We've hashed out the likely suspects. Most of us already know them by heart. Derrick develops into a superstar. Tyrus develops a brain. There's also the more seasonal causes for optimism: X gained Y pounds of muscle, whereas Z is no longer a break-dancing, kung-fu fatty. Probably the most standard shlock comes from the organization itself. We've heard it each year for ten. That playoff push/1st round loss/2nd round loss was invaluable! Our team has had another year to gell! I've always wanted to respond: fellas, so has the rest of the league.
This year, though, is unique. I'll put my premise right out there, and I'll even bold it for more convienent lampooning. This is the best Bulls team in a decade. Here are five unconventional reasons why.
1) We have an alpha dog. The Bulls deserve some cred for recognizing their own dumb luck. Since landing Derrick they've done everything in their power - and some things I wish they hadn't - to place Derrick at the center of the organization. For once, our most talented player is the player to which we've hitched our wagons. And for once, we have a player whose talent is such that it warrants wagon-hitching.
An example. Too often, last year, Derrick would dribble downcourt, hand the ball off, and float into a corner where, to the best of my knowledge, he physically dissolved. Were the shot clock to run down, the ball would go to one of our vets, who were much more experienced at jacking up bad shots than Derrick. Not so this year. Who will the ball go to when the clock is winding down? Our best player.
Even the best offense breaks down, and nobody would use that adjective to describe what the Bulls run. Remember the number of times MJ pulled a last second shot (or pass) out of his butt? Or the number of times Kobe bails out the lakers? In those moments - and they are frequent - it's essential to have everyone on the same page. To have everyone thinking get the ball to X and get open. In fact, I'd argue it's better to have five guys working in concert to get the ball to flawed alpha dog, than to have five guys trying to "make something happen."
Independent of his development as a player, Derrick's not a rookie anymore. The moments of helter-skelter basketball on a helter-skelter team will improve. Meaning that - despite the catchy nickname - Captain Kirk shouldn't be a captain anymore. In name or in practice.
2) Roles and rotation. I don't believe the day has come. Our PG is a PG. Our C is a C. Our SF is a SF. Our SG and SF are...close enough. Better yet: the bench. Our combo guard will be backing up both the 1 and 2 (go figure). We have a pint-sized fire-off-the-bench guy (Pargo) who will be used to bring..well, offensive fire-power in a pinch. Brad Miller, a superb back up center, will be our back-up center. It's a novel concept for our organization: sign players with games and positions that don't overlap. Assuming an 8.5 (the .5 is Pargo) man rotation, there's no redundancy here. It's frakking elegant.
3) Larry Hughes. Is gone. This is the first team in years unburdened by either very bad or very selfish players. Larry Hughes. The latter day Andres Nocioni. Jamal Crawford. Ron Mercer. If you're cringing, rest easy. There's not a ball-hogging malcontent to be found on this roster. And thank God. Not only do you lose with players like that, it makes for unwatchable basketball.
4) Size. This team is big. Derrick is a big point guard, Salmons is a large two. Luol Deng, at 6.9 235, is a downright huge SF. We now have two skilled seven footers who actually play like it. Additionally, JJ brings something we haven't had since Antonio Davis: burliness. 22 reps at the combine. And 21-0 in MMA. :)
Gone are the days that the Bulls are the "little team that could." And good riddance.
5) One agenda. There's just been so much b.s. over the years. We've played bad players to raise their trade value. We've benched good young players because our interim coach needed to "win." We've had players playing for contracts and players we've paid to leave. I seem to imagine one coach actually surrendering in mid-season, on Christmas Eve. I wouldn't have made it that long.
Basta. Enough. Nobody's playing for a contract. Nobody's pissed about their contract. We're experienced enough not to give a crap about trade rumors. And the ego issues - usually stemming from minutes distribution - won't be as pronounced, since we actually have a defined and balanced roster.
The only issues are basketball issues. Now let's play.