By Dan Bernstein–
Great year, guys.
62 wins, the top seed in the Eastern conference, the NBA’s best overall record and home-court advantage all the way through the playoffs, after an all-out performance by a roster laden with useful players.
Here are your regular-season awards. Get lined up over there and we’ll hand them out. Derrick? MVP – here you go…heavy, careful…who is Maurice Podoloff ? Not sure. Tom, Coach of the Year…ok, just what you always wanted, a paperweight with a bronze Red Auerbach on it. Executive of the Year for, umm, you, Gar? Pax? Ok, technically Gar but really Pax? How about Gar gets it in the odd-numbered months, Pax the others. There. Good.
Now go win something.
These last several months have been grand entertainment, indeed. First came the firing and hiring a coach, then the summer free-agent free-for-all and the scramble to cobble together a team. A bona fide NBA superstar arrived, evolving more swiftly than many could possibly imagine, and now is the first Bull on the cover of Sports Illustrated since that other guy. We have seen defense, rebounding, effort, awareness, and the kind of endearing, humble confidence not often found in an environment marked by swagger and chest-pounding bravado.
Your record is 0-0. You need sixteen wins for the real hardware – 14.5 pounds of gold-overlaid silver and named after a former league commissioner. These victories are harder to get, and are more important than those precious 62.
(The NHL, it should be noted, does have a special award for what you have already accomplished. It’s called the Presidents’ Trophy, and it has been given since the 1986 to the team with the best record in the regular season. Some of its winners win the Stanley Cup, while others lose in the first round. Teams don’t like talking about it, just as you didn’t want to discuss your win total with reporters after the game last night. Nicely handled.)
Expectations have ratcheted up so quickly that it’s easy to forget how the regular season used to be when it began with the realistic prospect of title contention from the outset – a workmanlike trudge through the obligations of the schedule, 82 games of ice bags and airplanes before it all got going for real.
This year was unlike any other in team history. After seeing LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh form their unholy alliance, you were placed by consensus squarely in the conference’s playoff mix, but still also behind the Celtics and Magic. Few saw this coming, this afterburn to the very top of the standings, with an untested, rookie coach in charge and major injuries to key frontcourt players.
The understanding of what’s now at stake is catching up with the fans as Saturday’s opener against the Pacers awaits. These two days – as images of Danny Granger and Tyler Hansbrough flicker before your eyes in Deerfield while Thibs gravel-growls defensive rules – will allow long-neglected feelings to fire up once again across Chicago.
You can win the NBA title, this year. And we know it. We’ve been watching, sharing sideways glances with each next defensive stop, raising eyebrows after another aggressive box-out, and nodding with understanding and appreciation as Rose has imposed his will at the end of games.
The last six months were a joy. Thanks for all of it.
Make it matter.
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s blogs here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
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