny Del Negro, who still hasn't received a strong vote of confidence from the Bulls' front office. And Charles Barkley can't understand why.
"Vinny has done a good job," Barkley said on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "I couldn't understand why they were trying to [throw] him under the bus.
"The truth of the matter was Derrick Rose was not playing well [early in the season]. They say he was injured, so I give him a pass on that, but the reason the Bulls weren't playing well was Derrick Rose wasn't playing well. I don't think it was fair they were thinking about firing Vinny. Let me preface this by saying Vinny is a friend of mine, so I'm a little biased, but Vinny did not deserve to get fired."
Barkley then made a statement that has been echoed by others who support Del Negro.
"I don't know what your expectations of this team are," Barkley said.
The Bulls lost their top scorer, Ben Gordon, to free agency during the offseason. Rose suffered an ankle injury in the preseason opener, and that hampered the second-year guard for the first two months of the regular season. But he may be playing the best basketball of his young career and was voted to the Eastern Conference All-Star team, becoming the first Bulls player to do so since Michael Jordan in 1998.
Meanwhile, rookie Taj Gibson and center Joakim Noah have developed into quality players as the Bulls became the first team in NBA history to win five in a row on the road against teams with winning records.
"Derrick Rose is playing very well, very well," said Barkley, who is an analyst for TNT. "I was a little disappointed that Noah did not make the All-Star team. Me and Doug Collins were pushing for Noah.
"Noah's become one of my favorite players to watch, and I was really pulling for him to make the All-Star team. Because he's been the most consistent player all season long for the Bulls. Derrick Rose is clearly their best player and plays well, but Noah's been their most consistent player all year, and I wanted him to make the All-Star team."
Barkley was impressed with how the Bulls responded to adversity.
"Give Vinny some credit," Barkley said. "I mean, they've done a good job. They could have cracked under pressure, because I tell you, I've been around teams when there are a bunch of trade rumors and thinking about the coach [getting fired], and the team packs it in and folds.
"So give Vinny some credit. He's done a good job."