(Brian Cassella / Chicago…)
When Derrick Rose went down with his latest season-ending injury, many fans wanted the team to get acclimated to another lost season.
Some wanted the team to tank, much like Philadelphia seems to be doing (unofficially, of course). "Play sorry for Jabari" and "Riggin' for Wiggins" were common battle cries on social media.
I was of the opinion that any season with the team not at full strength was a lost cause. After all, when Rose got hurt and Luol Deng was traded, I thought taking the Heat to six games was no longer a possibility. If that was case, why even try to make the playoffs?
Then things changed in the Eastern Conference.
After taking the mighty Heat to seven games last season, Indiana was a popular pick to make the NBA Finals. The Pacers have a solid nucleus led by rising star Paul George. Meanwhile, the Heat do what the Heat do. They coast through their schedule until the games start to mean something.
Both teams have had problems in second half of the season. The Heat's problems have to do with injuries and the amount of games they've played in recent seasons. The Pacers seem to have growing pains regarding the intense scrutiny.
The Bulls, on the other hand, have been one of the NBA's most consistent teams, year in and year out.
It is easy to talk about what they don't have. We've been doing that for years. But believe it or not, this team has a nucleus that is mentally tough and battle-tested. The Bulls may not match up in the talent department, but what they lack in flash, they make up for in coaching and grit. Tom Thibodeau is one of the best coaches at getting more out of less. Remember, he made Marco Belinelli, Nate Robinson and D.J. Augustin relevant.
The Bulls' playoff outlook is better than most expected. I wouldn't be surprised if they made a deep playoff run. Then again, I doubt they will.
The Bulls probably won't make it out of the East. However, they will give a team a run for their money before they bow out.
That's fine—for now.
Evan F. Moore is a RedEye special contributor.
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