By Dave Wischnowsky —
(CBS) And so a darkness has fallen across the land.
The Miami Heat are moving on in the NBA Playoffs.
For the Chicago Bulls, however, there are brighter days head ahead as they lick their wounds following last night’s 94-91 series-ending loss to the team wearing the black jerseys – and black hats – in South Beach.
Rosier ones, too.
Because, Derrick will be back – and so will his cheers. At the same time, I fully expect Bulls vs. Heat to be back too – along with its jeers. If nothing else this month, we saw Miami-Chicago develop all the makings of one of those classic NBA playoff rivalries that will percolate with drama and championship ramifications for years to come.
In many ways, LeBron, Wade & Co. strikes me as Chicago’s new version of the Detroit Pistons’ “Bad Boys,” the hated mountain that the Michael Jordan-era Bulls once had to climb. And while losing to the Heat again is disappointing indeed, just like with the Pistons, this series loss will only make victory all the sweeter when the Bulls finally do beat them.
And in time, I think they eventually will.
For comparison, let’s flash back to 1988, when the Bulls – behind NBA MVP and Defensive Player of the Year Michael Jordan – dashed, dunked and tongue-wagged their way into the Eastern Conference Semifinals. There, they met the Pistons – and promptly learned their rules.
The physical Pistons bullied Jordan and Chicago, winning that series in five games before Detroit rolled on to capture the conference title. That scenario in ’88 wasn’t unlike 2011 when the Bulls, behind Derrick Rose – the team’s first MVP since MJ – lost to the Heat in five games in the Eastern Conference finals, setting Chicago against Miami.
In 1989, the Bulls and the “Bad Boys” clashed again – this time in the Eastern Conference Finals. And, once again, Chicago tasted bitter defeat as Detroit took the series 4-2 before storming their way to the franchise’s first-ever NBA title.
Come 1990, it was déjà vu all over again for the Bulls as the Pistons beat Chicago 4-3 to capture the Eastern Conference championship and repeat with yet another NBA crown.
But the following season, after having suffered enough pain, heartache and frustration, the Bulls finally scaled their own personal Everest. And they did it in incredibly exhilarating fashion, as Chicago swept the Pistons 4-0 to win the 1991 Eastern Conference title and catapult themselves toward the first of their six NBA titles.
With Rose’s injury, the Bulls’ comparative timeline has been thrown somewhat askew, but history is still unfolding in which the Bulls will have to beat a hated NBA giant in Miami to get their shot at the crown. That wasn’t going to happen this season – even if Rose did jump off the bench and into a playoff game – but based on the way the Bulls so valiantly battled Miami this season without their superstar, I think that victory is coming.
I suspect the Heat are concerned that it might be, too.
Nobody said winning another title in Chicago would be simple. In fact, in an old Nike commercial entitled “Rise,” Michael Jordan narrated as images from his youth flash across the screen. He said, “Maybe it’s my fault. Maybe I led you to believe it was easy, when it wasn’t. Maybe I made you think my highlights started at the free throw line and not in the gym.
“Maybe I made you think every shot I took was a game-winner. That my game was built on flash and not fire. Maybe it’s my fault that you didn’t see that failure gave me strength; that my pain was my motivation. Maybe I led you to believe that basketball was a God-given gift and not something I worked for – every single day of my life. Maybe I destroyed the game …
“Or maybe you’re just making excuses.”
The Bulls, this season, made no excuses. What they made was progress – even without Derrick Rose in the lineup. And once he does return, I think we very well might see them eventually make history too.
Beating Miami is the mission. The “Bad Boys,” meanwhile, are the road map.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.