Three seasons ago, the atmosphere around the United Center was raucous. In the 2010-11 season, the Chicago Bulls became the unexpected centerpiece of the Eastern Conference. The Bulls had the best record in the NBA, with an impressive 66-20 record. Even as the media’s attention was focused on LeBron James and his first year with the Miami Heat, the true heavyweights in the East were the Bulls. Derrick Rose proved his dominance on the floor as he became the youngest player to win the MVP at 22 years old.
Even though they couldn’t get it done, they still picked themselves up and finished the 2011-12 season with a winning record at 50-16, tied with the San Antonio Spurs for the best record in the league. This all came to a screeching halt on April 28, 2012, when Rose had his ACL injury in a playoff game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Since then, Chicago has encountered a series of misfortunes. The ‘Bench Mob’, Chicago’s gifted secondary squad, has all left for greener pastures. Rose’s return earlier this season was cut short. A lack of needed trades and signings that would have helped patch up the Bulls’ sore spots in their roster was not pursued by the higher office.
Despite this, Chicago still has that ability and character that sets it apart from other teams in the league. Any other team would have collapsed under the weight of these struggles and fan expectations. Look at the Cleveland Cavaliers, who after James left for the Heat, were unable to keep pace with their former record. It is not within the Bulls’ character to lie down and accept defeat, despite the challenges. The Bulls are still showing that same intensity that they possessed three years ago every night they come out on the court.
The Bulls have done a great job of keeping themselves afloat. Chicago started 2014 with a winning streak that helped push them above .500. Currently, the Bulls are the fifth best team in the East. Tom Thibodeau is still deserving of his status as one of the better coaches in the league, as he leads the team to a comfortable finish in the middle of the Eastern playoff picture.
When it comes down to it, Chicago is just going through a temporary bump on the road. All teams have them, no matter their spot on the NBA Power Rankings. The Bulls haven’t even reached the peak of what they can achieve. When things are going well it doesn’t define a team or a star. It is when things are falling apart, when things just seem unfair or unattainable, that true champions get the chance to prove themselves.