Why the Bulls Will Win the 2011 NBA Title?
5 reasons why the Chicago Bulls will win the title this year
I watched the pre game introductions. One by one, the Bulls starters were announced. And one by one the crowd’s angst grew louder.
First it was Luol Deng. “Boo!”
Then it was Carlos Boozer. “Boooooo!”
Then came Joakim Noah. “BOOOOOO!”
Derrick Rose was introduced last. The crowd went nuts. They say getting booed on the road is a compliment. To get cheered in Madison Square Garden?…..That is respect.
The New York Knicks were the only team the Bulls hadn’t beat this season. Derrick Rose knew that. They lost the first 2 games against them 112-120 and 95-103 on November 4th and December 25th, respectively. The Knicks were a completely different team back then, and the Bulls have traveled miles since then. They had already clinched the top seed in the east and could’ve packed it in, rested up for the playoffs like the Spurs and Celtics were doing. Those teams are proven, they have been there before. This Bulls team hasn’t proven anything yet, still trying to show everyone that they are for real. The Bulls used a 24-2 run to open the 3rd quarter to jump out to an 18 point lead, Rose scored 13 in the quarter. The Knicks bounced back and cut the lead to 7 with 7 minutes to go before Rose drilled a 3 point dagger to push the lead back to 10. The Knicks never got within single digits after that.
Another statement made.
The 2011-12 season didn’t officially start until Dec 4th for the Chicago Bulls. Carlos Boozer, their consolation prize of the summer free agency bonanza, missed the first month of the season with a broken right hand. Their roster was overhauled with Utah Jazz castoffs Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer joining Boozer. They had a new coach, a new game plan and they needed time to gel. After their annual 7 game circus road trip they stood at a mediocre 9-8. They had gone 2-7 against teams that finished the season with at least 50 wins, and were 3-8 against playoff teams. Boozer came back, the team started to gel, and even with Noah missing 34 games with a broken thumb and a gimp ankle, the Bulls have gone an NBA best 53-12 since. They have gone 12-0 against teams with 50+ wins and 23-6 against playoff teams. While Rose has carried the team through all of their injuries, and has defined the word consistent, the main reason for their success has been their…..
On June 23rd 2010, the Bulls made their biggest off season acquisition. They hired Boston Celtics assistant head coach Tom Thibodeau, a defensive minded man like none other. As an assistant head coach with the Knicks in 2000-01, his defensive schemes helped the Knicks set an NBA record by holding 33 consecutive opponents under 100 points. As an assistant head coach with the Rockets from 2004-07, his defense ranked in the top 5 every year. He then won a ring as the assistant coach of the Celtics in 2007-08 as Boston had the best defense in the league.
Gone was Vinny Del Negro, a man without a plan, and in came Thibs, a man with a master one. A man who expects excellence from his players and has the track record to back it up. A new system takes time, especially with a young and newly assembled team. The Bulls gave up 100+ points in 8 of their first 17 games. Some people started questioning his decision making at the end of games and if this team would buy into his concept. After all, Carlos Boozer is not exactly known for his defense and Rose , exerting so much energy on the offensive side, was still making strides in his defense. But once Boozer came back and the players started adapted to playing team defense, the results were undeniable. They have held 55 of their last 64 opponents to under 100 points, including 35 under 90. They finished the season ranked 1st in opposing FG%, 3 point % and 2nd in points allowed to the Celtics at 91.4 per game. They also rank 2nd in rebounds at 44.2 per game, second only to Kevin Love and the Timber wolves (44.4).
Defense is the key to most championship teams….in any sport. In basketball however, a team also needs a leader. A player who can single handidly take over games and carry a team when need be. It needs a….
“Why can’t I be MVP?”
That was the response Rose gave before the season started to a reporter asking about his goals for the year. “Why can’t I be the best player in the league?”, shot back Rose. “I Work hard on my game. I dedicate and sacrifice a lot to get where I am…..why?” No one had an answer.
Rose answered it himself. The local kid has been a leader and a winner his whole life. At Simeon Academy, he became the first player in Chicago high school history to lead his team to back-to-back city titles. He was the best player on an experienced Memphis team that lost to Kansas in the title game as a freshman. As a 20 year old, he led the Bulls to the playoffs his rookie season and pushed the Celtics to 7 games in one of the most thrilling playoff series you will ever see, a series that needed 7 overtime sessions to decide it.
The improvements he has made in his game are a direct reflection of the work he puts in and the nonsense he leaves out. There is no entourage around Rose, no off the court shenanigans to be found. He was guarded by his older brothers, especially Reggie, who was his AAU coach and kept a watchful eye over Derrick to keep the bad influences away and to stay focused on his game.
Focus is something Rose doesn’t lack. Coming into this year, a major knock on him was his shot….he didn’t have one. Opposing defenders would simply play off of him, not respecting his jumper, and not allow him to simply blow by them. He attempted just 132 3 pointers over his first 2 seasons, making only 32 of them (24%). He worked all off season on his shooting and finished this season having attempted 385 3’s, making 128 (34%). Still not exactly a sharpshooter, but give him time. His mid range game is good enough to where now defenders have to respect it and are offered the choice of being beat by a 3 in their face or embarrassed off the dribble. He has become an unguardable guard.
His free throw shooting was another question mark. He wasn’t bad from the line but if he was going to be the slasher he is, you need to be money at the line….and get there more often. He came into this season a 78% shooter from the line but only averaging 3.7 attempts per game. This year his attempts are up to 6.9 per game and he is shooting them at an 86% clip including 7.9 attempts and 89% since January 1st. He recently had a streak of 36 straight free throws made and is all of a sudden lethal from the charity stripe, something that is needed from your superstar.
While Rose is the unquestionable leader of the team, the new face of the franchise, a huge factor in the team’s success this year has been their team…..
Winning 62 games while 2 of your top 4 players missed 58 games combined is a remarkable feat. It is a measure of how a team can adapt and face adversity. It thrusts others into roles that they may not have had a chance to be in otherwise and makes your bench that much stronger. Having to throw different line ups together also builds on court chemistry. Everyone gets more comfortable playing alongside each other and guys like Omer Asik had the opportunity to get valuable playing time to adjust his game to the NBA.
By all accounts, this team has great locker room chemistry as well. Not a single story arose this year about any disruption among the players, and to a man, there is nothing but love and respect for each other. All of this only leads a team to build…
The Bulls swept the Miami Heat this year 3-0. Rose had extra motivation in those games as he never wanted LeBron or Wade in Chicago. This was his team and didn’t want to play Robin to anyone’s Batman. They beat the Celtics 2 out of 3 games, took 3 of 4 against the Magic and split 2 games each against the Spurs, Lakers, Thunder and Mavericks. All of those teams are contenders, and the Bulls have won all of their last 12 games against them combined. They know they can beat anyone and fear none of them.
If you look past the statistical improvements Rose has made this season, and take a closer look at his game, you will notice his improvement in something that can’t be quantified by numbers. Rose seemed almost too comfortable taking a step back and letting others like Ben Gordon and John Salmons try and take over games down the stretch his first 2 seasons. His humbleness was getting in the way of his abilities. This season, no one gets in his way. It’s like he finally realized that he can take anyone off the dribble and get to the rim quicker than anyone I have ever seen. He is 2nd in the league in 4th quarter points, showing the confidence, and ability, to take over games and deliver. His points come in bunches, often when his opponent is trying to make a comeback. He has put more daggers in teams than the Roman Senate.
With so many teams considered a contender this season, a young team like the Bulls are a serious threat because the field is so….
The Lakers are the 2 time defending champs and know as well as anyone that the playoffs are a completely different beast then the regular season. But they finished the season losing 5 out of 7 and big man Andrew Bynum suffered a hyper extended knee that caused him to miss the last 2 games of the season. They say he is fine but this is a kid who has missed 124 games over the last 4 years due to injuries.
The Celtics traded away Kendrick Perkins to the Thunder and that move may end up costing them a chance at another title. Shaq is out with another injury and might not be of much help, if any, in their first round match up against a Knicks team who are primed for an upset. The Celtics just look old and recent uninspired play caused PG Rajon Rondo to call them out on their lack of energy.
The Magic rely too much on Dwight Howard and seem to live and die by the 3 ball. If Howard gets into foul trouble, the Magic are a very suspect team.
The Thunder are also a young team like the Bulls with superstar players like Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook capable of taking over games. But they play middle of the road defense giving up 101 points per game and will have to get out of the west playing on the road.
The Mavericks are the Mavericks. A team not getting any younger whose window may have already passed. Dirk Nowitzki has had an MVP like season but Jason Kidd has really looked his age this year.
The Heat have arguably 2 of the top 5 players in the league in LeBron and Wade but they lack a bench. In a 7 game series, having a solid bench is crucial to take some pressure off the starters and give them some rest. The NBA playoffs are a grind and even the best of players need help.
The Spurs seemingly walked their way to the best record in the west playing outstanding team basketball. But Tim Duncan, their heart and soul, and Manu Ginobili, their MVP, are hurt. If their injuries linger, the Spurs will have a tough time just making it out of the west, even with home court advantage.
So why can’t the Bulls win it this year? Why?……..