Bulls can ease pain of Bears’ disappointment

By Mike Rodriguez

Now that football season is Gross-man-ly and officially over, it’s time for Chicago fans to face the facts: the team to root for in upcoming months doesn’t wear orange and blue.

No, I’m not talking about the Illini; they have no chance of winning anything other a NIT trophy, and that would be surprising.

I’m talking about a team that wears red and black.

I’m talking about the team that’s gone 28-21 and has quietly defeated Western Conference contenders while the rest of the city has been focused on an unlawful squad that failed to live up to their Super Bowl expectations.

The team I’m referring to is the Chicago Bulls – and they have a better chance of being crowned world champions than the Bears ever did, yet the odds on the Bulls are not even close to the favorable odds of Lovie and his band of bipolar Bears.

The city of broad shoulders is left with one task after the Bears’ crippling defeat at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday: stop complaining and move on.

Chicago fans can choose to do one of two things: sit and listen to what the Bears did wrong during the 58 minutes of the Manning Bowl, (I don’t count the first two minutes because Devin Hester’s opening-kickoff return and Chris Harris’ interception were the two bright spots of what should’ve been a cake-walk for the Bears), or focus on the fact that the Chicago Bulls have an incredibly better future than the recently-declared rival Indiana Pacers.

Hell, lets just consider our neighbors from the time-zone-challenged state of Indiana our enemies right now for the sense of comfort. The Pacers, under Larry Legend himself, have had recent success after a trade that sent forwards Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington to Golden State for forwards Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy. They are 6-3 since the eight-player trade and seem to be playing with improved team chemistry without Jackson’s on- and off-court distractions.

If the season ended today, the Pacers, 26-22 as of Wednesday, would be the Bulls’ first-round playoff opponents.

Nothing could be worse for the city of Chicago than a double elimination from the same city, especially when that city is Indianapolis. Fortunately for Bulls fans, there is nothing to worry about, unless Peyton develops a jump shot and a killer crossover in the next two months during his vacation to Disney World. The current western swing will be a gauge as to how well the Bulls can play on the road. If they want to prove to the critics that they are a contender in the East, they will have to win at least four out of seven games on the road trip and come back to Chicago with some momentum.

Barring any major deals by General Manager John Paxson, the Bulls will have to rely on their current squad to take them deep into the playoffs. Solidifying the starting lineup will be key for the overall morale of the team, and head coach Scott Skiles will have to make some tough decisions as to who he wants out there for the majority of the minutes.

Ben Gordon’s role is vital to the Bulls’ performance, as it has been in the past. Whether Gordon comes off the bench to provide a spark to the team or starts the game, Skiles needs to iron out any wrinkles before the playoffs to instill consistency on the team.

Skiles should leave Gordon on the bench; he is more comfortable as the sixth man and has played better when he doesn’t start. The starting five for the Bulls should be Kirk Hinrich, Andres Nocioni, Luol Deng, P.J. Brown and Ben Wallace.

This lineup allows the Bulls to establish the inside-out game early, which will open up the outside shooting once Gordon comes in to spell Nocioni after a likely hard foul about halfway through the first quarter.

The Bulls will struggle in the playoffs against teams that feature multiple scoring big men, so a trade would benefit their playoff match-ups. But with Paxson’s reluctance to deal both Gordon and Deng for Memphis forward Pau Gasol, it’s likely the Bulls will have to search other avenues for their low-post threat.

Chicago fans that have shaken off their Bears Super Bowl hangover can be happy with the fact that there is a team that is poised to contend for the Eastern Conference title and hopefully an NBA Finals berth.

The time is now for fans to support a team that doesn’t have the question marks that surrounded the Bears for an entire season. There is little doubt that Captain Kirk and his squad will band together to pursue their goal of an NBA title.

Before Chicago fans divide themselves into the annual North and South-side rivals for baseball season, they can support the Bulls in their championship efforts. In a league that is criticized for lazy play, the Bulls are the exception to the status quo. With Nocioni as their role model for hard-hat performances, the Bulls will be sure to grind out every game for the rest of the season and hopefully deep into the playoffs.

Peyton Manning may be relishing in his so-called MVP performance, but how much better would it be for the city of Chicago to regain the basketball dominance that it had during the Jordan era. If you’re still sick over the performance in the Super Bowl, tune into the next Bulls game. They are most definitely the prescription for Grossman fever.

Mike Rodriguez is a senior in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected]