Instead of celebrating having won the west, the Bulls cannot get out of Portland fast enough. And next stops – the men’s department at Nordstrom’s, as half the players need suits instead of uniforms – to take their respective places on the bench. And that’s after having spent some quality time in the orthopedic unit of the local hospital.
I’m not so upset any more, about these West coast losses. I’ve come to realize, after seeing K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune post some frightening stats, that unless MJ says, “I’m back” at age 51, the Bulls may never win the west again.
Here are the numbers: Bulls are 18-74 on Circus Trips since the dynasty (MJ, Scottie, etc.) ended.
The true test for these banged up Bulls will be when they’ve returned from the trip and are back on their usual schedule – a mix of Western and Eastern teams, home and away, at a more manageable pace and outside Hollywood and high altitudes.
To make myself feel better, I keep going back to the best game the Bulls have played thus far this year – November 13 vs. the Raptors. The Raps are #1 in the East, a big surprise to everyone, as that spot was to have been held by the Bulls, with the Cavs (not Wiz) following at #2.
[An aside: What do you want me to say? The Cavs didn’t realize they were hiring LeBron as their coach when they brought him on board, and he’s not very good. And evidently, the players don’t like taking direction from him.]
But back to the Bulls vs. Raps. That was ninth game of the season, and it marked the second game in a row the “official” starting lineup played together (DRose / Jo / Pow! / JB / Dun Dun). They beat Detroit on Nov. 10 with that lineup (not so hard to do, sorry Andre Drummond), and convincingly, albeit with much effort, beat the Raps the next game.
The performance vs. the Raps, a team against which the Bulls have struggled in the past – that’s the kind of basketball they’re capable of playing. But they just don’t get the chance.
Other than that, it’s been random lineups, mostly with starter-caliber players coming in and out (Taj, Captain Kirk). But now with DRose, Pow!, Kirk and Taji Woo all being injured – we’ve got backups to the backups playing again. Thibs rolled Big Naz in, and E’Twaun Moore (he backs up Aaron Brooks (AB) at point guard, and AB backs up Captain Kirk, and Captain Kirk backs up DRose).
Right – we’ve got the fourth string PG playing in a game against one of the top teams in the West. How, pray tell, can you beat Damian Lillard that way?
I’m making excuses. Absolutely. “We have more than enough to win with.” But do we have to keep singing that same chorus every single year? Can the Bulls catch some kind of break (other than of a bone), at some point?
Recognizing that it’s most important to have as full an arsenal as possible in April, May and June, I’m fine with getting the injuries out of the way now. The starting lineup, once they re-unite (let’s hope for March) – will win.
And despite missing the Portland game on Friday due to attending a gig at the Vic Theatre, and seeing all the tweets about the loss, and Taj re-injuring his ankle (he was playing on a bad ankle all season…), I watched most of the game on Saturday. Most encouraging was the way the second/third unit combo competed.
Nikola Mirotic / E’Twaun / Doug McBuckets / Tony Snell / Big Naz.
They came in at the end of the second, and I think got the Bulls within four. This was after the Bulls were down by 15 or 17 or something like that. So that’s encouraging. And Nikola’s season-high 24 points, along with 11 rebounds (that’s a double double folks) was probably the brightest spot in this otherwise dismal night in Portland.
Nothing ever seems to go right there. DRose hurt his knee last year, ending his season on the exact same Friday in November that Taj sprained his ankle.
To make myself feel even better, I look at OKC, who lost two starters to injury (Westbrook, Durant), are at the BOTTOM of the Western Conference, at 3-11. What? They were supposed to have contended for the title and they’re giving the 76ers a run for their money with basement positioning?
There is NO way Thibs would ever let the Bulls sink that low, even if he had to play, along with the coaches, and Benny the Bull. No matter what, Thibs would find a way to get some wins, and get the Bulls into playoff positioning.
And with the caliber of a player like Cindy Joy “Cinjo” Olsen becoming available in the near future, after starting lessons with a new coach on November 29 – the sky’s the limit for these Bulls once they’re back in the UC and out of the wild wild west.
And then there are the Cavs. He he. I love to hate them, and their dysfunction. What, exactly, is your excuse, with the LeBron-constructed Big Three, and ESPN pre-game shows in the streets of Cleveland before every home game. The fact the Cavs are 5-7 gives me oh such satisfaction. I guess LBJ’s dual role of “best player on the planet” and Cavs coach is too much for him.
So now it’s on to Utah on Monday and Denver on Tuesday. A win, or two would be nice.
“You’ve got to keep moving forward because the games keep coming,” the Bulls’ Joakim Noah said. “Nobody feels sorry for you so you’ve got to keep going and getting better. Hopefully Taj will be all right.”
See Red! Go Bulls. Beat the Jazz.