I HATE that my wedding biz got so busy this year. So many good things happening for the Bulls and I’d love to be able to analyze it more closely. I did decide to take time out to salute the big homie Joakim Noah however. He has not only emerged as the Bulls vocal leader and 2-time All Star, but also a legitimate MVP candidate, (arguably) best center in the league and in the DPOY conversation… No one saw this coming.
After Derrick’s second season ending injury, 10 games into the season, Bulls fans were looking for something to get excited about. A few things happened:
1. First, we were excited about the the D.J. Augustin signing after seeing his superior pick and roll play ability. His speed and quickness helped Chicago play faster, and his quick passes after penetrating the post opened up much easier baskets for the Bulls big men.
2. Next, we were dealt a huge blow with the departure of Luol Deng to Cleveland… Completely financial move that you kind of saw coming. Just sad because many fans, myself included, considered Rose, Noah and Deng to be “untouchable” Bulls. But, its a business and the move will certainly help offset some of the luxury tax penalty, which I still believe they are up against.
Note: After this trade, the calls for TANKING the season for Wiggins, Jabari Parker or some other top 4-5 pick in this year’s draft became louder and louder. I even became convinced that this would be the best course of action. Not because I’m so excited about getting what looks to be a superior talent in the draft, but did we really want to see another meaningless post season for our Bulls? I mean, from a “wear and tear” standpoint? I dunno. I just wanted everything to remain frozen competition-wise til’ Rose could come back healthy. The chants got so loud that they made it to the Bulls/Jo.
3. Then, something else happened. Joakim Noah decided that he’d go ahead and take the Bulls over. It kind of began when he made some controversial comments (for the Bulls anyway), on 12/14. The Bulls were in the middle of a nasty losing skid and Noah issued a personal challenge to the team:
“…You know what? I don’t want no part of this… I’m just going to take bad shots and just not care at all about making winning plays or playing defense and things like that. So everybody has to stick together. Everybody has to jell and keep fighting together.”
You actually got the feeling that the team was going to fall apart after this, but it didn’t. They went 3-5 to close out 2013, managed a downright blistering 11-4 in Jan 2014, and have been 17-7 since the start of Feb.
Jo was selected to the All Star team, which should have surprised no one, but his numbers slowly started to become MVPish. His work has been so consistent this season, so timely, so effective that you can’t help but put him in that conversation. He’s passing the ball as well as he’s rebounding it and he is also making timely buckets. The Bulls feed off of Noah’s energy, period. His finesse at his position, coupled with sheer effort arguably makes him the best center in the league. For those who flat out reject that notion, I’d say the same thing that one of my Twitter friends expressed recently, “…Dwight can’t shine Noah’s shoes.”
Saying all this though, what’s really going to happen in the postseason? Bulls fans know that most of our recent postseason roads have ended with a fall to Miami (in five). I have no doubt that we can power through to the second round, but what about the second round? Do we have enough talent? I’d like to retain our current spot of 4th because we could topple the Pacers in 7 and get back to the ECF. What happens when we get there could be heartbreaking though. A spirited, emotional win in the first game, only to be swept in the next 4? I mean, anything can happen, and I DO think that the Bulls commitment to defense is stronger than both the Pacer’s and the Heat (we have no choice, no offense or superstar play to fall back on), but you have to put the ball in the basket at some point. With no home court to speak of, they would darn near need to be perfect in every game, on every single possession. Tough task indeed.
Maybe though falling to the Heat in 5 won’t happen three times in a row. Perhaps we could be more competitive. Who knows? I do know that Joakim has made this discussion possible, and the postseason more intriguing. Thanks Jo… You’ve certainly made the city proud. #SeeRed #BullsNation