I was debating with a friend of me, is it more painful to lose in the superbowl or more painful to lose to the Packers in the NFC title game? I'm not sure of the answer to that question, but I do know that it's no fun to Be a Bears fan right now.
Now you could simply sit in your misery until September, or perhaps until baseball season starts, but really, baseball season's merely going to compound that misery even more isn't it?
What you could do instead is take in some Chicago Bulls basketball and watch one of the rising young superstars of the NBA. A Chicago kid. A humble kid. The kind of player you like to root for. It's difficult to imagine a player who you'd want to win more than Derrick Rose, and he wants it just as badly.
So if you're just coming out of your football oriented man cave, here's a brief overview of everything you need to know about the Chicago Bulls.
Derrick Rose is a legitimate superstar
Through his first two years, Rose was hyped as a future superstar. I didn't think he had it in him to get there. His hype greatly exceeded his performance. He was really good, but he was far from greatness.
I was wrong.
Derrick Rose has ascended to a legitimate superstardom level. Teams play the Jordan rules on him. Double teaming him behind the three point line with two guys ready to step up and defend him in the paint after he breaks through the double team.
Despite playing much of this season without a legitimate second scoring option, Rose has dropped phenomenal numbers. At one point, he was a one way player, but even that can't be said anymore as he's transformed into a good defender.
Derrick Rose is a legitimate top 5 in the NBA candidate. The only player who's clearly better in my opinion is LeBron James. Everyone else is an argument (though Kobe, Wade, and Howard might win that argument, it's still an argument).
Joakim Noah is a crapload better than you think he is
There is this wide spread belief that Noah is simply a hustle player or a defender. However, this is simply not true. In fact, the Bulls miss Joakim on offense more so than on defense right now. Noah provides many fairly unique attributes out of the center position that aren't as obvious to the casual fan but make a huge difference in how teams can defend the Bulls.
1: He's an exceptional ball handler for his size. Joakim can take the rebound and lead a fast break. You typically don't want your center doing this, but the ability for the center to initiate the break for the first 10 feet and then pass the ball up while on the move and fill the lane really causes tremendous havoc for the opposing defense.
His ability to handle the ball also makes it very easy for the Bulls to break back court presses, because Noah's so athletic that the opposing center isn't going to try and chase him around in the backcourt, because he'll get beat off the dribble and create an opening for the Bulls.
2: He's an exceptional interior passer. Noah has never been known as a great low post scorer, but it's easy to run your offense through him because he passes so well. He hits cutters to the basket, runs the give and go, and can kick it out to the perimeter if teams leave someone open.
3: His low post game isn't as bad as you think. He's not Ben Wallace down there, and he does create his own shot in the post. More often he passes out to an open man, but if teams defend him with a smaller body, Noah can go up and score on them.
4: His jumper looks funny, but it's not that bad. He's not a dead eye mid range shooter by any stretch, but he's around a 40% guy from there, and as long as he has time to get his fairly slow, low release off, his accuracy is pretty good. Teams that simply dare Noah to beat them by leaving him wide open typically lose that dare.
5: Defensively, he's not great on man defense in the paint against big bodies. This causes some to question what type of defender he is. However, he's a magnificent help defender and can man up on guards on a pick and roll switch and play them effectively. Last season, Noah shut down Chris Paul, one of the fast guards in the league, on two consecutive plays when isolated after a pick and role switch. The value in that is tremendous as there might not be another center in the league who can do that.
Luol Deng's contract stinks, but he doesn't
You may have heard die hard Bulls fans wanting to jettison this guy. However, right now the Bulls won't get any significant value for Deng in terms of players, and the salary relief is meaningful. Lost in the fact that Dengs contract isn't pretty on the books is that Dengs a darn good basketball player.
He's been the Bulls best perimeter defender all season long, and he's routinely done a magnificent job defensively. His offense is hit or miss, but he's added a three point shot to his arsenal to help space the floor for Rose and typically does a decent job of getting to the free throw line.
Deng's Achilles heal is that he can't create his own shot in isolation. As such, many people think he stinks. However, he typically knows his strengths and weaknesses and plays within his game. When his offense stinks, he almost always contributes big on the defensive end and on the glass.
By the way, his contract is 30% deferred, so the cash value of it isn't nearly as bad as the cap value. This means that the owners aren't hurt nearly as much in the pocketbook as they are in terms of salary cap which could make the contract more movable than many people think.
Carlos Boozer has given the Bulls the post offense they've been looking for forever but it comes at a cost
Boozer is a guy you'll love and you'll hate. His offense is something the Bulls have desperately needed, and he can spell Rose because the Bulls can dump the ball into him and let him create his own shot and get a high percentage look out of it.
For a long time, the Bulls have lacked isolation scorers, and they haven't had a big man isolation threat since Eddy Curry. Boozer provides that, and there are times where it makes life much easier for the Bulls.
On top of that, Boozer fits well into a pick and pop or pick and roll game with Derrick Rose. He's done a good job finishing at the basket and knocking down his jumper when teams double Derrick. Boozer is doing a nice job of lifting the Bulls offense.
The downsides to Boozer are that the defense simply isn't that good. He often doesn't get out to defend stretch fours (power forwards who can shoot), and he frequently gives up on making a defensive play in order to secure rebounding position if the player misses.
On offense, the Bulls generate a lot of turnovers trying to feed Boozer, and Boozer generates quite a few himself with ball handling turnovers and offensive fouls.
These weaknesses are all worth it as Boozer gives the Bulls offense a ton of versatility, but there are times they will have you pulling your hair out.
Keith Bogans starts, but he's not really a starter
People have been really upset with Bogans starting the game. I've been leading the charge. However, it's worth noting that he simply doesn't play many minutes, so while the problem of Bogans playing has been a problem, it's not as big of one as it can be made out to be.
We simply need to find something to bitch about, because we don't want to spend all day patting the Bulls on the back, it's not really conversational.
As for his play, it's been much better lately. At his best, he defends well and knocks down open jumpers. Early in the season he was defending terribly and shooting terribly, but he's done better at both recently.
Ronnie Brewer is a defensive spark off the bench
He absolutely terrorizes opposing offenses at times. He's the Ben Gordon of defense (or the Manu Ginobili of defense for you Gordon haters). He comes in disrupts the passing lanes, gets physical with the opposing guard and really takes teams out of their game.
He can't shoot threes to save his life, but his mid range shot is decent despite the funky release and he uses his athleticism to get a lot of finishes at the basket. He's a very smart player and knows where to move if the defense cheats off of him to get easy looks and thus typically generates around 12-14 points per 36 minutes of high efficiency offense.
Kyle Korver proves that three point percentage isn't a good indicator of how good a shooter you are
Watching how much space is on the floor when Korver is out there versus how much space is on the floor when he's not is mind blowing.
Not all 40% three point shooters are created equally. Korver is a 40% shooter because the defense never, ever, ever wants to give him an open look at a three. He has a quick release and is deadly when left open.
His percentage is low due to the volume of high difficulty threes he takes that other players simply wouldn't attempt. It's also worth noting that he's probably 3x the defender you think he is (well you probably think he's one of the worst in the league).
He puts in a ton of effort on that side and while he lacks some of the physical tools you want, the effort does a great job of making up for it.
C.J. Watson has grown into his role of backup PG
Watson has disappointed most Bulls fans since coming to the team. His scoring has been down, and he's had a tough time simply running the offense. He played much better in the Golden State system where he had more of a Derrick Rose type role of simply opening it up and trying to score.
However, he's a better hedge to a Rose injury than most think, because if called on to create his own shot and score with enough volume to find his shot, he can really turn it on. His three point shooting has given the Bulls a big lift, and his defense has been surprisingly good off the bench.
Taj Gibson is a great hedge to our front court injuries
He's played much, much better when he has a more defined larger role. When the team needs him, he's generally come through. He's very active on defense, a very good help defender, but can get beasted by guys who have a significant physical size advantage. He does bring shot blocking, particularly with very good weak side help and a lot of hustle and energy to the table.
His rebounding can be hit or miss as he doesn't have the strength to box out a lot of guys he's defending and is more of an athletic rebounder. He does better on the offensive end where he can use his length and speed to get around people and tip the ball than on the defensive end where he has to hold guys back.
Offensively, he's decent at everything but good at nothing. He can give you something in the low post and has games where he's money with his mid range shot, but he's not consistent with either. He'll do a lot of his offensive damage through put backs and tips and gathering offensive boards.
Kurt Thomas defies the laws of physics
I don't know what to think of Kurt Thomas. The dude looks like he's 20-30lbs overweight, he's one of the slowest guys in the league, he doesn't have the size to play center, and he has no athleticism to make up for it.
It sounds like he sucks, doesn't it? He should suck. There's no way he should be good at defense. Yet, somehow, he's not just good, he's awesome at it.
I don't know if I've ever seen a big man with more clean strips of the ball on driving guards or big men than Thomas. He blocks a crazy number of shots given his athleticism and lack of size as well. He always makes smart fouls, never giving up an and one and only fouling when he knows he's been beat.
This guy must be a basketball genius. Whatever he's got, if you bottle it and sell it, I'm buying it. Offensively, he's got a mid range jumper, but his slow release means he needs to be pretty open to shoot it. He'll get the occasional put back or score down low, but he's providing fairly little on that end.
Omer Asik has shown why the Bulls gave up three second rounders to get him
He's had his ups and downs, he's very raw offensively, and he needs to add a lot of strength, but he's shown tremendous defensive instincts and at times has flashed the nastiness to be a physical interior player.
He comes in for stretches now and is up and down, but if he hits the weight room hard in the off-season, he'll be a real contributor in the future and can still help some today.
James Johnson has shown flashes, but has been banished
Johnson has played solid defense at times, and can bring a lot of energy to the table. There are two games the Bulls won in which Johnson was the primary catalyst in turning the game around which isn't so bad for a 12th man.
However, inconsistency, poor decision making, and having trouble finding the line between trying to do too much and not trying to do enough have caused Thibodeau to lose confidence in him.
He's a guy who might surprise if given a chance to play consistently somewhere, but he isn't likely to get that chance here.
Brian Scalabrine gets cheered insane amounts and it's kind of embarrassing
I'm not sure why Scalabrine gets insane cheers when he comes into the game. He's kind of a human victory cigar as he only enters when the game is out of reach. However, it strikes me as odd that only white human victory cigars seem to get this treatment (at least in my recollection, I hope someone has a counter example), and I find it a bit disconcerting. Let's not pile on to this trend.
Tom Thibodeau might be your coach of the year
I hate a great feeling about Thibodeau outside the gates. When we made the hire, I was excited, and he's proven my faith was well placed.
The Bulls have the #1 defense in the NBA in defensive rating (which means when you adjust for pace and all that other junk, the Bulls are really the best). That's a testament to coaching.
The Bulls are on pace to win 56 games despite missing a combined 38 games from Noah and Boozer with only 44 games played. That's fairly amazing.
Derrick Rose went from defensive sieve to potential defensive stud. Everyone on their team is really playing at a pretty high level relative to expectations, and the team had found ways to win lots of games you didn't think they could.
Give Thibodeau a ton of credit for molding this team which included 8 new players and had significant injuries into one which looks like a team that's a legitimate championship contender. The Bulls have played through a lot of hardship already and come out of it looking really good.
Put Carmelo out of your mind
If you are a casual fan, you've probably heard about Carmelo Anthony wanting to get traded and potentially coming to the Bulls. It's not going to happen, so don't get too worked up over it.
The Bulls aren't likely to win the championship this year. They don't have the pieces to make a trade to put them over the top, and they probably don't have quite enough talent right now to do it either.
They're close though, and they're one of maybe seven or eight teams that have a legitimate chance to win the title. The Bulls haven't played their best basketball yet, as they haven't had a chance to have the whole team come together fully healthy either.
As such, they have some upside to the very high level they're playing at right now. It's an exciting time to be a Bulls fan as they're set up to sustain this run for the next few years at the very least.