TELANDER: Bulls’ perfect preseason is nice, but playoffs all that matter
BY RICK TELANDER firstname.lastname@example.org | @ricktelander October 26, 2013 1:02AM
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau appears to be unable to concede a game, even when it might benefit his players in the long run. | AP
Updated: November 28, 2013 6:32AM
The Bulls finished the preseason undefeated, beating the Denver Nuggets 94-89 on Friday at the United Center to end up 8-0.
There are three things I take from that.
One: The Bulls are good.
Two: The preseason means very little, but winning is always nice.
Three: Coach Tom Thibodeau doesn’t like to take his foot off the accelerator. Ever.
The Bulls had their starting five — minus injured center Joakim Noah — on the floor when the score was tied at 85, and the main guys rolled to the finish. This is how it will be when the games matter, but the season is so long and the postseason so brutal that there are regular-season games that will have to be conceded, as it were, rather than battled to the end.
And I don’t know if Thibodeau can live like that, can surrender to fight another day, can release a possible victory for the health and safety of his best players. You get ridden hard in the NBA. We know this. You get used up. You’re paid a ton of money to be physically and mentally up for every game. But physics and minutes are real. And only the playoffs truly matter.
During the Bulls’ first three-peat — 1991-93 — they went 5-3, 8-1 and 9-0 in preseason games. The 9-0 team, with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Bill Cartwright, Horace Grant, John Paxson and B.J. Armstrong, was so good that it couldn’t lose if it wanted to. In the playoffs, that Bulls team went 15-4, beating the Phoenix Suns on the road in the NBA Finals for the title.
But during the next three-peat era —1996-98 — the Bulls went a combined 11-11 in the preseason, including 2-4 before their last title. That team went 62-20 in the regular season and 15-6 in the postseason.
It’s all there for the taking for these Bulls, provided they — and their coach — remember what’s important.
◆ I DON’T KNOW who is going to win the World Series, but I know there couldn’t be two more perfect teams to humiliate — once again and forever — the Cubs.
The Boston Red Sox are the team Theo Epstein left to become the president of Cubs. They’re the team that was a dreadful 69-93 last season and went an American League-best 97-65 this season. Who rebuilt the team so fast? Guys such as president Larry Lucchino and general manager Ben Cherington. The Red Sox were pitiful for a season, then up. The Cubs? How does 197 losses in Theo’s two seasons sound?
Then there are the St. Louis Cardinals. A small-market team that never tanks, the Cardinals are in the Cubs’ division and make a mockery of all this moneyball and rebuilding nonsense. They allowed Albert Pujols to leave in free agency and received a draft pick they used to select kid pitcher Michael Wacha. Now Wacha, just a little more than a year out of Texas A&M, has won four postseason games already, a major-league record for a rookie.
Whoever wins the 2013 World Series, their accomplishment tarnishes the Cubs. Which, when you get down to it, is ever so easy to do.
◆ PEOPLE WHO HAVE doubts about the column I wrote about Coal City High School wrestler Cody Minnick and his concussion in the 2013 state finals — that is, whether Minnick should have been allowed to continue (which he was) by the seven adults who surrounded him on the mat — need to watch the video of the match.
The Internet link, provided by the Sports Legacy Institute, is http://youtu.be/mpXLBwjbCGw.
Check it out. Get back to me. Tell me if I’m wrong.
◆ DERRICK ROSE is on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and we know there can’t possibly be a jinx attached. Rose already spent a full season injured.
And then you see the article featuring Rose is all about the punishment NBA guards undergo and how fragile the small men are. Headlined ‘‘This joint is jumpin’,’’ the subhead reads, ‘‘Basketball’s littles take a big pounding — especially their knees, which can buckle under all that leaping and cutting.’’
The Boston Celtics’ Rajon Rondo, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Ricky Rubio, the New York Knicks’ Iman Shumpert — all went down with torn anterior cruciate ligaments in the last two seasons.
Rose went down, too. But he has to be good to go now because he has been there, done that. Right?