Bulls might not win talent battle, but they can win court battle against Heat
BY RICK TELANDER email@example.com March 15, 2012 10:04PM
Bulls guard Derrick Rose drives by Hawks guard Jeff Teague in the second quarter of the Chicago Bulls 90-79 win over the Atlanta Hawks Monday February 20, 2012 at the United Center. | TOM CRUZE~Sun-Times
Updated: April 19, 2012 8:23AM
These are your Chicago Bulls, folks.
The NBA trade deadline came and went Thursday, and unless you consider the Lakers swapping Derek Fisher for the Rockets’ Jordan Hill big news, not much changed anywhere in the league.
(Note here: That’ll teach Fisher to lead the locked-out players against the owners!)
But your Bulls? Here they are. Standing pat.
Yes, they’re wounded, overachieving, low-wattage and doubted by many. But if I hear one more pundit say the Bulls can’t possibly beat the Miami Heat in a seven-game series and that no Bulls regular-season game means anything — including Wednesday night’s exciting victory over the mighty Heat — I will be forced to violently and uncontrollably hurl.
Who are these faux GMs?
Anybody remember the basement geniuses picking the Pistons to win the 2004 championship? The Mavericks to win the 2011 title?
Why are the Bulls — from Derrick Rose down to the fabulous White Mamba — so unworthy of respect?
The Bulls lost to the Heat in last year’s conference finals in five games, but that was last year. Isn’t it possible for a team to improve with another year of training? And the operative word here is team.
Tom Thibodeau has proved to be the best defensive coach and, quite possibly, the best coach in the NBA. His system actually seems to be a system. And he only has been with the Bulls 21 months. Teams, like brandy, can improve in the cask.
No, the Bulls didn’t trade half the team to get Dwight Howard (who didn’t want to come to Chicago, anyway). No, they didn’t trade for Pau Gasol. No, they didn’t pick up Jamal Crawford, Kevin Durant or Oscar Robertson.
But they have the reigning MVP, and that’s not by accident.
Remember all the draft savants who said the Bulls should take Michael Beasley, and not Rose, with that 2008 first pick? Beasley was a 6-9 scoring machine; Rose was a mere 6-21/2 point guard. Wrong.
It’s quite possible the Heat didn’t care at all about losing to the Bulls on Wednesday because they were coming off an overtime road loss the night before. But to let 5-10, 165-pound reserve guard John Lucas school them with 24 points? And ‘‘Little Luke’’ was filling in for half-lame point guard C.J. Watson, who was filling in for the injured Rose. Down in Miami, Lucas was the guy LeBron James jumped over en route to a monster dunk.
Journeyman Lucas has played in every country but Nauru, played for every team but the Washington Generals, and the Heat said, whatever. The feisty guy is Thibodeau’s kind of guy. He is gutsy enough to have fired up 28 shots in his first NBA start, scoring 25, with eight assists in a victory in January over the Wizards.
‘‘More shots than Kobe [Bryant],’’ he chuckled, thinking back.
So what the Bulls have, perhaps, is a true team. The whole is greater than the parts.
Injuries might undo this team — Luol Deng will not be the same until wrist surgery — but why strike them out based solely on talent evaluation?
Good people count for something. And if the Bulls have a jerk on their team, I don’t know who it is. Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, Joakim Noah, Omer Asik — hard-working, coachable players all. Critics rage about Carlos Boozer’s defense, as they should. But his offense is there, and if he can step it up in the playoffs, wonderful.
It’s looking like Rip Hamilton, R.I.P. Too bad. The old vet was the shooter the Bulls hoped Rose could dish to when the Heat clamped down on him.
We’ll see. Nothing is for certain.
The 36-9 Bulls have the best record in the NBA.
They have allowed only 89.2 points per game, the best in the league.
They have the best scoring differential in the league, 9.1 points.
They have the best division record, 9-1.
They have the best road record, 18-6.
They have the best conference record, 25-7.
Does any of it matter?
Trick question. Of course, it does.
Except for the random Mike James or, say, Bobby Hansen look-alike, the Bulls have presented us with their team for battle.
They may not win it all this year. But let’s at least see if they can before we blow everything up.