It’s very difficult to win a championship quickly in the NBA. The Miami Heat sort of did it, but even after pairing two of the game’s best players in LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, they still needed to go through a year of losing before finally putting it all together and winning the ultimate prize, a championship, albeit two in a row.
But the point is this: it takes time for a team to really get it. And for the Chicago Bulls, the time is now.
I’ve been a Bulls fan since the summer of 1993, right after the Bulls had won their 3rd straight championship. I was still rooting for them even when they got rid of everyone in 1998, becoming one of the worst teams for the next few years to come. As a result the best nights of the season for fans were draft nights, where we watched and prayed that we select the next Great Bull. Unfortunately, none of them turned out to be a success. They either never reached their potential (Eddy Curry, Marcus Fizer, Chris Mihm), suffered a devastating injury (Jay Williams), or found success on other teams (Ron Artest, Elton Brand, LaMarcus Aldridge). But those days are long gone.
While this may have taken years to come together, since the Bulls drafted their core players of Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, and Derrick Rose in 2004, 2007 and 2008, respectively, it didn’t really start to make sense until the Bulls hired Tom Thibodeau to take over the team in the 2010-2011 season. That year, they established themselves as one of the best defensive teams in the league, finishing 1st in the NBA in defense. Offensively, Rose put together a season worthy enough to be named the youngest MVP in NBA history. They lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Miami Heat, but one thing remained certain: this Bulls team was a contender.
With everyone back the following year, the consensus was that the Bulls would be one of the top teams again, to which they were. They finished with the league’s best record, but after Rose went down with the knee injury in the first game of the playoffs, their hopes were shot. They lost in the first round, having to wait another year.
The 2012-2013 season may have seemed like a wash for the Bulls being without Rose for the year, but it was anything but that. This season cemented the idea that the Bulls are a proven team, and when they are healthy and all on the floor, they are as good as anyone. These past few years they’ve put together the kinds of pieces you need to win a championship in players like Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler, guys who will never be the best on their team, but are just as important. They brought back Kirk Hinrich, who was drafted #7 by the Bulls in the 2003 draft. He’s bounced around since, but he’s been at his best as a Bull, and the fans love him. Taking Rose’s place is a tough task, but Kirk did so this past season with major success, running the offense and taking care of the ball, to the point where the team often looked lost without him.
They also signed Carlos Boozer, who’s proven his worth with inspired play and quality production, averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds in his 3 years as a Bull. Critics have insisted that he should be doing more, but there are few big guys in the NBA who can do what he does, and that’s give you consistent shooting, unselfishness, the ability to finish around the rim with both hands, and the acceptance of not being THE MAN. Sometimes talented players take it upon themselves to take tough shots at the end of games and do things that’s out of their character, but he is not that player, and he doesn’t try to be. In most close games, you can usually find Boozer on the bench, cheering for his teammates. People have been quick to criticize, but I’ll take Carlos Boozer on my team any day.
And with the 20th pick of the 2013 NBA Draft, the Bulls have chosen Tony Snell, a junior from the University of New Mexico. Since I don’t follow college basketball much I knew little about him, but a good source and close friend of mine called me raving. ‘You’re gonna love him Joey,’ he told me. ‘The kid’s a player.’ And on he went. He can shoot. He can defend. And he’s ‘no bullshit.’ I was loving everything I heard, so I quickly watched some highlights, and I agree; the kid is nice. Snell and Murphy are picks that make sense, giving the Bulls scoring and size. Snell seems like a natural, and with the character of veterans that will surround him, I have no doubt that he can be an effective player for years to come. Standing at 6’5″ with a 7’0″ wingspan, I’m already having visions of my favorite Bull ever, Scottie Pippen.
The 2013-2014 Chicago Bulls are going to be ready to take it all, and I cannot wait to watch how it all goes down.