Chicago’s tough play has it in the running for the NBA’s best record despite numerous injuries and the uncertainty of its coaching situation.
These guys have been left for dead for most of the season, yet here they are, swarming like starving zombies on a busty teenager in a horror flick.
The Chicago Bulls show up to play every night, no excuses, MVP or not, starting shooting guard or not, coach unsure of his future or not.
Derrick Rose, the catalyst for the resurgence of the Bulls — and last season’s MVP — has been an afterthought, his team winning in spite of his injuries. He has missed 23 games for various injuries.
40-14, First in Eastern Conference
Points: Derrick Rose, 23 ppg
Rebounds: Joakim Noah, 9.7 rpg
Assists: Rose, 7.9 apg
Chicago plays a pivotal game tonight against the Miami Heat as the season grinds down. Can the Bulls hold on to the lead in the Eastern Conference? They’ve done a good job of it so far.
The Bulls have willed their way to wins, going 16-7 in Rose’s absence. It’s obvious that Chicago would rather have its star guard in the lineup, but that hasn’t stopped it from leading the NBA in rebounding or having random players step up.
Without Rose, the Bulls still lead the East by three games over the Heat, the team everyone expects to run away with multiple championships.
Hall of Famer and TNT analyst Charles Barkley sides with the Bulls in a potential Eastern Conference Finals showdown.
“I really think they’re the best team in the East,” Barkley told “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on ESPN 1000 on Wednesday. “People talk about how (Miami) played the Bulls last year, if you go back and look at those games, every one of those games was tied with two minutes to go.”
Without a healthy Rose, it’s safe to assume that the Bulls wouldn’t last in a seven-game series against LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and whatever players suit up for Miami.
A healthy Richard Hamilton would help as well. So would Luol Deng. Both of these players have missed action this season, Rip more than Deng.
Any team must be as healthy as possible to compete for a championship, but going over the top and taking it home, that’s a different story.
Barkley thinks Hamilton will be the difference.
“If Rip Hamilton can play anything like he played last night, I think the Bulls have a really good chance against the Heat. I do. I like that team.”
Hamilton had 20 points and five assists on 7-for-14 shooting in the Bulls’ win over the Knicks on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Bulls Coach Tom Thibodeau is one of the best leaders in the league, yet he doesn’t have a contract extension. Like his team, Thibodeau moves forward. Can it be, a coach with his credentials in such a short amount of time (Coach of the Year last season, fastest coach in NBA history to 100 wins, he has to be in the Coach of the Year running again this season) will be on the market?
Typical Bulls management. This happened even when Phil Jackson served up championships to the Windy City. Why not show Thibs some disrespect, right? If Big Chief Triangle had to go through it, why not the new guy?
Memo to Bulls management: if Chicago wins the title this year, you’ll have to pay Thibodeau more than if you locked him up now.
Heat Going in a Different Direction
What’s going on with these guys?
The Heat notch a huge win against Oklahoma City one week ago then drop two of their next three at home, including a 115-107 stinker to the aging Boston Celtics. To be fair, the Celtics have been playing great basketball lately, but still, these are the Miami Heat.
“None of us were expecting that,” Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said. “To give up 115 points on our home floor, that’s not our style. And we’re being made to feel uncomfortable right now. That’s really the residual of the last three weeks or so.”
It’s not panic time. Nobody’s hurt for Miami. James is still right there with OKC forward Kevin Durant for this year’s MVP. Wade can still ball any time he touches the floor.
So they had a bad game. Two bad games.
“We left Boston feeling awful at our performance,” James said. “I don’t feel as bad tonight. Those guys, they were locked in. Not only did they make their open shots, they made their contested shots. … When you’ve got it going like that, just tip your hat off. We tip our hat off to them tonight. They won it.”
Miami has time to redeem itself. Three games deficit in the standings can be made up quickly, especially since two of Miami’s remaining 10 games are against the Bulls.
This team is talented enough to win a seven-game series if Chicago has home-court advantage.
The question is will the Heat play the way they did against the Thunder or lollygag it the way they did against the Celtics, letting the AARPers drop 115?
Odom His the Road Permanently
Like Rasheed Wallace and Derrick Coleman, Lamar Odom could have been one of those players who terrorized the NBA.
They each have had fine careers, but they could have been near Magic Johnson level. These guys were (and I include Odom in the past tense) power forwards who could stretch the floor well beyond the three-point line. They could get you 10 boards a night. Low post game? Got it.
Odom was even more special. He’s the only player since Magic and possibly, James, who could start at all five positions. Odom once started at point guard with the Clippers. Who do you think was the Lakers’ primary ball handler when they went to the Finals three years straight?
Sadly, last year’s Sixth Man of the Year is an afterthought. He was dealt to the Dallas Mavericks after the failed Chris Paul deal. Odom hasn’t been the same player since.
Dallas got so fed up with Odom’s play and attitude it sent him packing. Inactive for the rest of the year.
The defending champs could have used a player like Odom in the playoffs.
Would the Lakers or Clippers take Odom? Or any NBA team?
Has he become a potential liability? Dennis Rodman, Stephon Marbury, Grant Hill, Greg Oden, Allen Iverson?
Only Hill has proven his worth. Odom’s skill is not in question; it’s his mindset and effort.
Barkley weighed in on this topic yesterday on ESPN Dallas 103.3’s Galloway & Co.
“I always pull for the players, but the fact that they’ve got to pay him, I think is a joke,” he said. “I mean, because he didn’t earn his salary. He didn’t earn it at all.
“I like Lamar as a person, but I’m disappointed about everything that happened in Dallas. And it’s a shame that the Mavs got to pay him, to be honest with you, because he doesn’t deserve to get paid for what he put out there this year. He doesn’t deserve it, plain and simple.”
The Mavericks believe Odom still has trade value.
We’ll see if that’s true during the summer.
Bynum the Brute
It must be noted, the Lakers put up with Andrew Bynum’s antics because of efforts like last night.
Against the surprising Spurs, who are in the running for the league’s best record, Bynum ravaged San Antonio with 30 rebounds. That was the NBA’s first 30-rebound game since Kevin Love got 31 in 2010.
Bynum also contributed 16 points, helping his team to a blowout victory in San Antonio.
The Lakers needed a big effort since their star, Kobe Bryant, the NBA’s leading scorer at 28.1 points per game, sat out his third straight game.
Los Angeles is 2-1 without the Black Mamba, but the Lakers are in a dogfight with the Clippers and the surging Memphis Grizzlies for third place in the Western Conference.