No Carlos Boozer. No Joakim Noah.
Bulls 96 - Grizzlies 84.
Derrick Rose? 22 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 1 turnover.
If Rose's triple double happened last year at this time, Chicago's sports media outlets would trip over themselves trying to add superlatives to describe what Rose is doing.
But this is not last year. This is, instead, the year that Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith have remade the Chicago Bears into a potent force in the NFL... one that will face-off against its most hated rival for a shot at the Super Bowl next Sunday.
So Derrick Rose and the Bulls are, at the moment, overshadowed. The chattering class can fret over whether Jay Cutler is the team's savior or simply another punky qb without Walter Payton and the Monsters of the Midway to bolster him. In the interim, Michael Wilbon continues to knock out great articles chronicling Rose's development (like his piece following the win over the Heat on Saturday night) and we all have time to get to know and further love the rest of the team (through, for example, Adam Fluck's neat slice of life piece on Joakim Noah today).
If the Bears can beat the Packers on Sunday, they become the story in the Chicago media for the next three weeks, maybe the next month. Between now and February 13th (a week after the Super Bowl), the Bulls will play 11 games -- 52 total for the season. By that point, I hope, the Bulls will have insulated themselves from any corrosive effects of a poisonous media and forged a cohesive identity as one of the strong contenders for the Eastern Conference title.
Tomorrow begins a six-game homestand, followed by five away games. If the Bulls can manage a 7 and 4 record over those 11 games -- which, at the moment, would seem to be selling the team short -- they will have largely wrapped up a spot in the postseason (with a 35 and 17 record) by the time the spotlight is focused directly on the team. Barring further injury, they should be at full strength for the last thirty games of the season and, well, then things get really interesting.
At the moment, the Bulls are 28 and 13. Which means at the half way point of the season, Bulls fans are being treated to something we haven't seen since Jordan and Pippen left town: a dominant team. Moreover, we're being treated to something else we haven't seen since that bygone era: routinely having the best player on the court be the one in a Bulls uniform.
Yet, bizarrely, the fact that both of these things gets (relatively) little attention is probably a blessing. No one expected the Bulls to be this good this fast and, as such, expectations for the team have not yet outstripped reality.
But it is hard to keep quiet about it. Derrick Rose is really, really good. In the post-Jordan/Pippen era, this is the best Bulls team to have taken the court. And they are a sight to behold.