Bernstein: These Bulls Look Familiar

By Dan Bernstein- Senior Columnist

(CBS) The Bulls are what they are, which means they are what they were.

That’s mostly a good thing, and it’s unaffected by the dramatic, extended offseason that seemed to cause some to forget what they’ve been watching.

Let’s do this the easy way, by listing the aspects of the Bulls that are significantly different from last season:

One, Richard Hamilton has replaced Keith Bogans, upgrading the team at the position of Old Shooting Guard. He was signed to make them a better playoff team, so ignore most of the early fits and starts.

Two, Luol Deng decided to give his head a Brazilian wax-job.

Three, Carlos Boozer lost twenty pounds, which means he’s lighter while struggling to defend screen/roll or help and recover defensively. He’s lighter while removing the ball from the basket after missing his man on a baseline rotation, and while posting up to create low-percentage fadeaways.

And that’s pretty much it.

Last year was made so much more exciting by the process of learning on the fly who these guys were and what they did, as they made the improbable run to the top of the regular-season standings. Tom Thibodeau was an untested, rookie head coach, Derrick Rose surprised all but himself, and Boozer joined holdovers Deng and Joakim Noah as known commodities.

All the rest was new, for the average local fan. Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and C.J Watson had been toiling in western anonymity, and Omer Asik was only known to hardcore hoops junkies, if that. So it was special to watch the roster solidify and succeed in front of our eyes, after it was cobbled together post-Decision.

We know how they do it, so don’t be surprised that the formula is the same.

They will win with defense and rebounding, using their second unit to outclass that of opponents. They take a lot of jump-shots, so the offense looks good when they go in and bad when they don’t. Deng didn’t learn how to dribble, Noah didn’t learn how to shoot, Boozer did not become an explosive leaper, and Rose is still the engine of everything.

Rose became the league MVP almost because he had to, and he’ll have to be that again for the Bulls to win a championship. Hamilton will still be a good fit, but the extent to which his presence eases Rose’s burden has been overstated.

Rose remains the only initiator of offense. Others can use cuts and screens to create space and find shots, but this roster still features one player who can take the ball and get something going to challenge a defense, particularly late in games.

Their margin for error is still small, and is maintained by playing as hard as they can, all the time — an “advantage” that will be tested by a compressed schedule that affords little rest. Thibodeau must be wary of how and when Rose expends energy, and to what end. For a team with aspirations, big spring battles loom.

This is a very good team. They start the year knowing so, and the rest of the league does, too. The trophy case is full of well-publicized individual awards.

There will be plenty of success for the Bulls, but those pleasant surprises – the kind that made last season so special – will have to wait.

bernstein 90x130 Bernstein: These Bulls Look Familiar

Dan Bernstein

Dan Bernstein joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995, and has been the co-host of ‚ÄúBoers and Bernstein‚Äù since 1999. Read more of Bernstein’s columns, or follow him on Twitter: @dan_bernstein.

The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM (or you can listen online).
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More from Dan Bernstein
  • I Kid, I KId

    What’s the opposite of Extra! Extra! ?

  • gowhistledixie

    some day Dan is gonna figure out nobody cares about the NBA anymore.. Happy days are long gone … Serious.. You Bears fans may get your change if you had the resolve of Bengal fans. You dont. same thing every year. cry cry and your back in Aug coughing up your money and time. They know that.

  • Markie Maypo

    I think Rose has been in cruise control for these first couple games. He did “ok” against the Lakers…and never even showed up last night….they NEED him to win games like that. When no one else can hit a shot, handle the ball, or play defense. HE NEEDS TO SCORE IN THAT GAME! He did nothing. Besides that, I think they’ll be fine. The need to stop putting Boozer and Korver on the floor though. Ya, they are “ok” offensively, but MY GOD are they awful on defense!

  • EdHomeBrew

    Have you checked the ratings lately, or are you too busy scanning the channels to find where the Hawks are on TV?

  • steve

    It’s not how you start it’s how you finish.

  • Off-Day Essay Question

    Why do United Center fans in the most expensive seats react like a bunch of Kansas City (Slim Pickens said it best) when the Bulls clear 100 and a $3 Big Mac awaits? This has always mystified me. WINNING sometimes doesn’t bring as much joy.

  • Satan

    For as much as people wanna talk about Boozer’s awful defense, Noah has been a bigger disappointment overall.

    If you really think about it, he peaked as a player during that Boston series some 30 months ago. Since then, his offense has actually gotten worse somehow (I wanna say he shot under 45% from the field in each of his last two postseasons), and if anything he’s proven to be less durable than the Bulls realized… once considered an up-and-coming, young, big (an asset coveted league-wide), he’s now pretty much flatlined in terms of value, as he’ll be turning 27 at this year’s trade deadline with a bloated contract and checkered injury history to boot… at least when Boozer was signed, nobody was fooling themselves into believing his best years were ahead of him.

    And as much as you gotta tip your hat to Taj as a “self-made” player who seems to get the most out of his talent, he, too, is another big man who the Bulls would’ve been wise to sell while his stock was high (after his rookie year).

    I don’t mean to vent, but it seems like the Bulls are gonna regret not cashing these guys in when they had the chance.

    • AT3374

      Agreed 100% about Noah . This city LOVES to overvalue players based on ridiculous notions like their “blue collar” or “tough” or “play the game for the love of it ” etc .

      Noah is a nice player , and possibly the 4-5th best center in the east on most nights , but all that hussling he does puts him on the bench in the 4th qtr .

      Boozer is what he is , a decent mid range jump shooter with very little effort put into his defense .

      The Bulls are STILL the 2nd best team in the East , behind Miami and will at the end of the day , challenge them for the right to play OKC in the Finals .

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        I never comprehend how players making millions are considered “blue collar.”
        Meatball myth.

        And you are both right about Noah, would love to see a big season out of him.

        Gee. where’d all the Penn State people go???

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        And a belated Merry Christmas as well as a Happy, healthy New Year to you Bronzo.
        Your post was the voice of reason on that PSU blog, but reason quickly was swept away by anger and irrationality.

      • Bronzo

        Well said Larry all my years posting on this blog I have never seen anything like the reaction to his last PSU blog…wow

        Happy New Year Larry to you and your family…

  • ken
  • Dam Bernstein

    I am a delusional moron who will do anything for attention.

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