Well, the Bulls did it. They managed to “win out” after that bad loss to the Atlanta Hawks. They now find themselves sitting atop the Eastern Conference at 12-2. Like Tom Thibodeau says, “…things change quickly in this league.” This fact, coupled with how quickly the NBA contests are coming, means that we should take this quick moment to say to the Chicago Bulls, “Job well done!”
I know that there have been many complaints about the front court play of Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer. Fans have raised eyebrows at the 4th quarter benchings of Jo and Booz in lieu of playing Asik and Taj. We’ve questioned Rip Hamilton’s decision to play against his old Pistons team when he wasn’t completely healed. I’ve rolled my eyes at Thibs decision to not play our favorite Rookie, Jimmy Butler more than 2 minutes a game. We’ve all vehemently protested the perceived over-utilization of both Derrick Rose and Luol Deng… The list of second guesses, complaints and concerns about this squad go on and on.
With all of that being stated, and the Bulls sitting pretty with this record, it tells me three things:
1.) Thibs knows his personnel and he knows what he’s doing. – I’m going to back off of Tom for now. I mean his decision to play John Lucas, III at the 2 along with Rose in the backcourt to allow for additional scoring and quickness to attack Toronto’s zone defense last night was a brilliant strategy. I’m thinking that this lockout schedule will force his hand, more than ever before, to go with different players and matchups as it wears on. I would love to see Jimmy Butler, with his ability as a lockdown defender be given an opportunity in some kind of lineup in the future and I think that JL3 move last night gives me hope.
2.) The Bulls have achieved a small measure of greatness without Rip in the starting lineup. – With Rip being out and Ronnie’s improved jumpshot, I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief regarding scoring help for Derrick. This team, in the short amount of time we’ve had, has shown that they CAN hit open shots and its not all on D.Rose to do everything. This team is better than it was last season, even without an adequate training camp or pre-season.
Boozer, Brewer, Korver and Gibson’s FG% numbers are encouraging… Everyone is shooting over 45% and both Brewer and Korver have been a stellar 58% and 48% from three, respectively. I’m concerned about Deng’s percentages, but not his activity. He is still disruptive on the defensive end and he’s rebounding at a decent clip. We haven’t even been playing a month yet so this is a fabulous start.
3.) Bulls, like last season, continue to insert themselves into the “title contender” conversation by quietly winning basketball games. – Nah, the Bulls aren’t talked about that much on ESPN or NBA TV… Like last season, most of the attention and focus is lasered onto the Miami Heat. Even during the Heat’s current three game slide, the coverage/analysis as to “why” this is happening to them will be more pronounced than any Bulls news. How inconvenient this scenario must be to the media’s current narrative of the Miami Heat making it back to the Finals after getting so heartbreakingly close to winning it all last season? The truth is, the Bulls are winning, getting stronger, and are not going anywhere. No matter how much of a narrative has already been developed, you still have to play the games.
The reason why I believe we will get past the Miami Heat this year is because of Derrick’s obsession with winning. I don’t see the Heat being singularly focused on this goal. Maybe they are and they approach it in a different way. However Derrick’s quiet leadership and commitment to improving his game and his team seems unparalleled. Lebron’s tweeting TNT’s Inside the NBA commentators during the show in response to Kenny “the Jet” Smith’s analysis of Kobe’s recent 4th quarter performances vs. Lebron’s and the perception of each was just juvenile to me.
Why reveal your hand, especially to the world? It honestly makes it seem like LeBron is preoccupied with the media’s coverage and their perception of him.
Derrick, on the other hand has said he makes it a point to not even watch his own coverage on sports networks, admitting that it is a distraction. He says he will ask his roommates to change the channel if they are watching it and if they don’t want to change it, he will just go into another room. Yeah, his unique approach, may or may not result in overcoming our biggest competition, but I personally believe in his talent, ability and desire to win way too much to bet against him. I’m going all the way, or down in flames, with the MVP.
The Toronto game was a snooze, and everyone was watching the Broncos/Patriots game anyway so no fabulous tweets or expanded game reaction. Just a few things I noticed:
- Toronto always plays us tough. Last year, I attended a Toronto game and they shot lights out. I remembered thinking then, just like I did last night, if they played this hard every night, they wouldn’t have a losing record. They play better defense this year though under this new coach.
- John Lucas, III has worked on his game and gotten GREAT exposure… First having his first NBA start and now playing in the backcourt with Rose. That was a promise that Thibs made to C.J. Watson at the end of last season so let’s see if CJ can make his way back after injury. In the meantime, JL3 is on his way to being a fan favorite for sure. He finished last night with 10 pts. on 4-9 shooting, even hitting 2-4 three pointers!
- Even though Toronto hung around, you never felt like the Bulls were not in control of the game… They threw a zone defense at us, which probably was the only thing that made this game interesting for Chicago.
- Derrick was Derrick… Wasn’t really feeling it in the beginning, but eventually came around to hit some big shots for us at the beginning of the fourth quarter to pull away from Toronto for good.
- Yet, ANOTHER team who steps foot inside the U.C. doesn’t make it to 70 pts. Really? Its an NBA record people. No other team in the history of the NBA has done that to open a season in a span of 5 games… Wow.
Wow, this team deserves a FEW days off, but they can only get today, and not even all of today because they need to travel to Memphis for an early holiday game on Monday.
The rest of the week looks like this, and I’ll probably, again do some sort of bundled preview… #toomanygames. However, this season 4 games in 7 days seems like a good week!
Take care Bulls fans, til’ next time!