Reporting Dan Bernstein
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By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) This may be simply because I watch so many Bulls games on DVR, but I’m itching to fast-forward to the playoffs. Push a button, blur it by, and get on with it.
Just past the halfway point of this lockout-shortened season, we have learned nothing significant about this year’s team, other than how easy it is for Derrick Rose to get hurt, and for it all then to become immediately irrelevant.
It feels like more bad can happen than good between now and any games that matter.
So they get home-court advantage by out-hustling better teams and pounding the myriad bands of bums. Great. But none of this makes them significantly more likely to get past a Miami Heat squad that performs like an exhibition at the Air and Water Show – some nights looking more like the Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds than a basketball team.
All this compressed schedule of toil, and for what?
Rose is still everything, and he already has two injuries that he admits will need to be managed from here on in. Sprained toe, strained back, and something else, probably, soon. Some midweek night in some indistinguishable NBA arena he’s going to land wrong again on a hard floor. At least his backup’s backup’s backup has been a nice find.
Luol Deng’s versatile, professional play has earned him an All-Star spot, but nobody now thinks he’s transformed into the kind of second true star that elevates the Bulls to a different conversation. Joakim Noah still needs to play like his unruly hair is on fire to counterbalance his deficiencies and Carlos Boozer still has only limited interest or ability to play satisfactory defense. The bench still outperforms that of the other team almost every night.
And what of Rip Hamilton, the big offseason move that was to solidify them for May and June? He’s been a headbanded, lucite-faced ghost, and reasonable fans have already lowered expectations for what he’ll mean, even if he’s “healthy.” He may just be old and brittle.
One could argue that regular-season games could matter if/when Hamilton is reintegrated to the offense, but even that is a reach. Veterans know what to do, and all that looks different when he plays is the incorporated series of baseline-chase “floppy” sets and single-double actions that take advantage of his skills. And Ronnie Brewer returns to the second unit, where he belongs.
Tom Thibodeau grinds ahead, having instilled a sense of commitment and purpose in this team that has the engine running hot all the time. What is key, however, is the past tense of that statement: last year’s Bulls had just been constructed, and Thibodeau was an unproven, unknown head coach who needed to establish a culture, and he did.
Now, this is as solid a team as can be, playing for the reigning NBA Coach of the Year. Any trite contention that these games help them “come together” seems a little silly. Togetherness, whatever that means, is not an issue. If they again fall to the Heat, it will not be due to a lack of unity or cohesion.
32 games remain of this year’s 66, which still seem like a lot.
I’ll be watching impatiently and anxiously, hoping the Bulls stay healthy and waiting to learn something.
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 columns here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
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