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This Week in the Bulls: ThibsBall lives on through the grave

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Also includes: Thibs back at the UC, Noah to Taj alley-oops and the Booz News.

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Here are some true facts about the Chicago Bulls: at 8-3, they're currently No. 2 in the Eastern Conference, only a half game behind the Cleveland Cavaliers. The defense is playing at a top five level, but the offense merely ranks No. 24 in efficiency. The collective level of intensity seems to vary wildly based on the quality of the competition and despite the gaudy record, no one who actually watches the Bulls seems to believe they're all that good.

This was supposed to be the dawn of a new era, but instead it looks like the same damn team. You can leave Tom Thibodeau, but Tom Thibodeau never truly leaves you.

The Bulls are playing faster (jumping from No. 21 to No. 11 in pace), making more threes at a higher clip and have mercifully broken up the Joakim Noah-Pau Gasol front court pairing. None of it really seems to matter. The more this team changes, the more it stays the same.

Jimmy Butler is still playing like a superhero. Derrick Rose is fighting injuries and producing at a level that's consistently inconsistent. There are games when it seems like Pau Gasol is this team's only reliable scoring option and others when his mere stone-footed presence appears to be single-handedly sabotaging their chances of winning. Joakim Noah's energy is essential but he's averaging 2.8 points per game on 34 percent shooting. Mike Dunleavy's hurt and Tony Snell is still making mind-numbing mistakes.

Hinrich is even still getting crunch time minutes!

Isn't this everything the Bulls were trying to avoid by hiring Fred Hoiberg?

Even as our Bulls tower over everyone but LeBron in the conference standings, their point differential (+2.3) is actually lower than a team currently sitting outside of the playoff picture in the Toronto Raptors. They're No. 18 in the league in true shooting percentage, No. 19 in rebounding percentage and No. 18 in fast break points. There's a lot of evidence to suggest this team is closer to mediocre than the Cavs' top challenger.

All of it is leading me to wonder whether the magic of ThibsBall was more a function of the makeup of the roster than the coach. Maybe it shouldn't be a surprise the Bulls look similar to last year when they brought back the exact same team.

Yes, it's early. Yes, they're winning. Yes, they could pull out some bullshit and beat the Warriors tonight. It's just that, up to this point, I'm not terribly optimistic. I still enjoy watching this team because I'm deeply invested in the players that have given us so much for so many years, but I can't confidently say this group is better than last year.

This is all a long way of saying I think it's time for a trade. The Bulls never make trades so perhaps even suggesting the possibility is ridiculous. They haven't made a move to improve the team since acquiring John Salmons and Brad Miller in Vinny Del Negro's last season.

Still, I think it's time. Trade a front court player (my pick: Pau) for a wing or guard and unclog this roster. Open up minutes for Bobby Portis. Be proactive instead of passive-aggressive. Something. Anything. This team needs it.

Guess who's back?

Thibs! I was at the Champions Classic too and didn't see him. I'd like to think that if I did, I would have attempted to shake his hand and tell him "thank you" while he grunted at the mere possibly of human contact. My dude Dan Katz put it well:

I don't know about the rest of you guys but I miss Thibs. It's like if you have a relationship with a chick and she's moving or you're moving and you end things because you know it's not possible to do the long distance thing. If you lived in the same city it would work out but life happened and got in the way and there's nothing you could do. No hard feelings, things just weren't meant to be. That's how I feel toward Thibs. I want him to be happy, I want him to go find a new team that he can make practice for 6 hours a day and a front office that he hates, I want those things for him. We broke up not because of love lost but because the circumstances just didn't allow us to stay together.

Here, here.

YOUNG BUCKETS

Former high school teammates Harrison "The Black Falcon" Barnes and Doug "Doug" McDermott square off in Oakland tonight. Who you got?

harry b

It's a shame "The Black Falcon" hasn't caught on because that's a legitimately hilarious nickname. I imagine Barnes paying a marketing research team $200K to come up with it.

A thing I like: Noah to Taj alley-oops!

There's been a few of these and my original intention was to go back and GIF all of them, but now I don't really feel like it so you'll have to just live with this one. Sorry.

Remembering the dunk on Dragic

Nick Friedell published a great story this week that made me immediately nostalgic for the recent past. We're talking, of course, about D. Rose's historically great slam on Goran Dragic. I liked this part in particular.

When ESPN.com recently approached Dragic and told him a story was being put together about Rose, the Miami Heat point guard didn't even need to listen to the rest of the question.

"The dunk on me?" he replied.

Dragic didn't think Rose was actually going to dunk it as he went to contest the play.

"I thought he was just going to lay it up," Dragic told ESPN.com. "It was a monster dunk. I can say that it was my first and last [time] that I've got dunked on. I learn from my mistakes (laughs). I didn't know a lot about D-Rose back then. I tried to make a play. I tried to contest it."

We were all so much younger and better looking back then.

The Booz News

Shout-out to Jon Greenberg for unearthing this gem:

That list? The 50 best athletes from every state. Boozer came in at No. 27 .... in Alaska!

Boozer

Carlos Boozer: the 27th best athlete in the history of Alaska. This has been the Booz News.