It should be one of the few things that Paxson and Forman have to smile about...right now at least. And as a fan, you should give some credit where credit is due too.
Thats because the Chicago Bulls are playing good basketball, and they are doing it in spite of what everyone had to say about the departure of the "bench mob".
That group consisting of Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, C.J. Watson, John Lucas III, Omer Asik, and a hint of Mike James did some great things for the Chicago Bulls over the previous two season, only to be shown the door due to impending salary cap issues to come over the next 2 years.
Queue Bulls fans' disgust.
But whether or not you miss Kyle Korver's Urban Outfitters hair, or John Lucas' Mighty Mouse bravado, or Omer Asik's dolphin-handed shot blocks, you're going to have to start getting used to this new bunch.
Why? Because they are better than the old one.
Last season, the Chicago Bulls were 18-9 without Derrick Rose in the lineup. This year? 19-13, and in first place in the division. I won't even mention that all of the new guys, except for perhaps Nate Robinson, are unfamiliar with Thibodeau's system.
Here is a breakdown of last year's 18 wins/losses without Derrick Rose:
|-6.9||18-9 SU||14-12-1 ATS||184||10-16-1|
|1/11/12||vs Wizards||-11.5||W 78-64||W||180.5||U|
|1/16/12||at Grizzlies||-2||L 86-102||L*||174||O|
|1/17/12||vs Suns||-9.5||W 118-97||W||182.5||O|
|1/20/12||at Cavaliers||-5.5||W 114-75||W||185||O|
|1/21/12||vs Bobcats||-12.5||W 95-89||L||184||P|
|2/10/12||at Bobcats||-13.5||W 95-64||W||182||U|
|2/12/12||at Celtics||-1||L 91-95||L*||171.5||O|
|2/14/12||vs Kings||-11||W 121-115||L||186.5||O|
|2/16/12||vs Celtics||-8||W 89-80||W||179.5||U|
|2/18/12||vs Nets||-11.5||L 85-97||L*||189||U|
|3/14/12||vs Heat||+3||W 106-102||W*||189||O|
|3/16/12||vs Trailblazers||-8.5||L 89-100||L*||194||U|
|3/17/12||vs 76ers||-4||W 89-80||W||184.5||U|
|3/19/12||at Magic||+2||W 85-59||W*||183.5||U|
|3/21/12||at Raptors||-7||W 94-82||W||183.5||U|
|3/24/12||vs Raptors||-12.5||W 102-101||L||182.5||O|
|3/26/12||vs Nuggets||-7.5||L 91-108||L*||198.5||O|
|3/28/12||at Hawks||-4||W 98-77||W||181.5||U|
|3/30/12||vs Pistons||-11||W 83-71||W||181.5||U|
|4/1/12||at Thunder||+6||L 78-92||L||191.5||U|
|4/2/12||vs Rockets||-7.5||L 93-99||L*||185||O|
|4/5/12||vs Celtics||-7||W 93-86||P||178||O|
|4/10/12||vs Knicks||-7||W 98-86||W||187||U|
|4/16/12||vs Wizards||-13||L 84-87||L*||187||U|
|4/18/12||at Bobcats||-13||W 100-68||W||179||U|
|4/19/12||at Heat||+6.5||L 72-83||L||183.5||U|
|4/26/12||vs Cavaliers||-14.5||W 107-75||W||183||U|
Sure, they had a win over the Miami Heat, and they beat the Celtics twice, Knicks, and Hawks. They did manage to lose to an awful Nets and Wizards team. The rest of their wins were against extremely mediocre teams. Even the Knicks were only an 8th seed last year.
Now, lets look at this year:
|Fri 2||@ ClevelandQuicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH||W 115-86|
|Sat 3||vs New OrleansUnited Center, Chicago, IL||L 82-89|
|Tue 6||vs OrlandoUnited Center, Chicago, IL||W 99-93|
|Thu 8||vs Oklahoma CityUnited Center, Chicago, IL||L 91-97|
|Sat 10||vs MinnesotaUnited Center, Chicago, IL||W 87-80|
|Mon 12||vs BostonUnited Center, Chicago, IL||L 95-101|
|Wed 14||@ PhoenixUS Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ||W 112-106|
|Sat 17||@ L.A. ClippersStaples Center, Los Angeles, CA||L 80-101|
|Sun 18||@ PortlandRose Garden, Portland, OR||L 94-102|
|Wed 21||@ HoustonToyota Center, Houston, TX||L 89-93|
|Sat 24||@ MilwaukeeBMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI||W 93-86|
|Mon 26||vs MilwaukeeUnited Center, Chicago, IL||L 92-93|
|Wed 28||vs DallasUnited Center, Chicago, IL||W 101-78|
|Sat 1||vs PhiladelphiaUnited Center, Chicago, IL||W 93-88|
|Tue 4||vs IndianaUnited Center, Chicago, IL||L 76-80|
|Wed 5||@ ClevelandQuicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH||W 95-85|
|Fri 7||@ DetroitPalace of Auburn Hills, Detroit, MI||W 108-104|
|Sat 8||vs New YorkUnited Center, Chicago, IL||W 93-85|
|Tue 11||vs L.A. ClippersUnited Center, Chicago, IL||L 89-94|
|Wed 12||@ PhiladelphiaWells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA||W 96-89|
|Sat 15||vs BrooklynUnited Center, Chicago, IL||W 83-82|
|Mon 17||@ MemphisFedExForum, Memphis, TN||L 71-80|
|Tue 18||vs BostonUnited Center, Chicago, IL||W 100-89|
|Fri 21||@ New YorkMadison Square Garden, New York, NY||W 110-106|
|Sat 22||@ AtlantaPhilips Arena, Atlanta, GA||L 75-92|
|Tue 25||vs HoustonUnited Center, Chicago, IL||L 97-120|
|Sat 29||vs WashingtonUnited Center, Chicago, IL||W 87-77|
|Mon 31||vs CharlotteUnited Center, Chicago, IL||L 81-91|
|Wed 2||@ OrlandoAmway Center, Orlando, FL||W 96-94|
|Fri 4||@ MiamiAmerican Airlines Arena, Miami, FL||W 96-89|
|Mon 7||vs ClevelandUnited Center, Chicago, IL||W 118-92|
There were definitely some disconcerting losses at the start of the season. To be fair, though, you'd expect that from a new look team with guys in different roles. But, you can't deny what's been happening lately.
They have wins over Miami, Boston, Brooklyn (much better this year), and two wins over New York, which is a far better team this year. That Miami win? That was a road win against a World Champion Miami Heat.
The biggest caveat to all of these statistics is the fact that last year's team had Derrick Rose waiting in the wings the whole time. The city was energized and the focus was on winning every single game to eventually match-up with the Miami Heat to play for the NBA finals.
This year's team has had a much different focus. Most people in Chicago, some even very close to the team, have assured the fans to "relax", that this is not their year to win an NBA championship. That this was just a year to exercise a few 1-year contracts and ease Derrick Rose back, almost similar to the Dallas Mavericks' "missed on D-Will and D-12" plan.
But where they sit now, it can't be overlooked. This team, with Robinson, Bellinelli, Gibson, Butler, Hinrich, and Teague all making up the eventual bench for Rose when he comes back, can play every bit as good a brand of basketball as the old benchmob. Omer Asik's departure certainly hurts, but other than that the Bulls appear to have improved.
Bellinelli is more dynamic than Korver, and actually plays some defense. Robinson plays as much defense as Watson, but can light it up for Lucas and Watson combined. Butler is Brewer but with a higher ceiling. Teague can come in and control the game as well as play defense, so can Hinrich. And Gibson has shown lately why many expected he'd improve into a top 6th man in the NBA.
So for all their faults, credit is due to the Bulls organization that frugally replaced the bench with guys that can play. And, they may have just given us a legitimate shot at returning to the Eastern Conference Finals.