The 12 Days of Bullsmas. Day 11: A Season In Review

Posted: December 23, 2011 by Mauricio Rubio Jr. in Basketball, NBA
Tags: , , , , , ,

Moe Rubio is going through the gauntlet and will post a Bulls related post every day for 12 days.

Nobody pictured this. I don’t care how ardent a Bulls fan you are, deep in your heart you never imagined that the Bulls would be on the cusp of a championship, that they would be cast as the heroes of the 2010-2011 NBA season. The sting of being passed over by the big 3 free agents cut pretty deep, and a few pundits passed this version of the Bulls off as a 4-5 seed and a tough second round match up.

The narrative unfolded in a funny way as Derrick Rose broke through a ceiling he never saw and became the league MVP. The improvements in his game were easily visible and statistically quantifiable. He became a better 3 pt. shooter, he became a better FT shooter, he became a better defender, in essence he became simply better. He joined the elite class last season, but that isn’t the only reason for the Bulls success.

I feel that team defense is the most difficult concept for fans to grasp. The swarming brand that the Bulls played, however, was pretty easy to see. The Bulls don’t have one “elite level” defender. Each player has deficiencies with their defense. Joakim was not seen as a good post defender and struggles against size. Boozer is a speed cone. Deng can’t keep up with faster 3’s. Keith Bogans was halfway retired. Derrick Rose didn’t know how to play defense and relied too heavily on his athleticism to make up for a lack of defensive skill.

Tommy Thibs came in however and transformed the Bulls from a pedestrian defense to arguably the best in the NBA. It was that fact and their hard play night in and night out that carried the Bulls throughout the season. The Bulls don’t shut individuals down, per se. The focus for the Bulls isn’t on locking down one guy, it’s shutting down the lane to the bucket and forcing teams to take bad shots. The Bulls defensive rotation last year was a work of art. If the perimeter defender was beat the Bulls swarmed the lane forcing a kick out pass that was well defended or a bad layup attempt.


A very good breakdown of the Bulls defense and a term Bulls fans should learn: ICE.

The Jazz trio of Boozer, Korver and Brewer also made solid contributions all year. Boozer was the post presence that the Bulls felt they needed to compliment Rose. The sledding was rough at the start, however, as Boozer missed time for tripping over his gym bag. Somehow. When he returned he was a solid scorer and a good defender. Injuries did set in after awhile with Boozer, something that is always a concern with the big man. He missed more time with a toe injury that seemed to bother him down the stretch and drastically limited his leaping ability.

Brewer was the solid defender/slasher that he was billed to be when he came over from Utah. Many wanted him to start in place of Keith Bogans, but Thibs’ stubbornness won out and Bogans started every game. Korver was brought in to hit the big shot, space the floor, and be a player in mold of Steve Kerr. He did hit a big shot against the Miami Heat and while he did not replicate the season he had in Utah, he was a serviceable player for the Bench Mob.

Yes, 2010-2011 gave birth to quite a few fan favorites. The Bench Mob, BSCAL, the White Mamba, Gimme the Hot Sauce, and that’s just the Stacey King soundbites. The Bulls were a fun team to watch throughout the season and changed our expectations of them moving forward. The championship clocked moved forward by quite a bit, the seminal moment being a sublime performance by Derrick Rose against the San Antonio Spurs.

It was pretty killer to watch this game, his coming out party.

It was probably then that I entertained thoughts of another parade in Grant Park and hopes of a 7th trophy for the franchise. The Bulls were thrust into the forefront of the collective basketball consciousness as they chased down the Heat and the Celtics, took the 1 seed from them and kept it enroute to 62 regular season wins and home court throughout the Eastern Conference playoff bracket.

Bulls fans were quickly reminded of how ugly a playoff series can be. The Indiana Pacers thwarted the Bulls attempt to win all their Central Division games late in the season. Frank Vogel was installed as the new head coach (another tidbit about that Bulls team, they got 3 coaches fired). The Pacers played the Bulls tough, the defense was of a playoff quality as Indiana supplied the blueprint for stopping the Bulls. Cut Rose off at the top of the key and play the passing lanes. The Bulls struggled even if the final result did not reflect that.

The Bulls went to face Atlanta and once again their playoff mettle was tested. One thing was becoming increasingly clear, the Bulls were still new at this and it was going to take some getting used to if they were to ever hit their stride. It was another offensively discombobulated series the Bulls struggled through, but Derrick managed to put up enough points to get the Bulls by.

The Heat series has been covered extensively. Understand that it is a precursor to the true battle that is about to be unleashed on the basketball world in the coming years. Neither team is getting worse anytime soon, and as Wade fades into the background the stage is set for a Rose vs. James rivalry that may be talked about in the same breathe as Bird Magic. They are completely different story lines, no one needs to save the NBA this time around, but it has the chance to be legendary. James won 2011 soundly. The Bulls have yet to answer the question of who is the second dependable scoring option and it showed in this series. While the complete team is an interesting concept, the Heat showed what can happen when your best option is neutralized.

Bulls fans should be relatively content with the 2010-2011 season. They made improvements no one thought was possible and made it further than most pundits felt they would. The last taste is bitter, but fans would be well served to remember this is a team on the rise. The window is as big as the organization would care to make it. We’ll cover this tomorrow.

  1. James 1:12 Girl says:

    Check this out! And no, this is not spam. Just trying to get people to listen to my sports opinions

    • Mauricio Rubio Jr. says:

      Interesting thoughts on Wade-James. I don’t think the Bulls match up well with the Heat right now, but barring injuries/freakishness that is the ECF match up.

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