Recently the Bulls thrusted themselves into championship contention. The past couple of seasons they finished with the best record in the NBA. Getting the number one seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, they hosted Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals but lost in 5 games. Pushing the Heat to the limit physically and mentally, this team battled through injuries to get the top spot again. They rolled through the league without MVP Derrick Rose, he missed nearly half the season for various injuries. Kind of reminds me of what Allen Iverson and Dwyane Wade endured. Well, several players were in and out of the lineup and they were still knocking down elite opponents like the Heat and Lakers. Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau maximized his team’s potential to be a NBA powerhouse.
Unfortunately for Chicago, when Derrick Rose injured his knee at the end of game one. The game was in the bag as the Bulls took game one over Philly. With a minute to go, Rose landed wrong and the hard work went down the drain. That’s how the cards played out last year, and the team already faces an uphill battle as their superstar recovers. Rose is projected to return by Christmas at the earliest, but I think you consider bringing him back after the All-Star Break. I say that because knee injuries are tough to bounce back from, especially when you see the style the 2011 MVP plays. He’s explosive, has the combination of power and quickness, and the elevation in the paint gives Chicago title hopes and memories of the nineties.
I felt last season was their golden opportunity to win it all. They revitalized the franchise with a defensive-minded and role-playing unselfishness. Last year when shooting guard Keith Bogans scored 6 points in a game, the Bulls won. They had the coach of the year and MVP, leading the Bulls to the best record and number one seed. They were on the collision course with Miami, and when they clashed as the beasts in the East. The Heat figured themselves out and prevailed in a tough series, even though the 4 games to 1 result doesn’t show that. It’s tough to see success stopped short from factors you can only do so much. Richard Hamilton took awhile to suit up, while the Bulls’ front line developed a reputation as great passing big men in the league. All the barriers were crossed but the spirits were broken when the hometown hero grimaced in pain.
In the finals I noticed the style was more European. Not many big fellas on the floor protecting the paint or dominating the boards. Where all 5 players can put the ball on the floor to make a play. I’ve been critical of their front office for awhile now, it just seems they have this reluctance to make some necessary changes. But the conservative approach gets this team in the playoffs and relevant, but the regular season doesn’t crown a champion. They are on the verge of losing center Omer Asik to Houston through a back-loaded-laden contract. That’s where they made the long-term decision between Asik and starter Joakim Noah. Now they’re negotiating an extension with fan-favorite Taj Gibson. Maybe they want to focus on those 3 in a rotation down low, but many want Chicago to amnesty forward Carlos Boozer next offseason.
After getting rid of the bench mob (CJ Watson, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, Brian Scalabrine, probably John Lucas III and Omer Asik too), they brought in two-way players. They were smaller, under the radar moves, but having one-way players limited this team. On draft night they added Kentucky guard Marquis Teague, brought back Kirk Hinrich, and signed shooter Vladomir Radmanovic (he’s an offensive player). The Bulls needed more playmaking ability and a big man that can stretch the floor, and they feel like they can hold the fort in the absence of Rose, like they did last year. They should be a playoff team, but don’t expect them to get a top 4 seed and home court in the first round. I say that because not only will Rose be out, but Luol Deng will either have wrist surgery and miss some time or his offense will continue to be inconsistent if he plays through injury. Plus, we’re not sure if Joakim Noah and Richard Hamilton can stay on the court. This team has endured injuries but hopefully they can stay as healthy as possible next year. One way or another, the Bulls need thir front line of Noah, Gibson, and Carlos Boozer to elevate their play and lead this team for awhile.
If you’re a basketball fan you probably loved the way this team goes about their business. They wear blue-collars in every aspect of the game, thanks to the foundation laid by Coach Thibodeau. His scheme and philosophy matches the player energy and they remind you of a college team with their fundamentals and clearly defined roles. Should Bulls fans be satisfied at this point in time? Probably not, but the offseason grade is incomplete and although the goal is to win the championship, you know Chicago is consistent and they compete every night. The system works and they’ll be back in the playoff picture, but the front office has to step out of their comfort zone. They are too conservative and need to make somewhat of a splash to seriously contend with Miami, and it’s not like the Pacers and Celtics are slouches. Then you throw in the Knicks and Nets and the East got deeper, although the Heat should represent the Eastern Conference in the finals. However, there is a lot of time between now and next postseason, and a lot can happen.