The most valuable player of the regular season, the coach of the year, over 60 wins and a number one seed in the playoffs. All are features of the 2011 Chicago Bulls.
This weekend the Bulls meet Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, Tyler Hansborough and the energetic Indiana Pacers in the first round of the National Basketball Association playoffs. Chicago should slip past the Pacers without breaking much of a sweat, entering one of the most star-studded second rounds in recent league history.
If all goes as planned, the Eastern Conference semi-finals will pit the Derrick Rose-led Bulls against Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic. The Magic bring several straight years of going deep in the playoffs to the table against the Bulls. The Magic reached the Finals the season before last, where they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in five games. The team has a similar core to that Finals season, with point guard Jameer Nelson, JJ Redick and Hedu Turkoglu acting as Howard’s sidekicks.
The Miami Heat or Boston Celtics could stand in the Bulls’ way next, but the talent of the Bulls starting five will just be too much. In fact, there are some major similarities between this current Bulls team and the championship teams of the 90s.
First of all, the Bulls have a legitimate superstar in Derrick Rose. He’s a top five player and he’s a game changer. He has the ability to single-handedly take over games in the final minutes. Derrick Rose is not Michael Jordan. But who is? Rose shouldn’t really even be compared to Jordan, only that he has skills that make the entire league notice.
Rose has something that no one else in the league has. He’s a point guard in a two-guard’s body, but he’s the quickest player in the league. He has a 40-inch vertical and he’s added a three-point shot and a mid-range game. He’s the whole package.
Luol Deng is the perfect wing player – long arms, great jumper, smothering defence – a similar sidekick to what Jordan had in Scottie Pippen. Joakim Noah plays a lot like Dennis Rodman did – an energetic workhorse – and Carlos Boozer, finally healthy, complete the Bulls lean and mean front line that can score and rebound.
At the controls of this operation, the Bulls have rookie head coach in Tom Thibodeau. If you look back over the last 25 years of pro basketball, only a handful of coaches have been at the helm of the winning teams. Over the last 15 seasons, only five coaches won championships in Phil Jackson, Greg Popovich, Pat Riley, Doc Rivers and Larry Brown.
If the Bulls do make their way into the Finals, they could be matched up against the Lakers, who are searching for their third title in a row in coach Phil Jackson’s final season before retirement. Then again they could face a veteran Spurs team with Greg Popovich searching for his fifth ring with the club.
Ultimately the Bulls have the players, coach and the momentum. Will it be enough to win their first championship post-Jordan era? This writer thinks so.