The Chicago Bulls have played six games since star point Derrick Rose's groin started bleeding, winning five of them. This would be unlikely and impressive against even the league's most limp bottom-feeders, but, of course, that's hardly the case.
The Bulls beat the Miami Heat and made me openly wonder if this team is gifted with that inherent intangible of "being special". And that was before they squashed a Philadelphia 76ers team that still sort of terrifies me and held the Orlando Magic -- the current No. 3 seed in the two-dog Eastern Conference -- to a franchise worst 59 points during a decisive 26 point beat-down. Chicago's last two wins, both over the lowly Toronto Raptors, have been less resounding, though almost as endearing given the complete lack of style points.
Along the way, these Bulls made head coach Tom Thibodeau the quickest ever to 100 career victories, ran their record up to a relatively mind-blowing 40-10 and furthered their lead over Miami for the top seed in the Eastern Conference to 3.5 games.
Did we mention this was all without Derrick Rose? Yes Chicago, your Bulls are a force of nature. Their massive, unimpeded success is as thorough as it is bewildering.
After the win over Orlando, ESPN Chicago columnist Jon Greenberg noted that the Magic -- talented and flawed as they are -- are the NBA's reality; the Bulls are the NBA's ideal. It's true, and it makes you wonder what we did to deserve this. At least so far as the regular season goes, the Bulls have proven themselves to be nothing short of invincible.
I also wonder if such routine dominance gets these Bulls taken for granted, not by the locals as much as the national trendsetters. There's narrative here, but it doesn't whack you over the head. There's no Linsanity, no coach drama, no star player trying to force his way to another city. The Bulls just win, and it's almost sort of boring. There is nothing else.
Aside from being the league's most talented team, the Heat are also the most thought-provoking. They harvest the ability to make you reconsider the sport -- no one else can deconstruct and reconstruct the actual game itself (positions, strategies, ect.) like Miami. The Oklahoma City Thunder are like the Bulls in many ways -- young, humble, hungry, composed. Still, OKC seems to get twice as much attention as our Bulls; crazy, given the fact they play in freaking Oklahoma City. The Lakers and Clippers have the appeal of Hollyweird in addition to very real internal turmoil.
The Bulls, they just skate along. Their lone offseason addition, guard Richard Hamilton, has played just 16 games. The Bulls keep winning. Rose has missed 32 percent of the season. The Bulls keep winning. Luol Deng has a lingering wrist injuring that will affect him for the rest of the year....
You get the point. I worry the Bulls may have already reached "championship-or-bust" status, which is inevitable if you can sustain this type of regular season success. No coach has ever won back-to-back Coach of the Year awards, but it certainly seems like Thibodeau will do just that. And it's true: until the Bulls actually defeat Miami and then win an NBA championship, it's hard to be satisfied. But it's impossible to deny that something special is going on with Chicago's pro basketball team, and that deserves to be appreciated even if we don't get our seventh Grant Park victory parade.
This isn't a call to settle; more a polite request to be grateful for what's happening here. This team is a joy, and I'm thankful they play in my hometown. You should be, too.
2. Here's what Thibodeau had to say after the Bulls' 102-101 overtime win over the Toronto Raptors on Saturday:
"We were very fortunate, lucky," Thibodeau said. "They outplayed us from the start, dominated us, outrebounded us by 14, played harder. We didn't play well.
"We talk about readiness to play. First quarter, 30 points with poor defensive transition, poor challenging shots, poor executing offense. It's disappointing. And this is two games in a row.
"It's everybody. It starts with me. I have to do a better job of having them ready. We're heading down the stretch and this is about building the right habits and improving. We haven't done that the last two games. We have to change that fast."
The man is not easily pleased.
3. Joakim Noah was ejected from Saturday's win for picking up a double technical after tossing the ball at a referee. Like all great men, he immediately took to Twitter:
Real shit day— Joakim Noah (@JoakimNoah) March 25, 2012
4. Speaking of Noah, this wouldn't be a "Bulls Notebook" without some 'finger gunz' talk. No .gifs this time, but instead a quick story on the Marquette v. Florida Sweet 16 game from former Golden Eagle and current Bulls rookie forward Jimmy Butler. Emphasis mine:
"It was tough. They played hard, didn’t make any shots, didn’t guard the way I thought they were going to guard and it didn’t help that I had Jo in my ear, in my face, doing his pistols when he didn’t make any shots," said Butler, who watched the game with Noah.
5. Oh, so you want .gifs? Fine, fine. Have your .gifs:
First ballot .gif Hall of Fame, so far as I'm concerned. Someone alert Jon Bois.
This one was good, too.