I can just enjoy baseball and watch the Cubs, although there’s still the epic Heat-Mavs Finals…
Final score: 83-80 Miami. And the Heat return to the Finals to take on the Dallas Mavericks once again. Right now, as I’m typing, there are many Bulls fans out there furiously texting and typing away at their keyboards expressing their disappointment. Some people continue to hate on LeBron. Others are pissed off at Boozer and even the MVP, Derrick Rose. And then there are those who have the right idea, who are just grateful to have even witnessed the Bulls succeed and accomplish as much as they have this season.
It all began in the 2010 offseason. The Bulls found an early exit to the playoffs against, surprise surprise, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then, when the Cavs were eliminated in the conference semi-finals by the Boston Celtics, the possibilities seemed endless for Chicago. The chances of James resigning with Cleveland seemed to have vanished. The reasoning behind the Bulls efforts to free up cap space throughout the year was finally realized. LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh were all entering free agency. The free agent class of 2010 was arguably the best in NBA history and the Bulls needed to do everything in their power just to have a shot at one of these players. And after some contract shedding and two spectacular seasons from Derrick Rose, they not only had a shot, but they had the best chance at landing not just one, but two big free agents. Having Derrick Rose and either LeBron, Wade, Bosh, or some combination of the three rocking the red, white and black was just too good to be true, and yet it seemed like it would become a reality.
Move on to July 7. I remember waking up and checking ESPN.com immediately, which had become routine over the summer, and seeing headlines stating that Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh decided to sign with the Miami Heat. And all our hopes came crashing down, as it seemed LeBron was ever more likely to form a big three in Miami. Two days later, the decision came. LeBron James was bringing his talents to South Beach. And Bulls fans were brought back down to reality. Seeing the top 3 free agents in Bulls uniforms really was too good to be true.
But the Bulls were better than that. When faced with rejection, it’s just on to the next one. Gar Forman, now NBA Executive of the Year (albeit with Pat Riley), and the rest of Bulls management continued to search for talent to surround their franchise player in Derrick Rose. And arguably, they put together the best offseason amongst all the teams, especially after missing out on Miami’s newfound big three. Chicago signed Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, Omer Asik, Kurt Thomas, and Keith Bogans and traded for C.J. Watson. Tom Thibodeau, defensive extraordinaire from the Boston Celtics, was signed as the new head coach. What initially seemed like a bust turned into success. Chicago was a now playoff contender. While not championship caliber just yet, Jazz East was easily a top four team in the conference. The future seemed bright.
Fast forward to the end of the regular season. The Bulls didn’t just meet expectations; they exceeded them on so many levels. Despite injuries to both Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, the two were finally gelling at the end of the season. Rose was having a breakout season and went into the postseason as the favorite to win the MVP award. The Bulls weren’t just a top four team. They ended up finishing with the best record in the NBA. At 62-20, a trip to the finals seemed possible.
But now here we are, eliminated from the playoffs, our dreams of a championship destroyed. The playoffs bring out the best and worst in players and teams, exposing their strengths and weaknesses. Time to breakdown the Bulls.
DEFENSE. Tom Thibodeau was arguably the greatest signing in the Bulls made in the offseason. The architect of the great Boston Celtics defense, Tibs’ system of hard-nosed defense was our greatest strength. Great defense wins championships, and that’s how we got as far as we’ve gotten.
HUSTLE. The Bulls have energy! Overall, they play hard when executing their great defense, hustle for the boards and loose balls, and get those put backs. Joakim Noah brings a lot of that energy to the team, and that’s why I never wanted to see him traded for the likes of Carmelo Anthony. Work hard, play hard, and it pays off with the W.
DERRICK ROSE. The MVP. The best player on the team. The reason why we even made it to the playoffs. Despite injuries to Noah and Boozer, Rose carried the Bulls to victory after victory. He’s bigger and stronger than other point guards, (arguably) second to Deron Williams. He’s one of the quickest and fastest players in the league, even able to blow buy guys like LeBron and Wade. No one seems to be able to contain him. He pulls moves at the rim that make his lay-ups nearly 100%. His dunks are nearly as thunderous as LeBron’s and he’s developed both a nice mid-range shot and solid three pointer. Derrick Rose has proven to the world that he is a true superstar and why he is the MVP.
ROLE PLAYERS. The Bulls needed to surround Derrick Rose with help, and that’s exactly what they did. C.J. Watson is the perfect back-up point guard. He’s quick, can score, and can set-up his teammates well. You’ve got good defenders in Bogans and Brewer. Kurt Thomas was the veteran back-up for Noah. Boozer provided the low-post scoring presence and Korver shot the 3 ball like no other, earning the name Hot Sauce. Then there were the returning players. Deng is a slasher who pretty much is our most consistent scorer aside from Rose. Noah is a rebounding machine and defensive presence, and Taj Gibson is a great, athletic power forward. Every player brought something to the table. That’s why the Bulls were so great. They were a true team.
CONSISTENCY. It wasn’t as obvious in the regular season than in the playoffs considering the number of games in the regular season, along with the magnitude of playoff games, but the Bulls are inconsistent offensively. Sometimes guys are knocking down their shots, other times they’re not. As seen in the first two rounds with the exception of a couple of games, Boozer can disappear and look like a scrub. Noah too can sometimes fail to perform. Every game counts in the postseason, and you can’t have players having off nights.
2 GUARD/SCORER. Aside from Derrick Rose, there is no Bull that can create his own shot. The only other consistent scorer is Deng, but he gets his points off open jumpers and slashing to the rim. Bogans and Brewer were never true offensive threats, and Korver is one-dimensional in that his shot is the kick-out to the wide-open three. This was always a concern, but because it was the regular season, it never seemed like that big of an issue. I’m glad we never made a move for a two before the trade deadline, but this weakness was clearly exposed in the series against the Heat and finding a true scorer should be at the top of the Bulls offseason tasks.
PLAYOFF BASKETBALL. This isn’t really a weakness of the Bulls, but just something that works against them. Chicago’s defense and hustle were key reasons as to why they were such a dominant team during the regular season. But of course, EVERYONE turns up the defense and hustle in the playoffs. The Bulls had superior defense to the Pacers and Hawks, but the difference was certainly smaller in May.
EXPERIENCE. The X factor. Most of the Bulls have never made it that far into the playoffs. Heck, Derrick Rose has just completed his third season and has never made it past the first round. These guys are just learning what it means to be in the playoffs. Playing hard all 48 minutes, learning how to adjust to teams as you play them for 4-7 games, knowing how to control the tempo and play each possession, and just dealing with pressure. The Bulls started getting frantic late in games and had a lot of turnovers in the Miami games. Derrick Rose has failed to make two critical plays with the final possession in Game 4 and missing the potential game-tying free throw in Game 5. And once again, players end up not showing up and fail to make plays. Guys like LeBron, Wade, and Dirk have been there plenty of times, which is why they are now getting ready for the NBA Finals.
People continue to hate on the Heat. Despite all the bad calls made throughout the series though, you can’t deny it: the Miami Heat are the better team. They’ve got veteran guys who know their ish and of course the big three. And even though he’s a cocky motherfucker, you can’t deny it: LeBron James is the best player in the world, not to mention Wade is a top 3 player in the league. I have the utmost respect for their game despite all the bitterness of seeing them leave Chicago in the cold and join up to form a super team because they are truly amongst the greatest talents basketball has ever seen. They both proved it not only tonight, but also throughout the entire series, coming through for their teams when it matters most. Rose hasn’t.
Don’t get me wrong; by no means am I trying to insult Rose. He’s our guy and my favorite player. Dare I say it, I might even like him more than Michael Jordan. But the man is only 22 years old. Both he and Kevin Durant have made it to the conference finals faster than Jordan ever did. And he’s the GOAT. To see either of these two young superstars make it to the Finals or even win a championship this year would have been historical. They’ll be making many more championship runs in their promising careers. They are the future of the NBA. But right now, it’s time for them to sit down, soak in their newfound experience, and let the current stars earn their place in NBA history.
I’ve always believed it. The greatest players come through and elevate their game when it matters most. LeBron’s done it. Wade’s done it. Dirk’s done it. Which is why we face a Miami-Dallas rematch. It’s funny. Five years ago, I found myself rooting for Wade and the Heat to win their first championship against the Mavericks. Now I’m hoping to see Dirk and Jason Kidd earn their first rings against the same team.
It’s been an incredible run, Chicago. Despite all my yelling and anger Game 5 (and the rest of the playoffs I suppose haha), when the clock hit zero I felt no sadness or disappointment. To exceed everyone’s expectations and criticisms, you guys have proven that you truly are amongst the elite teams in the league. I’m seeing this team grow right before my eyes and have been with them since the very beginning, which is why I feel more attached to them than I ever felt about any of the championship Bulls teams from the 90’s. This team is ready for the future and will be winning championships for years. Regardless of all the successes and failures this team and franchise has undergone and will go through, I will always be a Chicago Bulls fan (Plus, they’re reppin’ my favorite color, red. How can I NOT be a fan? Haha). Yet the future is bright, and this is only the beginning.
Author’s Note: After three hours of writing, I’ve finally finished this Tumblr post! Ended up being three pages single-spaced on word haha. I’m sure there are plenty of thoughts that seem incomplete or some thoughts that I failed to include. Honestly, this probably isn’t even very cohesive and seems very random, straying away from the main point. And I’m sure there are spelling and grammar errors all over the place, ‘cause there’s no way in hell that I’m proofreading this. Props to anyone who actually cares and takes the time to read through all of this. I’m sure I wouldn’t lol