I have had some low moments at Verizon watching the Bulls -- although none lower than shuffling out of the stadium on May 6, 2005 as the Bulls wasted a 2-0 first round lead over the Wizards. After being harassed and heckled by Wizards fans throughout the game, my wife swore that she would never go to another game decked out in Bulls gear and that she would never, ever root for the Wizards.
I carry a bit of resentment as well, although the Wizard's incompetence has softened those feelings a bit. Tonight, I even felt embarrassed for Wizards fans that had to endure an obnoxious (sizable) minority of Bulls fans who rejoiced in the trouncing of the home team. With two minutes left, the game descended into a parody of Georgetown routs, with Bulls fans calling for Brian Scalabrine and going wild when he converted an open jumpshot. I am sad to admit I was one of those fans, but given the giddiness of nearly everyone that came out to support Chicago tonight, it was hard to resist.
The Bulls won their 41st game of the season tonight and have guaranteed at least a .500 record this year. Since the turn of this century, the Bulls have managed 42 or more wins a grand total of two times (2004-2005 with 47 and 2006-2007 with 49) and made the playoffs three other times by finishing with as many wins as losses. This team will blow recent history out of the water.
The juxtaposition between Bulls fans (ebullient) and Wizards fans (dis-spirited) almost detracted from the enjoyment of the game. Almost.
The Bulls are very good and that certainly is a big part of why they are drawing large groups of fans at away games -- as an aside, the annoyance of the Fox Sports Wisconsin announcers on Saturday night was great ("Tonight would have been a great night for the Packers to have brought the Lombardi trophy to the arena") -- and another major contributing factor is Derrick Rose's ridiculous play (the between the legs feed to a trailing Joakim Noah was jaw-dropping from the stands). But I would hope that another part of the draw is how likable this iteration of the Bulls are.
Michael Wilbon has captured a bit of this in his recent articles for ESPN, admitting that he (like thousands of other Bulls fan) is "drinking the Kool-Aid." No trade, no big name addition, because Gar and Pax think that they can win a title with this group? Sign me up.
Let others outside Chicago kill the franchise for wasting an opportunity to make a run at a championship. Let internet posters and commentators decry the lack of a shooting guard that can light up the opposition. I'll take this team.
On the way home, my sister noted that this is the first time she can remember the Bulls having a rotation that was missing anyone that made fans shake their heads and go "there goes the game." The eleven-deep rotation features, uniformly, solid players who exert maximum effort during their time on the floor.
I will admit to having some initial reservations about C.J. Watson, but those have been totally wiped away. I like the second team, when led by Watson, almost as much as I like the starting lineup. Everyone plays hard and everyone plays together.
Tonight, I thought it was particularly telling that after Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer missed a series of open jump shots, Bulls fans were nonplussed. The Wizards fans around us tried to rib the more vocal Bulls fans about the clanking shots, but the visiting crowd waved them off -- we're all right, they'll start falling, and even if they don't, someone else will score. They've got this.
It may be sour grapes, but I'm not sure I would like this team as much if it depended on O.J. Mayo to provide a significant amount of its offense. There is something that makes Chicago even more dangerous because opponents don't know if the complement to Rose/Deng/Boozer on the offensive end is going to come from Bogans or Korver or Brewer or Watson (or, failing those four, Noah or Gibson through tip ins from missed perimeter shots).
Whether the Bulls added anyone or not, it would not have changed the fact that the key to the Bulls' season this year is the health of Derrick Rose and Luol Deng. Building a team around these two -- rather than moving the focus away from them -- is the right move regardless of the consequences for this year.