So that’s what it’s going to take for the Bulls to even make the playoffs this year.
Thankfully, the luck of the Irish was on our Bulls’ side on St. Patrick’s Day. Although it seems entirely unlucky to me for the Bulls to take the court in those green Celtics-like jerseys, they still got the W. We can also credit their opponent, the lackluster and hapless Brooklyn Nets. Compared to them, the Bulls actually look competent.
I recently saw an analysis of the Bulls games lost to injuries this season. While I can’t seem to find the article at the moment, I want to say the Bulls lead the league.
And yes, I’m making excuses. By why not, when the first day of practice starts with DRose getting elbowed in the face. Add to that Joakim dislocating his shoulder, Niko Mirotic out for a “routine” appendectomy that ends up costing him months, and Mike Dunleavy with back surgery which meant he didn’t even play until February.
And we haven’t even gotten to Cinjo’s torn medial meniscus or JB’s strained knee.
During one game, a Chicago beat writer claimed our beloved Bulls won because the other team was confounded trying to read the names on the backs of the the Bulls’ jerseys to figure out who was even playing. Felicio? Moore? Holiday? Jrue Holiday is with the Bulls now? No, it’s his bro Justin. Finally, the Bulls have found a winning formula! Confuse opponent by sending in players no one has heard of.
But I’m starting to gain some hope that our Bulls can make a final push to reach the playoffs. And the hope stems from none other than fellow Brooklynite Taj Gibson.
In past years, I’ve written a lot about Jo, who energized his teammates, and appointed himself the dedicated team spokesman. He was also the self-proclaimed resident expert on the adversity the Bulls seemed to endure year after year. But importantly, he played through his injuries, often on one leg or foot.
In his own less animated, nonetheless effective way, Taj seems to recently have taken on that role. He set the example on Thursday playing with an injured hamstring.
As reported by Sam Smith in his blog, Bulls scorch the nets in defeating Brooklyn 118-102, Taj had this to say following the game: “You think about it, but you think about your teammates, really. I’m an unselfish player and I am trying to set a good example for the young guys and go out there and play for each other, especially now with the playoff push. It’s real important now helping each other. So I don’t want them to see any doubt. I told them whatever it takes to win. I told Fred whatever it takes to win I’ll go out and play as hard as I can and when I need a blow just get me. I’m excited we were able to get a win.”
In another article, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times quoted Mike Dunleavy, where he really sums up the Taj effect: “Taj is on a different level. His commitment to the team, the organization, our cause is as big as anyone we have. He lays it all on the line every night. Does whatever it takes, never complains. He’s just a phenomenal teammate. As good as I’ve ever had. I don’t want to say I expect him to do things like that, but it definitely doesn’t surprise me.”
So I feel more hopeful now, with Taj stepping to the forefront. He’s always been a constant and enthusiastic positive presence, but his can-do Brooklyn attitude is needed more than ever now, along with a lot more Irish luck. And good riddance to the injury bug, once and for all.
Beat the Jazz.