post season

With a heavy heart (and a secret sigh of relief) the Bulls 2015-2016 season is officially over after Chicago beat the 76ers at home on Wednesday. I guess it’s better to end on a win, but the Bulls failure to find a lack of urgency was painful to watch this season and it was all too little too late.

Yes you read that right. The Chicago Bulls failed to make the NBA Playoffs for the first time since drafting Derrick Rose. Also, I’d like to note that the Bulls are in the Eastern Conference, which is by far the weaker of the two and they STILL couldn’t seem to drum up enough wins to snag that 8th seed in the playoffs. If I seem bitter, I am. The Bulls 42-40 record on the season hurt my feelings as a fan. I can’t pin-point just one problem that lead to the Bulls’ demise, it was more like a slew of issues that ended up just blowing the season out of proportion.

We’ll start with the injuries that always seem to hamper the Bulls and ruin my dreams of strutting around town in Chicago Bulls NBA championship swag from this decade. First, Joakim Noah went down in January with a season ending shoulder injury. Then Nikola Mirotic had to have an emergency surgery to remove his appendix which kept him off the floor for some weeks. In early February, star Jimmy Butler sustained a knee injury that kept him out of the game for about a month and some seriously crucial games. Not to mention Mike Dunleavy did not return from off-season back surgery until February. For the majority of the season, the Bulls were kind of a band of misfits and rarely had their starting lineup in tact.

Problem number two, coaching. Fred Hoiberg assumed the role of Head Coach in the wake of Tom Thibodeau’s dismissal in 2015. Here’s the thing, I definitely loved me some Thibs basketball. He wasn’t perfect, but he empowered his players to play passionately and effectively. He was a defensive stone-wall and this year was proof that defense matters a whole hell of a lot more than people like to admit. I hate to say it, but Hoiberg came off as a soft pretty-boy this first season behind the reins. Coming into the season Hoiberg was praised for his work at Iowa State and his offensive focus. Well my handsome friend, that sissy stuff may have worked in the farm fields, but it sure didn’t work in the big leagues. Hoiberg’s lack of command seemed most obvious from veteran players who had played under more, we’ll say ‘aggressive’ coaches. Jimmy Butler first stirred the waters when he spoke out after a tough loss that Hoiberg needed to be tougher on the guys. Umm, I agree. Most recently, Pau Gasol spoke out about how difficult this season has been for him. Players took games for granted, lacked a sense of urgency and maturity. Oh, you mean like your head coach playing a dumb and dumber clip when your season is on the line?

Despite the criticism, from haters like myself, Hoiberg has argued that he has a stronger relationship with his players than it seems through the medias eyes. Prove it buddy.

Problem number three, we have Jimmy Butler in his prime and Derrick Rose still tough, but a little washed up, trying to play on the same team. The two “super-stars” never gelled. Which SUCKS because we’ve seen what happens when you get two super-stars to gel, just google some old highlights of MJ and Scottie Pippen.

So what happens when you don’t make the playoffs? The rumor mill begins a churnin’. Some people think the Bulls should blow up the roster and start with fresh young talent. Others question if the team should keep both Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. Some people are lobbying to axe Hoiberg and the whole front office. We’ve got a lot of emotional fans on our hands here.

Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol have been the free agent talks of the town this year. After Pau Gasol openly expressed his frustrations with the season, we’re all guessing the dude will opt out of his contract, but now focuses have been shifting to Noah. This season proves more than ever that Noah was the leader of this Bulls team and the player who could look at Butler and Rose and tell them to step it up. Now stories have surfaced that the front office may be looking to sign Noah to a short term deal. The question is, would Noah even want to take it after Hoiberg falsely said Jo-No volunteered to come off the bench earlier this season? The front office also believes Gasol is part of the “core” of the team So who stays and who goes?

My most favorite rumor of late is the Jimmy Butler trade. Butler’s quick rise to stardom and hefty pay raise has led to a bit of an ego issue and preferential treatment. Lets just say Jimmy’s rubbed some teammates the wrong way and some have gone to infer that his attitude is toxic to the locker room.  With his level of play this season, it was clear that Butler was the star of the roster, but leadership is earned and not determined by who gets paid the most (Rose has proven that to us). Jimmy has shown his work ethic is top notch, but he may not yet be mature enough to lead or motivate veteran players. Now, he’s put himself in a predicament as the best player on an extremely dysfunctional team with a very high trade value as one of the most sought after two-way players in the league. If these issues are true, we can’t be surprised if Butler is wheeled and dealed this off season.

When your team doesn’t make the playoffs there are always serious repercussions, especially if you’re the so-called leader of that train wreck of the a team. Put your seat belts on Bulls fans, I’m predicting a wild ride for this off season.

Until next time my friends 🙂

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chicago-bulls-vs-washington-wizards_zps36d6b91f

Bulls vs. Wizards: Round 1

Well, cure hello there Chicago Bulls, the playoffs look so good on you.

After another whirlwind of a season, the ever resilient fourth seeded Bulls are preparing to take on the fifth seeded Washington Wizards in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

You may be thinking this all feels vaguely familiar; a Rose-less Bulls team attempting to claim the East and finally make it to the NBA finals. What’s different this time around? Should we even get our hopes up? The answer is, YES.

For the first time in forever Chicago is heading into the post season completely healthy – say WHAT? Yep, the Bulls have had the same starting rotation for the last 40 games of the regular season. Considering the past few injury prone seasons, this is remarkable and a healthy roster has allowed continuity for our favorite guys. We’re not sure if it’s just luck or different team strategies, but we’re happy with the outcome.

This first round match-up with the Wizards is about as ideal as a first round series can get. Chicago avoided another first round showdown with the Brooklyn Nets and if successful, are hypothetically lined up to take on a struggling Indiana Pacers ballclub in round two. The Bulls have the advantage on paper, but never underestimate a team come playoffs when the intensity sky rockets. Here are all the essential details to cheer on our men in red through the first round.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Washington Wizards

What You Need to Know: 

  • Two Totally Different Mindsets: The Bulls are a team who’s roots are embedded in defense. They smother their opponents and refuse open shooting opportunities. Despite their stifling defense, they can struggle to produce points. On the opposite end of the court the Wizards are young, aggressive on offense and showy. If Chicago can control the tempo the series is theirs. If our guys get sloppy and struggle to get the ball to the hoop, Washington will thrive in transition and snag the advantage.
  • Post Season Primed: The Bulls are experienced in the post season. They’ve made it to the playoffs the last five seasons and advanced to further rounds in 2013 and 2011. Their opponent hasn’t won a playoff series since they beat the Bulls in the first round in 2005 and their guys are baby ballers.
  • Regular Season Recap: The Wizards were 2-1 against the Bulls this season. However, both of their wins were back in January when the Bulls’ roster was in shambles, they’d just lost Derrick Rose and Luol Deng was traded to Cleveland. Later in the season the Bulls gave the Wizards a a beatdown in Washington, so don’t let the record fool you.

Key Players to Watch on the Wizards:

  • Point Guard, John Wall is a 23 year-old stud. The PG made his first All-Star appearance this season and averaged 19.4 points and 8.8 assists per game. His offensive tenacity poses a threat to the Bulls who will be challenged with guarding the quick and talented Wall.

    Beal and Wall

    Beal & Wall

  • Shooting Guard, Bradley Beal is in his second NBA season and shined as one of the Wizards top dogs. The up and coming star averaged 17 points a game and is ready to demonstrate his talents on a bigger stage.

Key Players to Watch on the Bulls:

  • Center, Joakim Noah IS Chicago Bulls basketball this year. He humbly begs to differ, but this two-time All-Star’s play generally determines if his team sinks or swims. He’s had the best season of his career collecting an insane amount of triple doubles all while averaging 12.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5.4 assist and 1.5 blocks per game.  JoNo has had an unbelievable season and there’s no doubt his talent and intensity won’t shine in this playoff series.

    Noah and Butler

    Noah and Butler

  • Shooting Guard, Jimmy Butler needs to shine in this series. Butler will be tasked with defending Beal all while producing offensively. He got off to a slow start this season, but we know the Butler has it in him. He averaged 13.1 points per game during the year, but more importantly played the most minutes per game. His defense is clutch to the Bulls success in this series. If he can trap and frustrate the Wizards’ rising star guards Chicago gains the upper hand.

First Round Schedule: 

Game 1: Sunday, April 20 at Chicago, 6 p.m., TNT and CSN

Game 2: Tuesday, April 22 at Chicago, 8:30 p.m., TNT and CSN

Game 3: Friday, April 25 at Washington, 7 p.m., ESPN and CSN

Game 4: Sunday, April 27 at Washington, 12 p.m., ABC

Game 5*: Tuesday, April 29 at Chicago, TBD

Game 6*: Thursday, May 1 at Washington, TBD

Game 7*: Saturday, May 3 at Chicago, TBD, TNT and CSN

* if necessary

What’s Next: 

BennyWhere you at Bulls-bandwagon? If you fell off throughout the season it’s time to climb back on because things are about to get real. The playoff party begins Sunday at the UC and will only continue to rage on throughout next week.

The Wizards are young and talented, but if Chicago can consistently find their offensive rhythm, their relentless defense will prove too overwhelming for the young studs and force them to crumble under pressure. Prediction: Bulls in 5.

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Bulls are Hungry

Calling all Bulls babes: the NBA playoffs are right under our noses! If you took a backseat after Derrick Rose went out for the season or Luol Deng was shipped off to Cleveland – we don’t blame you, find but it’s time to brush up on your Bulls basics because we’re gearing up for a playoff party.

The league is wrapping up their regular season tonight and our Bulls have secured the role of “most dangerous underdog” in the post season this year. No one expected much out of Chicago after Derrick rose went down with the doom and gloom of a second knee injury. Many suggested the team tank the season and collect themselves a nice lottery pick in the draft. Instead, the Bulls are prepping for the 2014 post season and are easily one of the biggest threats to the top seeded dogs in the East.

What You Need to Know:

1. The Perfect Playoff Positioning? They’re either playing the Brooklyn Nets or the Washington Wizards in a first round show down. It all depends on the outcome of the final games tonight (The Bulls snag a four seed and Indy’s bracket with a loss or a Raptors win. They take the three seed with a win and a Raptors loss). Rumor has it the Nets don’t want to meet the Bulls in the first round after we knocked them out last year. The Pacers clinched the top seed in the East so technically we want the 4th seed to avoid the Miami Heat’s half of the bracket. Let’s not face BronBron and his title contending friends until the Eastern finals por favor.

2. It’s all about the messy bun swagger and the heart hustle and muscle of Joakim Noah this post season. His energy propels the emotional stability of the entire roster. JoNo has been absolutely stunning this season, racking up career high stats. Triple-double is basically his middle name. He leads the team in rebounds, blocks, and assists (yea our center is the best passer on the team, deal with it). Noah’s health and consistent performance is essential for the Bulls to advance to the second round.

3. Crazy Cool Coach: Thibs may look like a Disney evil villain or maybe you get the used car salesman vibe from his fashion sense, but one thing proves true; Tom Thibodeau knows how to coach an NBA team. It doesn’t matter who’s on his bench, NBA players ride or die with their boy Thibs.

4. Defensive Titans: By now we are all aware of the Bulls defensive mindset. Tom Thibodeau has his teams eat and breathe defense and the Bulls are peaking (minus the loss to the lowly Knicks) at the right time. We’re looking your way Jimmy ButlerThey’ve been ranked in the top 5 defenses all season and are about to take the physicality up a notch.

5. X-Factors: Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler. Gibson is in the running for Sixth man of the year and there is no time like the present for him to whip out all the stops. I want ego-smothering dunks and I want dirty defense. Jimmy Buckets had a slow start on the year, but has picked things up since the All-Star break. We need a big burst from Butler to solidify some offense and defense for the Bulls.

6. Down and Dirty Delivery: The Bulls are primitive in their strategic play and do not possess the same finesse as power houses like the Heat and Pacers. Sometimes they barely have much offense at all; it can get ugly. However, the Bulls find other ways to beat you. They’ll physically and emotionally wear their opponents down.

Jimmer

Jimmer Fredette via @ChicagoBulls

7. Jimmer Fever: From the second Jimmer Fredette stepped foot onto a Bull’s bball court, the media and the fans went into their usual Jimmer Fever frenzy. Think Brian Scalabrine White Mamba style, but not a super old NBA veteran. Jimmer is a bench mobber who may not see heavy minutes, but can make an impact emotionally – plus he’s got a nice mid-range shot. #jimmerfeverforever

8. D.J. Augustin is the best pick-up the Bulls could have hoped for. Chicago snatched Augustin after the Raptors put him up on waivers (the NBA equivalent to being homeless on the street). The Bulls were a team who needed a backup point guard, they took Augustin under their wing and he instantly made an impact off the bench. He’s currently the Bulls’ leading scorer.

Brewer's back

Brewer via Chicagobullspics

9. Roster Updates: Ronnie “brew-ha-ha” Brewer is back on the Bulls. We were sad to see him go a few years back, but his return to the bench mob is a happy one. Brewer knows Thib’s intense defensive ways. He plays tough and can give the Bulls a pick-me-up when they need one.

10. No DRose: Derrick rose isn’t making a superhero return to whisk his team off into NBA happily ever after. Let it go, Let it go. (Yes, I went there, Frozen style)

Per usual any playoff advancing is going to take an entire Bulls team effort. Kirk, Boozer, Butler, Dunleavy and the whole gang are going to have to play their hearts out and maybe, just maybe, our Bulls may upset the entire conference. It’s time to #BULLieve.

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