Skip to content

With the Bulls, it’s about this year. And the five after that.

Apr 15, 2011, 12:01 AM EDT

New Jersey Nets v Chicago Bulls Getty Images

This season wasn’t supposed to be about the Bulls. It was about the flash of the Heat and the intensity of the Celtics making one more run. It was about the Lakers out West. The Bulls were going to be good, no doubt, but not good enough.

Then they started defending like mad men, executing their defensive game plan better than any team in the league. Then Derrick Rose started playing like an MVP and slashing to the rim with quickness and body control that is unmatched. Then the Bulls evolved and took on the persona of their workaholic coach — they came to play every night harder than the other team.

In the end it was about them. They worked and slashed their way to the best record in the league (62-20).

And they haven’t begun to fulfill their potential. This wasn’t about just this being their season in Chicago. It was about how next year might be their year, too. And the year after that, and the one after that and….

The Bulls are now the team of the future in the NBA.

Chicago is young — Carlos Boozer is the “old man” at 29, entering his prime. Rose is 22, Luol Deng is 25, as is Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson. The only older guy making any significant contributions is 38-year-old Kurt Thomas.

People look at the Heat and see a team that will be good for the next several years because their core is in its prime. The Bulls are younger, with more room to improve as individuals, and they have a more well-rounded roster right now. The Heat will be contenders going forward. The Bulls are going to be right their with them.

Still, there are doubters. Certainly about this season and these upcoming playoffs. Put Chris Bosh in that group.

The argument against the Bulls goes like this — you’ve already seen their best. Chicago outworked teams during the regular season, simply played harder than everyone else. Good for the Bulls, but in the playoffs everyone is focused, everyone plays hard every game. (Well, maybe not the Lakers, but you get the idea.) Their advantages will disappear.

But if you believe defense wins championships, you have to believe the Bulls have a legitimate chance.

David Thorpe, the Executive Director of the Pro Training Center and ESPN analyst, said in an e-mail hard work alone by the Bulls was not enough. He used a football analogy to make his point.

“I think they out-execute everyone,” Thorpe said. “They remind me of the 2002 Buccaneers, Super Bowl winners (and owners of arguably as great a defense as the NFL has ever seen). … Both defenses were built around the idea that every man has a job to do on every possession, and each job changes based on what and who they are defending. That is why executing is so crucial.

“Put it this way — like football, if each player was graded on the total number of breakdowns they had for the game (beaten off dribble, not getting to their help spots fast enough, not following the schematic plan on certain actions, etc.), my guess is the Bulls players would score better than every other team. That is coaching.”

Defense and coaching are big steps toward a title. But the Bulls do have challenges ahead in these playoffs, and it’s not about the defense.

Rose is the center of everything they do on offense, and both Thorpe and the doubters (including scouts we spoke with) note that the better teams are going to start trapping him and denying him and doing everything they can to take the ball out of his hands. Indiana has a good defense (12th in the league in efficiency) and will start to execute it, but teams in the second round and beyond (Boston, Miami and Orlando) have the players to really execute it. Rose will not be able to dominate in the same way. He will be forced to pass or expend wild amounts of energy to get contested, difficult shots. He’s going to have to pass.

Other Bulls players will have to step up and make plays. We will see if they can — Boozer can score inside, but will he do it enough? Deng can by streaky, Ronnie Brewer can slash but will he get the ball, guys like Kyle Korver can shoot. But will it be enough?

What if it’s not? What if the Bulls learn they really need a better shooting guard and some more maturity as a team?

Then you can bet they will be back next year. And the year after. And the year after that.

Whether or not this season ends being about the Bulls, you can bet seasons in the near future will be.

  1. hnirobert3 - Apr 15, 2011 at 12:13 AM

    … until Rose and Noah want to get paid and Reinsdorf lets Noah walk because, even though the Bulls sell out everynight, he’s not going to pay the luxury tax.

    • boondocksaint224 - Apr 15, 2011 at 6:08 AM

      Well, I guess you have zero idea that Joakim Noah is signed through the 2015-2016 season then, right? Right.

      But keep talking nonsense. It’s amusing.

    • blueintown - Apr 15, 2011 at 7:47 AM

      Indeed, Noah is already locked in. The Bulls paid MJ $36 mil for one season of basketball…twice. And this is when the salary cap was around $25 mil. I think they’ll pay the luxury tax, don’t you?

    • ndguy461 - Apr 15, 2011 at 10:56 AM

      noah signed an extension… before you post do your research so you dont sound dumb

  2. gmsingh - Apr 15, 2011 at 6:39 AM

    If Rose is faster than anyone else on the court, how exactly do they expect to trap him?

  3. ibleedaquaorange - Apr 15, 2011 at 8:03 AM

    You do not enter your prime at 29… that’s the tail-end of it. Everybody knows 3-0 is the big killer in sports.

    “If Rose is faster than anyone else on the court, how exactly do they expect to trap him?”
    Because this is not a video game?

    • philtration - Apr 15, 2011 at 8:57 AM

      Then how do you explain the Celtics?
      How old was Kareem when the Lakers were winning titles?
      Was Jordan on his way down at 29?
      Did Karl Malone and John Stockton look like they were sliding in their late 20s?
      Steve Nash won back to back MVPs at 32.

      Yes, 30 is old… if you are a female gymnast or a Back Street Boy.

  4. fx1718 - Apr 15, 2011 at 8:08 AM

    Didn’t Jerry already say he’d pay the tax if we got to the ECF? The Bulls may not win it all but I think they will make it to the ECF.

    • florida727 - Apr 15, 2011 at 8:19 AM

      I covered the Bulls for a radio station many years ago. I can tell you with certainty that what Jerry SAYS and what Jerry DOES often don’t collide in his realm of reality. You could have him on tape and he’d say he was “taken out of context”.

  5. helinhater - Apr 15, 2011 at 8:52 AM

    Jerry has never shied away from paying for a winner…except at the tail end in Chicago when he wasn’t convinced they would continue to roll. And I believe in hindsight, he regrets that decision.

    No, he won’t collect a ton of pieces a la the Knicks in the hopes of competing…But Jerry loves nothing more than being the owner of a champion…and resigning D.Rose is about the biggest certainty there is in life right now…

    So if Booz is locked up for the next 4 seasons…and Noah…and Rose will be there…

    Also to the genius who argued the end of your prime is 29 is an absolute moron.

    Athletic prime is 26-32 (give or take a year or two either way)…In large part because they are physically capable of doing everything but their mind has finally caught up with their freakish athletic ability.

    Lastly, I understand the notion that defense clamp down in the playoffs, and thus, Rose will have difficulty doing his thing.

    However, over 82 games, even against the best teams, he was never slowed down consistently. Furthermore, they said the same things about Iverson in 2001…and he carried a much more inferior team to the Finals.

    The idea that, suddenly, the playoffs get so much tougher is slightly laughable.

    It’s still basketball. It’s just better basketball. And if you’ve been following the Bulls this year, they’ve stepped up when people wrote them off.

    So let’s all keep saying the Bulls will falter…because Rose wont let it happen.

  6. passerby23 - Apr 15, 2011 at 7:42 PM

    I’m not cheering for them, but it’s the Bulls’ year. Rose’s dominance, their lockdown defense, and homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs are huge advantages. They just seem to have the least amount of flaws (maybe with the exception of the Lakers).

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. D. Rose (2532)
  2. K. Irving (2211)
  3. A. Davis (1907)
  4. K. Bryant (1590)
  5. L. James (1590)
  1. K. Durant (1458)
  2. A. Aminu (1451)
  3. M. Leonard (1417)
  4. T. Thompson (1364)
  5. A. Jefferson (1244)