Words by Alan Cerenil (@snobworthy)
The ennui of the NBA season has already taken it’s toll on me. Whether it’s the compressed schedule, injuries, or the player’s lack of conditioning, it’s getting hard to watch the Association some nights. If David Stern has the power to veto trades, can he fast forward the season to the playoffs already or at least can he get rid of the Bobcats? It seems like every night the Bulls are beating up on some god awful team by double digits and with the game in hand, I’m left to pray that Derrick Rose doesn’t suffer a season ending injury. He already has two chronic injuries to his toe and his back that will stay with him the entire season. It’s no secret the Bulls championship hopes rise with every Rose crossover drive to the basket and fall every time he violently throws his body by weaving through the forest of outstretched hands waiting to knock him on to the unforgiving hardwood but there’s another obstacle in the way of the Bulls championship hopes.
As I watched the Miami Heat shut down Linsanity and the Knicks the other night I thought about the inevitability that the Chicago Bulls season has come down to: Miami and Chicago in the Eastern Conference Finals Part Deux. A rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals won by the Heat in five games. The Heat and the Bulls are far away the best two teams in the East. They’ve been the best two teams since last year. When I first started this article, I was going to write exclusively all about the Bulls but It’s difficult to discuss the Bulls without mentioning the Heat because the Bulls path to a championship and Grant Park celebration runs through Miami.
What makes the Miami Heat more of a daunting task than last year’s version is their weaknesses are not as glaring anymore. Improved health to Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller has given the Heat back their depth. The additions of Norris Cole and Shane Battier have also added to their depth, while strengthening their flexibility on both sides of the court. Oh yeah, do I need to mention they still have Lebron, D. Wade, and Bosh? Lebron is having one of the better statical seasons in NBA history. D. Wade has arguably surpassed Kobe Bryant as the best two guard in the league. Although Wade is dealing with injuries his consistency is what amazes me about him and it makes me wonder what if he came back home to join in D. Rose in the Bulls backcourt. What could have been? In the summer of Lebron when D. Wade basically wasted the Bulls time and told lies about the Bulls lack of loyalty, he became one of my least liked players but those hard feelings go way whenever I watch him play. Being great has a way of doing that, the same goes for Lebron.
As for Chris Bosh, he’s Chris Bosh. It’s interesting to watch how much of a role player he’s become in the Heat’s offense. Lebron’s improved post game has taken away some of his effectiveness but he’s still a dangerous player. The question that will always remain about the Heat is about Lebron and his desire or lack thereof to make the 4th quarter his. He has to decide whether he wants the responsibility of winning or losing to fall on his shoulders. The constant deferring to lesser players needs to stop. When he does the Heat will….well I don’t even want to think about it.
This current season hasn’t really provided any further insight on the Bulls chances. They’re the same team as last year, which was a strong defensive team, with great depth at every position, and a MVP caliber player in Derrick Rose. So far the offseason addition of Rip Hamilton is inconclusive because he’s been hurt for most of the season. The Bulls are depending on him to be a difference maker against the Heat. He has to take some of the offensive pressure of Rose. Along with Hamilton, Luol Deng has to continue his pace on offense and defense. Other than Rose, he’s the only true two-way player the Bulls have.
What will always stick with me about last year’s ECF is Lebron’s defense on Rose. When he defended Rose the entire offense came to a hault. Rose is used to clearing the floor and going one on one with a defender that does’t have his speed but Lebron not only possesses the speed of Rose but is taller and stronger than Rose. He can handcuff Rose’s game at any moment. Hamilton and Deng have to viable options on offense if not Rose will continue to drive into the brick wall that is Lebron James and the Bulls will have to find creative ways to improve their team. The dream of adding Dwight Howard is about as likely as a new album from Outkast. He wants to play with a star and in a big media market. It’s not like Rose and Chicago provide that but what do I know.
In Chicago the Bulls are the closest thing we have to a championship ready team. The Bears need help at every position besides quarterback and running back. The city’s baseball teams are both in rebuilding mode. The White Sox have only one prospect rated in the Top 100 Prospects in all of baseball. The Cubs best offseason additions have been off the the field rather on the field. As for the hockey team in town, the Blackhawks best player Jonathan Toews is busy running into CTA support beams due to concussion like symptoms. I won’t even get into the dreadful state of the University of Illinois basketball team. Safe to say the Bulls are all we have.
Scoop Jackson, a writer for ESPN Chicago recently pointed out the city of Chicago’s dominance in all levels of basketball. In the article he writes, “As unconventional and inconvenient as it sometimes can be. Sometimes you gotta go Kanye. Chicago is the basketball capital of the world!” He makes the point that no other city can claim the reigning NBA MVP (Derrick Rose), the projected No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft (Anthony Davis), and the consensus No. 1 high school basketball player in the country (Jabari Parker). All three of those players call Chicago home but in my opinion in order to validate his opinion that “Chicago is the basketball capital of the the world”, the Larry O’Brien trophy needs to call Chicago home too.