Let’s get this straight off the top: I have never lived in Chicago a day in my life, but I have been a Chicago Bulls fan since 1986. A later post will likely address how that love affair officially formed, but since this is my first Rant Sports run, let’s get down to business.
It’s been a whirlwind week for the Bulls. Four games in five nights isn’t a joke by any means, not even to the most consummate NBA professional. Such is the grind of the league, particularly in early December. It’s months away from the playoffs–no less the crowning achievement of making the NBA Finals–so it can be very difficult for players to string together consistent numbers on consecutive nights. Most NBA fans know and respect this fact.
However, prior to last week, Bulls fans had serious reasons for concern. Chicago entered last week’s run with a .500 record, and serious questions ran rampant. Outside of the obvious million-dollar question of if/when Derrick Rose will return this season, the next biggest query from media pundits and fans alike became who in the hell was going to score baskets for the Chicago Bulls in the meantime? The daily conversation ensued because, thus far this season, it has truly been anybody’s guess.
Enter Joakim Noah.
After losing to the Indiana Pacers last Tuesday, the Bulls were able to finish the week by securing consecutive wins against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons and the red-hot New York Knicks. Much of the props, at least from this end, go to Noah for just firing up the crew with his play and passion. He helped ignite Marco Bellinelli (who started for Rip Hamilton), Luol Deng and the often-criticized Carlos Boozer.
Mark my words: Noah’s 30 points, 23 rebounds, six assists versus the Pistons was the moment that changed the Bulls’ mojo this season, sans D. Rose. Sure, it was against the 7-15 Pistons–but still, this feat was all the more amazing because Noah really has absolutely no plays called for him; he instead simply grinds to put up his numbers. Fans love him for this while opposing teams are forced to respect his hustle.
Numbers certainly don’t lie, but in many cases, they certainly don’t tell the absolute truth. While his rebounding and field-goal percentage numbers have dipped this season, who really cares? Game don’t lie. He deserves to be on the All-Star team in Houston in February.
Noah followed up that career-night against the Pistons by posting a 10 points, 11 rebounds and 4 blocks in Saturday’s 93-85 home victory against the Knicks. Carmelo Anthony didn’t suit up, but the win still against the Atlantic Division-leaders certainly resonated. It seemed to mean something to these Bulls, even if only an early December victory in an 82-game regular season.
Timing is everything. The NBA is all about teams gaining momentum at the right time, and this is that moment for the Bulls. Its defense has been harmonious of late, and has proven that on any given night, it easily serves as the team’s most-potent offensive attack.
Effective immediately: Tom Thibodeau should automatically be inserted into the Coach of the Year conversation every single year, because seriously–name a coach that consistently does more with less. (I will wait…) With his patented smoking guns-in-holsters celebration on full display, Joakim Noah has proven this season that he holds the reigns that steer these Bulls until further notice (i.e. #TheReturn returns.)
Chicago next takes the floor in Tuesday’s nationally-televised game against the Los Angeles Clippers, who are riding a six-game winning streak. Will the Madhouse on Madison will be ready to rumble with one of the best in the West?