By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) October breathes its last amid a dry brown and orange burlap blanket of summer’s life. Amid the grim spectre of autumn’s death rises an NBA season anew, complete with ghastly visions—Steve WTF? Nash, men speaking in tongues, a Wizards/Cavaliers game, FrankenCurry’s Monster!
Wednesday night features a large slate of contests. Some perhaps fitting for this night when lost souls like Derek Fisher wander and vampires like Grant Hill continue their eternal quest for the blood of the young. In particular, an eerie tale begins locally, one of a team that recently held so much promise but that has danced with cruel fate and finds itself instead of a mutated version of hope—a likely low playoff seed!
Come, as I weave you a tale of the macabre. Paint a picture in the darkest of blacks and bloodiest of reds. This is not for the faint of heart or child easily moved to flee screaming to his mother’s breast.
Prepare yourself for… the horror that shall be the ho-hum-probably-just-better-than-mediocre 2012-13 Chicago Bulls. MUAHAHAHAHA!
Lingering ghosts of the greatest awful dresser to ever step on a court, championships, and the most important anterior cruciate ligament this century haunt the building on West Madison Street, which just so happens to be across the street from an ancient burial ground containing the remains of such grotesque creatures as Jawann Oldham, Dave Corzine, and a 1986 playoff team with a 30-52 record.
Guard your hoops soul as you turn the knob on the (not a) mystery door to lay your eyes on such an anticlimactic likelihood of a season that lies within.
Behold! New acquisition Nazr Muhammad. He’s old! He’s wearing No. 48 for some reason!
From parts unknown (actually lots of other places) comes the impish Nate Robinson. While small in stature, Robinson has been known to swiftly attack when threatened, sometimes even scaling a much larger enemy, ripping out its heart and devouring its face. And for a guard, he kind of sucks at free throws. A sadistic magician of sorts, he thrives in creating an illusion of flashiness and a defiance of physics while actually not being a contributing player to a championship team.
2012 first round draft pick Marquis Teague brings a spine-tingling combination of youth and being nowhere near ready to play in the league. The horror!
Italian Kyle Korver! A creature Dante himself couldn’t create for one of his rings of hell.
Vladimir Radmanovic—a man from Eastern Europe or possibly an alien life form. Is there a difference? Do we want to find out?
Resurrected from the dead, a.k.a. another perennial mid to low playoff seed in Atlanta, Kirk Hinrich. The former Bulls captain presence on the court will constantly remind us all of the Derrick Rose injury, an ACL buried under the floorboards like a heart whose continuous beating in our minds will surely drive us insane.
Prepare yourself for Carlos Boozer jumpshots raining from the skies like fire on the Day of Reckoning. Stare aghast as body parts slowly break away from Richard Hamilton. Weep for humanity as you are subjected to Joakim Noah postgame outfits. Luol Deng ball handling!
I won’t go on, both out of too much gore and too thin these Halloween jokes are wearing.
But in every scary movie there comes a savior of some sort. In the bleakness of winter Rose may return to stop the coffin’s lid from shutting too early on the season. Hopefully. But he’ll be a wounded man, likely not the player we once knew—a step slower maybe, filled with a greater drive in his heart but also a consciousness of new physical limitations in the back of his mind. Will just a few months be enough to shake off the rust? To gel with the team?
It’s doubtful, even though Rose will be a great player again. He will make the Bulls dangerous heading into the playoffs, but it’s hard not to envision Michael Jordan not getting the Bulls over the hump after his late season return in 1995 (and this team doesn’t have a Scottie Pippen).
Oh yes, the Bulls should be a playoff team. And for those of you who consider making the playoffs a success, then bully for you. I don’t define success as getting somewhere more than half the league gets to, and despite coachspeak and player sound bytes we’ll likely hear once they go golfing in May, the Bulls don’t define it as such either.
There will be plenty of wins for this team—they’re by no means awful. Bad teams abound in the league, mostly in the East, for a middle class bunch like the Bulls to get fat on. But the awfulness of this upcoming season lies in the Bulls hovering between the awful and the great. Being kind of good in the NBA actually really sucks.
So does not being the Miami Heat right now. Barring something catastrophic with that team, they are all but a lock to win the conference, and no amount of DRose will change that.
The saving grace is that the Bulls do having a bona fide superstar and player a championship can eventually be built around in Rose. I assume this team will not be like an Atlanta that put itself in a perpetual bridesmaid groove for so long, but I also can’t be sure who is part of the Bulls’ future, particularly with a Taj Gibson extension deadline looming.
But do not approach 2012-13 with the naivete of a delivery guy failing to expect the hanging skeleton on the porch to light up and shriek causing him to jump and drop the pizza he’s delivering. Or something like that. You’ll get fairly good basketball overall from this team because head coach Tom Thibodeau really won’t allow otherwise. What you won’t get is a great season.
Okay, maybe you get to see the maturation of a Jimmy Butler and hold out some hope that Teague was not a completely bad pick as it kind of seems like he is right now. But this is the Bulls, not the Cubs. There isn’t any rebuilding going on here or any huge amount of stock put in development at the present time. It’s more of a treading water situation for a season, crappy as it is to accept.
So while you Chicagoans cope with the Blackhawks floating in purgatory and attempt to fill the days between Bears games with exciting sport, I forewarn you now. Abandon all hope, ye who enter this Bulls season with thoughts of meaningful Bulls basketball.
Adam is the Sports Editor for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.