By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) The glass is half full today, Bulls fans. Sure, it’s half full with unused kerosene used in that dumpster fire of a loss versus the Miami Heat on Tuesday night, but half full nonetheless.
The 2013-14 season will not be that game. Every NBA team craps the bed a few times a season, and some extra bleach in the Bulls laundry room just so happens to be needed after the first of 82 games. There are 81 more opportunities for this team to show you and the rest of hoops fans that they actually are the team that many credible people have getting to at least the Eastern Conference Finals.
I was all ready to give you the “Hallelujah! He hath risen!” Derrick Rose column before the game even started. Win—which I was fully expecting—or maybe lose in a tough fight against Miami, I’d be able to walk away from the season opener feeling good about the dawn of this season and the comfort of the return of Chicago’s best baller. Like a pleasant cup of gourmet coffee handed to me in bed by the bestest girlfriend ever.
Instead, I got awoken in an alley with a punch to the face by a krokodil addict who stole my wallet.
But that’s okay. It happens sometimes. Bad Bulls games, I mean. Not the krokodil addict assaulting me. But neither is definitional of the Bulls or me. And there are positives to take away from the horror.
That game was seemingly over at halftime. The Heat were up 21 and rising. The Bulls were obviously overmatched for the evening. There was a 20-point differential after three quarters, and many Chicagoans had flipped over to an exciting Blackhawks third period. But with just under 3:00 left in the game the Bulls were only down eight. They could have mailed in the fourth quarter, but they refused to give Miami that satisfaction, refused to have their spirit broken for the night.
Carlos Boozer scored 31 points and added seven rebounds, a steal, and a block. No member of this roster is more disliked by fans—sometimes unfairly—but the fact is he’s crucial to this team’s success, played well against the league’s best team, and had a +/- of -2 that, while not good, was third best on the team that is not as bad defensively as they showed.
Jimmy Butler, in his new role as starting shooting guard, played well. It wasn’t so much his 20 points that pleased me as his five steals, even if some of those may have come while the Heat had let their guard down. Other than his haircut, I’m really excited about Butler going forward. Realize that he is a better player than Keith Bogans who started in the backcourt with Rose the last time the Bulls made the Conference Finals.
I even get the sense that head coach Tom Thibodeau, while certainly not at all pleased with what happened Tuesday, sees this as a learning opportunity yet not indicative of what he has in front of him. When asked after the game about the foul trouble the Bulls found themselves in early on, did Thibs give his usual gruff coachspeak? Did he rail about how such play can’t be tolerated?
No, he gave a smile and “no comment.” A creepy smile, but a smile that not only suggests the team will be appropriately punished and the (likely temporary) problem rectified, but also that Thibs—perhaps the most humorless man in this city—is able to look at the first game of a long season and imply lightly that all is not lost rather than having sheer rage explode from his temples and eat his face.
Rose is a million times better than what he showed in his first game back from a torn ACL. Maybe it was too much adrenaline that got the best of him, or maybe he and his teammates didn’t benefit from the film session they had during the Heat’s ring ceremony and instead stewed too much in their own anticipation. I don’t know. What I’m sure of is that #1 is out for blood this season and will do all he can to make sure games like Tuesday are very few and far between—both individually and team-wise.
“I don’t think it was rust,” Rose said. “It was just me missing shots. I’ve had worse shooting nights than this. If anything, I’m going to have amnesia about it and we play in two days.”
The team talked about how it sucked that they couldn’t ruin the Miami party, and they have and will say the loss shows they need to get better to beat the best and yadda yadda yadda. Hell, had they won they’d all say that they can’t rest on their laurels and need to keep working.
They played bad. Really bad. And because it was the first game of the season and against the defending champs it gets magnified uselessly. Those losses won’t happen many more times.
Swallow the rest of the glass, Bulls fans. Drown your panic with it, and then refill it with appropriate intelligence and hope.
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa before earning his degree from Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @TimBaffoe , but please don’t follow him in real life. He grew up in Chicago’s Beverly To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.