When you think of the Chicago Bulls, the first thing that normally comes to mind is Michael Jordan. Maybe, it’s because of the way he led the Bulls to six NBA championships in eight years during the ‘90s. Or, the way he hit clutch shot after clutch shot that left opponents devastated and Bulls’ fans wanting to be like Mike. Even though he influenced an entire generation to be like him, the public still gives some credit to Phil Jackson, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, and Steve Kerr. Ask some people and they would tell you that Jordan couldn’t do it without Horace Grant. But, what the Bulls did that’s sometimes over-shadowed by their overall domination is the defense they played. The championship Bulls’ teams played fierce defense, which led to Jordan and Pippen’s multiple NBA All-Defensive honors.
We have all heard the ole cliché "defense wins championships" and it’s true. The Lakers were a great scoring team, but they had to buckle down on defense to win the NBA Finals. The Celtics won the title the year before with defense and, so did the Spurs for their four titles, the Pistons in ’04 and the Lakers for their three-peat. For the Bulls to return to prominence, they have to get back to playing hard-nosed defense.
During the post-Jordan era, the Bulls have only had two great years out of the eleven seasons that has passed since Jordan laced them up for the Bulls. The 2004-05 and 2006-07 seasons are the only years that the Bulls posted a winning record, both seasons pushing 50 wins. The Bulls went (47-35) in 2004-05 and (49-33) in 2006-07 and this was no accident.
In those two seasons the Bulls ranked at least 7th in points against and allowed less than 94 points per game. The Bulls was ranked 7th in the NBA and 4th in the East during ’04-’05 giving up just 93.4 points per game and ranked 6th in the NBA and 3rd in the East during ’06-’07 averaging only 93.8 points against per game.
Clearly, Chicago needs to get back to playing defense if they want to win and they have an opportunity to turn things around now. Fans have been bittersweet about the departure of Ben Gordon, but this can actually be a good thing for Chicago. Gordon was beloved for his great scoring that spark the team, but was a defensive liability. He failed to fight through screens and if he was having a tough shooting night, then he didn’t bother to play defense.
This is where the Bulls’ front office needs to take off their skirts and be aggressive. Gordon’s spot still need to be filled, but the team should go after veteran big-men like McDyess, if possible, or even Theo Ratliff who can still defend around the rim and rebound. They may not be long-term answers, but every young team need veterans that can set the tone and be leaders. We still have to see what rookies Taj Gibson and James Johnson can bring, but the Bulls should attack free agency like they did the draft, looking to get tougher.