Point differential matters, and one significant worry in the team's bad start was that they were not only losing games, but had a differential suggesting they were even worse than their record. But as seems to be this franchise's recent history, they get better as the season goes along. So while the post-All-Star schedule has been kind, having two complete blowouts over the Knicks and Sixers at home while winning on the road in New York and Minnesota in five days is very impressive.
So impressive that VDN is now back to being lauded, or at least removed from the firing line. I think this is just as reactionary as calls for his firing in the early part of the season, when it was very unlikely the slow-to-do-anything Bulls front office would make a coaching change. VDN was bad then, he's bad now. But his know-nothingness helps in that he has a tight rotation of high-character (and even moreso now with the guy screaming at him, and the other guy reportedly upset with his benching, being gone) guys who are going to always give an effort. They may not have a high ceiling with this talent, and VDN wouldn't get them there if they did, but he is not a team-killer like those who overcoach either.
Huge news that Joakim Noah made his return (albeit for 6 minutes) last night, since I don't think we had even been given a timetable on his return. I was not able to give my full attention to the past two games (if you couldn't tell), but while I wish I had a better impression of the new additions, it seems like avoiding the local broadcast when it concerns these new additions saved some headaches as well. It looks statistically and though anecdotal observations that both Warrick and Murray are contributing in as expected, though the team as a whole has performed better than I expected (albeit through two games). We got this.
As little as I want to give credit to chemistry mumbo-jumbo, I think there is something to a new-personnel boost, and it helps that guys with uncertain futures like Thomas (RFA) and Salmons (player-option) are replaced with guns for hire who know they’ll be gone, as long as the talent is somewhat equal (which it is).
Special credit to Taj Gibson last night for avenging his worst game of the season when he was dominated by the Sixers front line. There's a difference between 'coming around' on Taj, and acknowledging that he's playing better as the season comes on. It was right to mock the praise (and elevation to the starting unit) when he started out his NBA career quite terribly, but he's improved his defensive rebounding and I think him and Warrick are a capable platoon in the PF spot.
The schedule stays relatively easy for this week, and with the Bobcats and Bucks seemingly improving themselves this could be a fun playoff race. Clearly this boost can't last too long, and I'll reserve judgement on how much the Bulls helped or hurt themselves on the court in the trade deadline, but these wins won't be taken away even if some adversity creeps up later. If Wade is out for an extended time it should be the Heat that are in the most danger of missing out of the playoffs, and that's really a best-case scenario entering 2010 free agency.