The Chicago Bulls entered the playoffs as the #4 seed in the NBA East. After a close overtime loss to the Washington Wizards, they’re now down 0-2, have to go to Washington and everyone is writing their epitaph. Is the majority right or can the Bulls come back?
Honestly, I’m not sure the guys from Chi-town can even win a game in this series but this team ought to be an inspiration to any group, or even individual, who faces adversity. In reality, there’s no way they should be a #4 seed. They lost their best player - and the go-to guy in Derrick Rose - at the outset of the season. This setback, following the same scenario last year, has to be devastating to the guys.
Then, as if to say, “We have no shot; let’s build for next year,” the front office traded away their best (remaining) scorer, Luol Deng, for draft picks (and Andrew Bynum, whom they immediately released). Independent of how talented those draft picks become, they can’t score a bucket this season. What could be left to play for?
In the old days, the answer was pride. Since the Bulls’ coach is Tom Thibodeau, a coach from the “old days” if ever there was one, there would be no quit in his team. He didn’t feel they should play for pride; his idea was to play for wins. So they scrapped and clawed their way to 48 of them (58.5% of their games) and barely lost out on the #3 seed by a tiebreaker to the Toronto Raptors.
If ever a team was mis-seeded, it was this collection of leftovers. Not to say the roster doesn’t have NBA caliber players, but taking away Rose and Deng and replacing them with nobody, well, take to top players off of any NBA club and my contention is the drop off would be even more drastic. While the Bulls didn’t overachieve (mainly because it’s impossible - you can’t do better than your ability allows), these guys played about as close to their potential as possible. When last night’s game went into OT, it spelled doom for the boys from Chicago. They simply have too many guys logging too many minutes (because they simply don’t have enough playoff caliber players - after losing Rose and Deng) and it was obvious they’d lost a step on defense and their legs on their shots. Critics will say that they haven’t had those two the entire season and still won their share of contests, but they’re disregarding one significant factor: it’s the playoffs. Every minute of playoff time - in terms of pressure and intensity - is like two (or maybe more) during the regular season.
In my eyes, whenever I watch the Bulls play, I’m in amazement at how they can win strictly with their defense. Many coaches preach D but no one gets buy in at that end of the floor like Thibs. Since basketball is the only team game whose defensive goal is not a shutout, e.g. football, baseball, hockey, soccer, teams have to ring up points - and the Bulls struggle mightily to do just that.
Going from performing as close to potential as possible to the opposite, check out the following two encounters from post game reporters. Just as teams need to prove themselves by finishing in the top eight in either the East or West to be included in the playoffs, so should reporters have to prove themselves in order to interview players and coaches post season. Two guys who should not have made the cut are the following. You figure out why.
A reporter actually asked Chicago’s Kirk Hinrich, who missed game-tying free throws with the Bulls down two and 2.4 seconds remaining in the game, “What were you thinking when you stepped up to the line?” In the studio, TNT’s Kenny Smith said, “What did she expect him to say, ‘I was really nervous?’ ”
During the media Q&A with Houston Rockets’ coach Kevin McHale, he was asked, “Are you going to do anything different defensively on LaMarcus Aldridge?”
“Yeah, we’re going to do something different. I mean, the guy had 46 against us. Sure we’re going to do something different but I’m not going to tell what. Watch the game!”
To show how Thibodeau and his main guy, Joakim Noah (who just was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year) are connected at the hip, here was the latter’s response to the question, “Is losing this one tonight in overtime demoralizing?” Noah’s answer was:
“Demoralizing? No, it sucks . . . disappointing.”