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NBA Sunday: Time To Fear The Bulls Again?
Posted By Bill Ingram On September 15, 2013 @ 9:00 am In NBA | No Comments
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Time To Fear The Bulls Again?
The thing that Chicago Bulls fans have been waiting to hear for roughly a year and a half finally came on Saturday.
“I think I am a 100 percent,” All-Star point guard Derrick Rose told CSN Chicago. “I’m doing almost everything. I’m squatting, running, lifting almost every other day, just being back on the court after you have an ACL injury, you’re kind of hesitant at first about how you step, what way you should step, learning how to run, accelerate, accelerate while you run and while you’re slowing down. For me, I’m reacting right now where all I have to think about is if I have to get to a spot, I’m going to get there no matter what. It kind of feels good having that feeling again.”
It will certainly feel good for Bulls fans to see him having that feeling again, as before the injury Rose was one of the NBA’s true unstoppable forces. His team, by extension, was the one team that many believed could challenge the Miami HEAT for Eastern Conference supremacy.
However, this is not the East that Rose left behind. The season he missed saw several teams rise toward the East’s top-tier and another offseason has seen a number of those teams get even better. Many pundits will choose the Indiana Pacers, for example, as the team most likely to knock Miami off the top spot, while fans in Brooklyn and Manhattan are hopeful that their favorite New York team might be the one to do it. As the saying goes, absence makes the heart grow forgetful, and sports fans’ hearts are as fickle as they come.
Are the Bulls still the powerhouse team they were when Rose was helped off the court?
If Rose is healthy, there is no question that Chicago can be right back at or near the top of the NBA. Defensive anchor Joakim Noah has not even hit his prime yet, Luol Deng is coming off of an All-Star season, Carlos Boozer showed signs of living up to his potential last season, and youngsters Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson are likely to be significantly better this season. The bench is also deeper and more talented, with Mike Dunleavy joining the fray. They also have some surprising momentum, having ousted the heavily-favored Brooklyn Nets in the first round of last season’s playoffs.
Injuries were a significant factor for the Bulls last season, and not just involving Rose. Noah played in just 66 games, Gibson missed 17 games and Kirk Hinrich, who was Rose’s replacement, missed roughly a third of the season. Despite all of that, the Bulls went 45-37 and finished second in the Central Division.
If the Bulls are finally healthy, and by all accounts it sounds like they are, Miami had better highlight those games on the schedule.
The Bulls are coming for them.
Anthony, James Adopt New Tone
A disturbing trend has developed over the last few NBA seasons, one where a player’s future signing has become bigger news than anything a player and his team might accomplish on the court.
LeBron James’ “Decision” was clearly the most obnoxious example of this phenomenon, but players like Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard have also caused ridiculous fervor with regard to their contract situations and where they might choose to play next.
Two seasons ago Deron Williams, then of the Utah Jazz, handled his situation a little differently. He made a statement at the beginning of the year that he was not going to talk about his free agency until it was actually upon him, and he proceeded to shut down anyone who started to ask the question throughout the season. As a result, Williams’ free agency was a relatively small story until he actually decided to make his next commitment, and he did so with very little drama. He met with the Dallas Mavericks and then announced he was re-signing with the Brooklyn Nets. The story barely broke two news cycles.
This season brings another round of speculation about which players might choose to opt out or change teams at season’s end, but we’re already seeing some signs that players have learned a lesson from their past mistakes, and will refrain from allowing their future status to overwhelm the stories their respective teams might write on the court in 2013-14.
“I’m not. I’m just not going to do it,” Anthony said in a recent AP report. “I’m going to let everybody know the first day that I’m not going to talk about it. Hopefully you guys and your colleagues respect that, and that’s it.”
That statement came on the heels of a similar proclamation from James.
“I owe it to myself, I owe it my teammates and I owe it to the Miami Heat to stay focused,” James told ESPN. “As a leader, I’m not even going to let that side of the business get me unfocused on what I’m trying to do and that’s trying to win another championship. … I’m going to try to [stop the discussion about free agency], but you always have reporters who are going to always bring it up. They’re going to change the question and make it sound like something else. But it will get to a point, if I continue to hear it, where I will say, ‘Hey guys, I’ve answered the question and out of respect, let’s talk about this after the season.”‘
Both James and Anthony, who have been through the media circus that always accompanies potential contract situations, have touched on the very thing that will have to be understood if they are going to be able to focus on basketball and not worry about talking about free agency every night. They have to count on the media to actually respect their desire to avoid the subject until it is really relevant. Will that happen? Absolutely not. Early in the season, their resolve will be tested often. But as Williams showed us, if they really do refuse to talk about it, the word will get around and the questions will stop – or at least become infrequent.Perhaps we can actually focus on the game, for a change, and let next summer take care of itself when the time comes.
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