It was a word we often used mockingly when referring to Kirk Hinrich. But in the end, it's a perfect word to describe the 2012-13 Chicago Bulls, even though the Prodigal Son with a house in the area wasn't on the floor for a good portion of the season.
Despite the Derrick Rose injury and what seemed like an absolutely horrendous offseason, I expected the Bulls to be pretty good this year. I predicted 47 wins and if things worked out right, a possible Eastern Conference Finals appearance. The caveat of course was that the Bulls would get Rose back and that they would enjoy mostly good health.
The Bulls went 0-of-2 in those areas, and yet, they managed to scratch and claw their way to 45 wins and a second-round exit against the best team in the league. If you would have told me before the season that Rose would sit the whole year and then laid out every single injury that would occur, there's not a chance in hell I would have envisioned the Bulls pulling off what they did.
What the Bulls did is a testament to the hard-working players on this team and the coaching wizard that is Tom Thibodeau. We all know Thibs has his flaws, but his ability to glean the most out of his players is truly admirable. The man can flat out coach, even if his coach-speak annoys the crap out of me.
There were certainly some moments of ugliness. The New Year's Eve loss to the Bobcats. The 27-point blown lead against the Bucks. The 42-point loss to the Kings. The offense was a train wreck for much of the year, while the defense even had its lulls at times thanks to the injuries. And yes, the Rose saga was brutal.
But I'd prefer to remember all of the great things that happened this year. I'll remember this as the year that Joakim Noah cemented himself as one of the best centers in the NBA. I'll remember this as the year that Jimmy Butler came into his own and grabbed the starting shooting guard job by the throat. I'll remember this as the year that a formerly hated player in Nate Robinson became one of my favorite things to watch about this team.
Considering the circumstances, I really couldn't be more proud of what this group accomplished. Winning a playoff series is tough no matter what. Winning a playoff series as short-handed and beat-up as the Bulls were was downright amazing (even if the Nets were frauds).
And although the Bulls were blown out twice by the Heat and lost in 5, I really can't complain about how they competed. Stealing Game 1 was truly awesome, and the way the Bulls fought back in Game 5 epitomized their entire season. Against all odds, they were almost able to pull off yet another stunner. But they just didn't have enough (sorry, Thibs).
So to commemorate this Bulls campaign, I'd like to look back at some of the best games, performances and moments of the year.
Best Games of the Year
1. Game 4. vs Nets
Down 14 with C.J. Watson gliding in for what was sure to be an easy bucket, the Bulls looked dead in the water with just over three minutes to play of Game 4 against the Nets. Watson blew the dunk, and then Nate put forth one of the craziest performances ever at the United Center. Robinson's heroics helped get the Bulls to overtime, and after two more extra periods, they finally pulled out a 142-134 victory in triple overtime. This shall forever be known as "The Nate Robinson Game," or if you'd like, "Kirk Hinrich's Last Stand," due to the fact that Hinrich played 60 minutes and didn't play the rest of the year (oh shoot, but he's back next year).
2. Game 1 vs. Heat
I considered putting the Game 7 victory over the Nets here, but I simply couldn't look past the stunning 93-86 Game 1 victory in Miami. The Bulls had just played two nights before and trailed by seven midway through the fourth quarter. But then the offense went into high gear, with Marco Belinelli hitting huge threes and Nate playing the role of Rose. The resulting victory gave fans a glimmer of hope that perhaps the Bulls could actually make it a long series against the Heat, even if it was not to be.
3. Game 7 vs. Nets
The Bulls had lost two straight games, seemed like they were out of gas and were heading back to Brooklyn for a deciding Game 7. The Nets had all the advantages, but the Bulls stepped up and delivered the knockout blow in a 99-93 win. The Bulls ran out to a huge lead and then hung on late, with Belinelli making some big buckets late. Noah was a beast the entire game, and it was certainly a great birthday present for yours truly.
4. Ending the Heat's 27-game streak
The energy was sky-high as the Heat rolled into the United Center with a 27-game winning streak on March 27. Despite playing without Noah, Belinelli and Richard Hamilton, the Bulls beat up the Heat and ended that streak, the second-longest in NBA history. The game was full of highlights, from Butler's dunk on Bosh to Hinrich ripping the ball away from Bosh to the hard fouls. The 101-97 victory was by far the most satisfying of the regular season.
5. Streak Busters Part Deux
Just a couple of weeks after ending the Heat's streak, the Knicks came into the United Center with a 13-game winning streak. Nate had himself a Nate game, and the Bulls pulled out a 118-111 victory in overtime after Carmelo Anthony missed a great chance to end it in regulation. The win wrapped up a 4-0 season sweep of the Knicks...wait, that really happened? A sweep of the Knicks? Fuck yeah, it did.
Honorable Mentions: Both wins at the Garden, Jan. 4 victory at Miami, Jan. 18 OT victory at Boston
Best Performances of the Year
1. Nate in Game 4 vs. Nets
Robinson nearly broke a franchise record set by Michael Jordan by scoring 23 fourth-quarter points in the Bulls' 142-134 triple-overtime Game 4 victory. Nate single-handedly brought the Bulls back from a 14-point deficit, scoring 12 straight points and assisting on the next bucket after that. Nate would foul out later, but not until he racked up 34 points on 14-of-23 shooting. He truly was on fire NBA Jam style, hitting ridiculous shots with a varying degree of difficulty. A once-in-a-lifetime performance.
2. Noah triple-double vs. 76ers
In arguably the best performance of his career, Noah put up a line of 23 points, 21 rebounds, 11 blocks and three steals in a 93-82 win over the Sixers on Feb. 28. Jo shot 8-of-12 from the field, and he became just the fourth player in the last 25 seasons to have at least 20 points, 20 rebounds and 10 blocks in a game.
3. Noah 30/20 game vs. Pistons
If you're going to argue in favor of Noah's triple-double against the Sixers not being his career game, this one would be a good one to bring up. Jo set career-highs in points and rebounds with a 30-point, 23-rebounding effort in a 108-104 win against the Pistons on Dec. 7. Noah also added six assists, two steals and two blocks.
4. Nate in Game 1 vs. Heat
Nate finished with 27 points and nine assists while playing the role of closer in the Bulls' Game 1 stunner. 11 of his points came in the fourth quarter, including two huge buckets in the final 1:17 to help complete the comeback from seven points down.
5. Nate in overtime streak buster vs. Knicks
Nate scored a season-high 35 points in the Bulls' 118-111 overtime victory over the Knicks. He made 10-of-18 shots, 5-of-11 from three and 10-of-10 from the line. 18 of his 35 points came in the fourth quarter and overtime as the Bulls ended the Knicks' 13-game winning streak.
Honorable mentions: Noah's 24/14/6 Game 7 against Nets, Noah's big fourth quarter with bad plantar fasciitis in Game 2 against Nets, Luol Deng twice at the Garden, Deng's 28/7/5 in streak buster vs. Heat, Butler's 22 and 14 in streak busters part deux, Boozer's 29 and 18 in Brooklyn, Boozer's 36 and 12 in Toronto, Hinrich's 18 and 14 in 60 minutes in Game 4 against the Nets
Best Moments of the Year
1. Marco's big spicy meatballs
Belinelli was fined $15,000 for his "obscene gesture" after a huge three in Game 7 against the Nets. Best $15,000 he'll ever spend.
2. Butler posterizes Bosh
The Butler did it.
3. Jo saves it to Marco FTW
Heart, hustle and muscle with a side of meatballs.
4. Hinrich rips rebound away from Bosh
Yes, it was a foul. But SO MUCH GRIT!!!
5. Nate's Discount Double Check
He's a clown, but he was our clown. Thanks for the memories, Nate.
As I mentioned above, it's hard not be be proud of what happened this year given all the adversity. A lesser team could have folded up shop and tanked for a better draft pick. But these guys never quit and turned what could of been a bad season into what I would consider a very successful one. So thanks to them for providing some great memories.
Also, I personally would like to thank all you guys and gals here at Blog a Bull for making the season even more enjoyable. I don't always agree with everybody around here, but I love the spirited debate and mostly knowledgeable basketball discussion that goes on. I'm looking forward to the offseason and of course next year, when we can actually talk about Derrick Rose playing real-live basketball again.