Bulls sick of this reign, eager to stop LeBron
BY JOE COWLEY Staff Reporter September 26, 2013 8:19PM
Miami Heat's LeBron James (6) backs down Chicago Bulls Luol Deng (9) during Game 3 of the NBA Eastern Conference finals basketball series in Miami, Sunday, May 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Updated: September 27, 2013 3:20PM
Steve Kerr knows a few things about kings. The former long-range sniper played during Michael Jordan’s reign in the 1990s, then added some more rings with the San Antonio Spurs after moving on from the Bulls.
Now an analyst for TNT, Kerr admitted at the end of last season that we’re all witnessing the latest era in NBA sovereignty.
‘‘This just happens to be the era of LeBron,’’ he said.
And as Bulls fans know all too well after the last three seasons, LeBron James’ rule has not been good for them. The Miami Heat forward is responsible for two of the Bulls’ last three playoff runs ending earlier than they hoped.
In the bigger picture, James’ last six years stack up very closely to Jordan’s best seven-year stretch, before his first retirement. From 1986 to 1993, Jordan averaged 33.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game, while James averaged 28.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.3 assists from 2007 to 2013. Both are known for elite defense, but James has shown to be more versatile, guarding any spot on the floor.
While their mind-sets on offense are completely different — James is more facilitator, Jordan was more assassin — they’ll be tied even more closely together if James and the Heat win a third consecutive NBA title this season, when James will still be 29.
The Bulls’ mission is to stop that from happening.
‘‘Our goal this year is just to win a championship,’’ guard Derrick Rose said earlier this week. ‘‘Any award we get for just winning games, of course that’s an achievement, don’t take me wrong. But our goal is to win a championship.’’
If there is a team capable of accomplishing that and ruining the Heat’s parade plans at the same time, it’s the Bulls.
‘‘For this year,’’ Rose said, ‘‘I think with the team that we have, we have a young team, but we have a group of guys that’s been together for a long time, so that chemistry is definitely going to help us with the season, seeing that a lot of people got traded other places. We have two rookies [Tony Snell and Erik Murphy] coming to the team that [are] pretty good.
‘‘[Coach Tom Thibodeau], with him having the knowledge that he has and wanting us to be in a certain place, right in training camp, and just seeing how the guys individually [are] getting better, I think it’s going to be a good year for the Bulls.’’
It’ll be a great one if they can stay healthy, starting with Rose. While the Indiana Pacers also are expected by some to be the Heat’s primary obstacle in the Eastern Conference, the Pacers don’t have Rose. The problem is the Bulls might not have him, either — at least the Rose they had before he tore his left anterior cruciate ligament.
But if the one-time MVP is anywhere close to what he was during the 2010-11 season — with an improved jump shot from all the rehab time — the Pacers will be the third wheel.
Will it be enough to end James’ run at history?
The Bulls start training camp Friday, and they know kings don’t abdicate their thrones easily.