The Chicago Bulls are off to a 2-0 start, and the general buzz, while not over-dramatic, is a clear omen of the danger of investing in this season.
Before the season began, most expectations were rationally subdued. The idea that the Bulls would play well enough to compete for a playoff spot was far from out of the question, but winning their division again, or doing anything in the playoffs, were not popular opinions. Although we are only two games into the season, there has been a subtle and foreboding shift in this outlook.
After last night's 115-86 stomping of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Bulls already have some thinking the team could be better without Derrick Rose than first thought. Highlighted by a rejuvenated-looking Rip Hamilton, and the new talk of the town in Carlos Boozer's back-to-back dunks, winning the division has become a more popular notion overnight.
The Bulls could easily win this division. The Indiana Pacers likely pose the biggest threat to the Bulls, and that team still has plenty to prove. Tom Thibodeau is one of the best coaches in the NBA, and is praised for his ability to get the most out of his roster, especially during the regular season. The Bulls will play well in the regular season, and if pressed to decide, I would bet that they do win their division. What, then, is danger with the Bulls' 2-0 start?
Glimpses of excellence from Boozer, Hamilton, Joakim Noah and newcomers like Nate Robinson mean nothing. The Bulls were disappointing at best without Rose in last season's playoffs. Losing Noah certainly made the matter amplified, but the loss of Rose instantly had this team reeling. If we start believing that the roster without Rose may be better than we thought, then the next step is believing that the team may have a chance to do damage in the playoffs once, or if Rose returns.
I want the Bulls to win an NBA Championship, I just do not want to trick myself into believing they can when I know, realistically, that I should not believe it. Even with a healthy Rose last year, advancing past the second round of the playoffs would have been no guarantee. Last year was the Miami Heat's season, and, while I would have reveled in it if they found a way to do it, I do not see the Bulls eliminating the Heat, even if they were able to make it to that point.
That being said, even if Rose is able to come back early enough to be in prime basketball-shape by the time the playoffs begin this season, it would make no sense to believe that this year's squad will fare any better in they playoffs. With that, the core of the issue with the Bulls; 2-0 start becomes obvious.
Once we begin over-valuing the Bulls' roster without Derrick Rose, we come closer to over-estimating what the team will, or can, do once he returns. First, no one knows when Rose will come back, or how long it will take for him to resemble the MVP we have all grown accustomed to. There is no reason to believe in this team any more than you did a week ago, and there is no reason to forget what you have learned in the playoffs the last two seasons.
Everyone should enjoy this season, if you want to. Bulls basketball is fun, and its good to know that the team can still be entertaining to watch without Rose on the court. My recommendation is only not to allow yourself to get hurt.
In the grand scheme of things, the Bulls realistically need to build a new core around Rose before competing for a NBA Championship actually looks like a viable option, and that will take some time.