by Carlos Nazario
The NBA season is about a quarter done, and we are finding out that this Chicago Bulls is a great TEAM. No, the Bulls do not have the Big 3 like the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics. They do not have an iconic superstar (yet) like the Los Angeles Lakers. There is just no sizzle or flash to the Bulls.
The Bulls own the best record in the NBA at 15-3. No Bull is in the top 10 in any category except assists (Derrick Rose-4th). All they do, to steal the words of DJ Khaled, is win, win, win.
What they do have is a singular focus on team success. Their coach, Tom Thibodeau (a man not many heard of until last season), has a philosophy of team everything, and the players have bought into it. Of course, it helps that the best player, Derrick Rose, is the first to buy it. It can be the most difficult thing to do but Rose puts it simply: “His job is to come up with the game plan, my job is to execute it.”
Thibodeau has the Bulls playing every minute of every game. Guard Ronnie Brewer acknowledges that the players want to use their instincts and gamble, but Thibodeau preaches against it. “It’s tough for us, because it’s all instinct. You want to go gambling and go get the ball. For the good of the team, you can’t really pick your spots, and you’ve just got to play the defense.”
That defense is the best in the NBA right now. The Bulls are allowing the fewest points in the league at 85.33, more than 3 points better than the next best team. They also lead the league in rebound differential, and are 3rd in blocks per game.
The defense is even stronger at home. They have only allowed an average of 74.3 points per game at the Madhouse on Madison, also known as the United Center. They have done this while battling injuries to key players.
Derrick Rose missed all last week with a sprained big toe. Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah missed the last game with sprained ankles. Rip Hamilton has missed 10 games this season. CJ Watson has missed 11 games due to an elbow injury. Now comes word that Luol Deng may miss the next game with a wrist problem.
The Bulls just input a player and just keep rolling. While teams like the Celtics, Heat, and Lakers are struggling to get going consistently, the Bulls are in midseason form. While they have a grueling early schedule (they are in the midst of an 18 game in 24 day stretch), things will get less hectic toward the end of the season, with a great deal of home games and days off to prepare for the playoffs.
While not having household name players or coach, the Bulls are now receiving some attention. In a recent survey of NBA General Managers, the Bulls were getting some love. In that survey, 66.7% of GM’s picked the Bulls as having the best defense in the league. In the last few surveys, the Celtics were chosen as having the best defense. Thibodeau was the architect of that Celtics defense.
Of course, the GM’s still are not convinced. Only 3.7% of them think the Bulls will win the East or win the Finals. I am sure that Thibodeau will use that as another log to the fire for the Bulls. It should be a fun ride to the end!