Indeed it does Joakim.
When asked about Chicago Bulls First Team All-NBA Center Joakim Noah how he felt coming into this season, the word new was used quite a bit.
And that might be the perfect word to describe the Bulls this coming season, new. A fresh start in all phases was needed, no one more so in the league than Derrick Rose. Even after completing a rather grueling schedule of 9 games in 2 weeks that was the FIBA World Championships in late August and early September, many are still skeptical about whether if Rose can stay in one piece for all 82 games. I, unfortunately am too.
But Rose isn’t worried, as he has noted on numerous occasions this offseason that he has never felt better and had more confidence in his health than at this point. In fact, Rose isn’t worried about another thing that’s rather important either, “I know I’m going to win a championship soon. So I’m not worried about that,” explained Rose during his Bulls media day press conference.
For a man coming off two knee surgeries and the fact that his team hasn’t been able to beat a LeBron James led team in a playoff series, Derrick Rose seems pretty confident.
Eastern Conference beware.
One Goal, #7.
Before I began writing this season’s preview, I decided to take a look back at last year’s preview. A whole lot of hype around Rose coming back and being the same player, the great chemistry the starting lineup of Rose, Butler, Deng, Boozer and Noah would have and how the Bulls seriously had a shot last season.
Then 10 games in Rose blows out his other knee, Deng gets traded for a few draft picks, a bag of chips and the rights to Andrew Bynum (the chips were the better deal of the three) and if it weren’t for the inspirational play of Noah and the genius signing of D.J. Augustin midway through the season, the Bulls might have been a lottery team.
Point being, the Bulls organization needed a fresh start, cut ties with surviving the season and begin to dominate it instead. No one is a bigger critic of GM John Paxson and VP of Operations Gar Forman than me, and they did a hell of a job this season.
They went all out on Carmelo Anthony, who decided that money was better than winning, and instead signed PF Pau Gasol and arguably the best player in Europe in Nikola Mirotic. Add in drafting 2013-14 Wooden Award winner Doug McDermott and veteran scoring PG Aaron Brooks, if Tom Thibodeau says “we have more than enough to win” I think I’d actually believe him.
Even if they didn’t get Carmelo, the Bulls made it very clear this off season that they are a force to be reckoned with and no goal is more important than the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Still starts with Derrick
It has been said many times and many ways, Derrick Rose must be healthy for the Bulls to have a shot any of their goals. He has to dominate again. By playing for Team USA this summer, Rose showed he still has no fear going to the rim and can still drive past anyone guarding him at any point.
Sure there is plenty of rust on his shot, as he did go 1-19 from beyond-the-arc. But there once was a time when he had the most dominant mid-range jumper in the league, when he could keep defenders off-balanced between pulling up from 18 and driving past them for an easy lay-up. He flashed that at some points this summer, now he must do it consistently this season.
Yet he is also aware of the team around him. It is the best one he has been on so far in his 6 years in the league (on paper) and he continues to reinforce that he is a student of the game, a smarter player with a higher basketball IQ.
Many have lost sight of how good Derrick Rose once was. Sure, in the back of our minds we remember he won the MVP, took the Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals and so on. But night in and night out, he obliterated everyone that guarded him, avg. 25 points. and 7 assists a night made even away fans start chanting “M-V-P, M-V-P, M-V-P!”
Now he’s back at ground level, and Rose has a long way to the top to regain the praise he once had.
Last season was all about being back on the court. This season is all about dominating the court.
Best Bench Mob yet?
Bulls fans (arguably more so than any other team) have become obsessive over their bench. Part by choice, partly because they had no choice. With the amount of injuries to Rose, Noah, Deng, Hinrich and so on over the past four years, the guys who started out on the bench ultimately at some point find their way into the starting lineup.
C.J., Watson, Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer, Nate Robinson, DJ Augustin and Kyle Korver (technically by trade) are some of the guys who stepped up in big games when the big names were down and helped the Bulls win games they should never have won.
Most have come and gone, setting sail for greener pastures than the Bulls could afford, and completely understandably so, that is the life of a NBA journeyman, the next pay check.
The 2014-15 Bench Mob (3.0) has a new cast of characters, with plenty of potential to be the best core of guys off the bench yet. Loaded with shooters like Tony Snell who blossomed in summer-league, 11th overall pick Doug McDermott, an underrated all-around scorer and player, Taj (who should see some starting time.)
Nazr is back for a cool million and maybe a ring, Captain Kirk you know what you’re going to get, heart, hustle and the occasional shot-clock-winding-down-game-changing-bank-it-off-the-backboard-three. Nikola Mitoric who was highly regarded as the best player/shooter in Europe and my favorite of them all, Aaron Brooks.
Brooks is the past backup point guards of Watson, Robinson and Augustin morphed into one man. He has started for playoff teams like the 09′-10 Rockets when he avg. 19.1 ppg. and has been around the league quite a bit, all in Western Conference. God forbid Rose misses time, but Brooks is the back up plan, and quite possibly the best one yet.
Your 2014-15 Chicago Bulls
This is a brand new team. Different faces, same Thibs, same philosophy. Yet, maybe he will even change. The front office made sure this off season that Bulls fans won’t be crying, “WE CAN’T SHOOT!” or something along those lines.
They should dominate every front-court they come across for 48 minutes every game, barring any injuries. Heck, you even have Pau’s word, “We’ll do what we’re supposed to do and hopefully dominate all other front-courts in the league.”
The only question I still have with these Bulls is that second scorer. The guy Melo was suppose to be. The Spurs are the prime example of how to win a championship with team basketball… and a few Hall of Famers, Hall of Fame coach, and possibly the best run organization in sports.
I said it last year and it still remains true. Derrick Rose stays healthy, sticks to the mid-range game he knows he can dominate and keep defenses off-balanced by dishing it outside for a open corner three rather forcing an ill-advised shot, the Bulls can seriously do this.
Getting passed Cleveland won’t be easy. But Cleveland needs to worry about themselves first. LeBron, Love and Kyrie have to learn how to play with each other, the majority of the Bulls roster has that cohesion already in tact. Getting off to a fast start will be vital, Miami stumbled to begin with in 2010, so will Cleveland, maybe more so than James’ Heat. Getting home-court will be imperative as well, because if the Eastern Conference goes through Chicago this season, the result will be more pleasant than the last time it happened.
But hey if D-Rose isn’t worried about his knees, hitting his shots and winning championships,
Why should we be?