For the Chicago Bulls, the scenes of the Miami Heat‘s championship parades over the past two seasons must have been awfully tough to watch, especially as the Windy City team was considered to be the biggest obstacle in the way of such a scenario.
Three seasons ago, it was simply the case of the team needing one more consistent offensive complementary piece to Derrick Rose. A year later, no Bulls fan or player needs to be reminded of the heartbreak as the basketball world witnessed Rose clutching his knee on an innocent-looking play he’s made a thousand times. It was an event that sucked the air out of the balloon that was slowly filling by that point with Rose finally in the lineup after a season marred by injury.
Last season, we witnessed a team hardened by the loss and uncertainty regarding the heart of the team, like a construction worker working in sub-thermal conditions who just learns to adapt and tough it out. With the departure of the past, fans must recognize what was and show respect to the 2012-13 Bulls: the toughest blue-collar team in the NBA.
However, with the coming season, there is a different storm brewing in the Windy City.
It might have taken a blue-collar effort last season to maximize the talent on the roster and push the Heat in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs after disposing of the Brooklyn Nets, but the hope is that this effort will be but a secondary storyline for the 2013-14 edition of the Bulls.
With the health of Rose, the emergence of Jimmy Butler transforming into a bright young shooting guard that the team was lacking and the presence of defensive genius Tom Thibodeau behind the bench, the goal is a simple one: win an NBA championship.
With the Bulls, no matter who is on the floor or in the trainers room, the five Bulls on the floor will always out-hustle the opposing team no matter what the discrepancy in raw talent is at any given moment. At the end of the day, defense wins championships and with the Bulls, that’s exactly what they’re attempting to do.
In a way, the team resembles the toughness of the Chicago Bears‘ defense of past years, one that would drain opponents with every yard gained and than snatch it away at the last moment — like a Bulls forced turnover or 24-second shot clock violation that’s become all too common in recent seasons.
Defense aside, there are a lot of positives on the other side of the ball to build optimism within Bulls Nation.
For one, the active roster is one former MVP richer — one who has not only looked like his old self in the preseason, but like a player who’s ready to prove he was only scratching the surface in the 2010-11 season. Although the early-season health of Joakim Noah is a concern, there is no doubt in my mind that if they were in the playoffs, he would be on the court today.
With Taj Gibson providing relief in his absence, the Bulls can afford to give Noah ample time to get healthy and return to being the player that exudes more heart and intangibles on the hardwood than any player in the NBA.
In terms of supporting cast, the consistent presence of Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng is something that is all but guaranteed for secondary scoring and hard-nosed play. Lastly, the bright rising star of Butler might be the biggest X-factor for the Bulls this season as his development will truly be the litmus test for how much a lack of depth after Gibson, Mike Dunleavy and Kirk Hinrich is felt by the bench.
If Butler can build on his impressive second season, a healthy Bulls team becomes one that merely needs the little things from its reserves instead of a considerable contribution.
A new season of hope for fans in the Windy City is approaching as Tuesday night is right around the corner and with their opponent being the one they hope to surpass when the games matter most in May, what other way would we want it?