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The carol of the Bulls

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Derrick Rose has been working a magic with the Bulls not felt since the Michael Jordan era.


I am really excited about the Chicago Bulls. I know old scribes like moi are supposed to be jaded and critical and cynical and nostalgic and mean to little kids.

I am all those things.

And yet these new Bulls fill me with holiday cheer.

I am saying this at the start of December because until the Bulls get back from their annual ''circus tour'' of Western Conference teams, I don't consider the season to have actually started. (It still blows my mind that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus comes to the United Center every year at the same time and people show up. Elephants doing stunts freak me, and clowns scare me more than Bruce Jenner.)

But here's what I like about the Bulls:

With a basketball in his palm and defenders in front of him, Derrick Rose is the fastest player in the NBA. He's simply a Nike-busting blur.

I don't know why this is, because there are definitely players in the league faster than Rose in a 40.

But part of it is Rose's instant acceleration. Another part is his ambidexterity. Yes, that's a word. What it means is, if Rose's left-handed dribble is weaker than his right, neither the Lakers' Derek Fisher nor the Kings' Tyreke Evans has noticed. In fact, since guarding Rose, both need new ankle bones.

Rose said in September, ''Why can't I be MVP in the league- ''

And I said, and you can check with my mom, ''You can, son!''

Better teams can be beaten

So for the first time since MJ left town, there is a reason to go to Bulls games every time they play -- no matter how much better the other team.

And who is that much better than your new Bulls-

The Celtics- The Lakers- The Spurs- The Magic- The Jazz-

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

But for how long-

If the Bulls can go 4-3 on the circus tour, they can do anything. Usually, they come back from the western swing full of bullet holes and depression.

I won't even mention that they should have returned 5-2 -- and they would have if they'd beaten the Denver Nuggets on Friday. They would have done that if just-signed John Lucas III, fresh from lounging on his couch, hadn't been in the game late and clanged two free throws in the 98-97 loss.

First really bad move by new coach Tom Thibodeau. But no matter. Thibs has been terrific in getting these Bulls to play all out, all the time.

And that brings me to the part I really am excited about: rebounding.

High-priced, broken-handed two-time All-Star Carlos Boozer is set to actually play in a real game tonight against the Magic at the United Center, and the 6-9 Booz is a rugged ball hound.

Most people don't notice rebounding, but it's such a key part of the game for stopping foes, starting your own offense and getting second shots that it's close to the heart of the hoops game.

Already, without Boozer having played this season, the Bulls lead the NBA in rebounding differential (plus-5.13). That's due to Rose and forward Luol Deng. But mostly it's due to human threshing machine Joakim Noah.

The 7-foot guy with the old-lady bun never stops attacking the boards or flailing his arms like somebody being attacked by bees.

Power forward Taj Gibson will go to the bench when Boozer plays full-time, and he'll take his seven rebounds per game with him. But Boozer, who averaged more than 11 rebounds a game during the regular season last year for the Utah Jazz and 13.2 rebounds in the playoffs, should make the Bulls' board game even tougher. And then Gibson comes in as a sub and does even more.

The anti-Heat

The Bulls are a team, it strikes me, and not a circus show, like, say, the Miami Heat.

How nice not to have LeBron James on your team, huh-

There is only one ball, and if Rose has it and is dishing it, what more do you want-

Hit the boards, hit the outlet, and away goes the Rose Express.

Former Bulls general manager John Paxson has moved himself upstairs and out of the public glare, where he never was comfortable, and installed a new general manager and a new coach in the bright arena and given them their rein.

Egos seem to be in check, everybody wants to win, and winter is coming.

It's Bulls time.

Can't complain.

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