Bullish behavior a result of the new NBA

By Dave Fultz

The slumping Chicago Bulls lost again. Twice, actually, just this weekend, to drop their record to 2-10 on the season. Neither game was even close.

Saturday the Bulls lost to the lowly Knicks without Luol Deng, and then lost big to the up-and-coming Raptors with Deng returning from injury.

This Bulls roster is assembled much the same way as last season’s squad, yet it can’t find the will to win after going deep into the playoffs last spring.

That’s just the problem, though: This is the same team that sputtered in the playoffs last year. This year’s Bulls will probably turn things around just in time to make a run at a playoff spot in the improved, but still weaker Eastern Conference.

The Bulls are built to be a slightly above-average team that can sometimes flash greatness because the roster is made up of slightly above-average players who can sometimes flash greatness.

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    Without a truly “great” player in today’s NBA, the Bulls will be left somewhere in the middle when the cream rises to the top.

    This team was full of energy and life a season ago but has fallen flat on its face now that expectations are high and fan support is even higher.

    Bulls fans were admittedly very spoiled in the ’90s with Jordan, Pippen and Grant at first and then Jordan, Pippen and Rodman the second time around. Then, for the better part of a decade, fans were subjected to bad move after bad move and losing season after losing season.

    But for the past few seasons, Bulls fans have been back on cloud nine while the team had some success, and John Paxson added players to improve this team much more quickly than could have been expected. The problem is that none of those players are game-changers.

    Can you name any team that took home the NBA crown at the end of the season any time in the last 15 years without a great player or two?

    The Bulls ran through the ’90s with Jordan and Pippen, and Hakeem Olajuwon led the Rockets to two titles in between each of the Bulls’ three-peats.

    Since 1999, either Shaquille O’Neal or Tim Duncan has been in every NBA Finals. Both had significant help in Kobe Bryant, David Robinson, Dwyane Wade, Tony Parker and the like, and all of those series were filled with bona fide superstars.

    The example that many look at when they argue that this Bulls team, as assembled, can win a title is the Detroit Pistons of a couple of seasons ago.

    The Pistons were also a team filled with “effort guys” and supposed role players, and they found their way into two Finals appearances and a ring, didn’t they?

    The difference is that those teams were made up of veterans and each featured multi-year all-stars in Rasheed Wallace, Rip Hamilton, Chauncey Billups and Ben Wallace.

    The Bulls have Big Ben now, but he is years older and steps slower on the court – and it shows.

    They are built like any good football or baseball team with team defense, hard work and the fundamentals being stressed above all. But this strategy doesn’t work in today’s NBA.

    Without a game-changer or a dominant big man (a la Shaq or Duncan), it becomes harder and harder to compete in an NBA that, more and more, is set up for teams with truly great players to succeed above the team concept.

    I hate this trend in the NBA and maybe that is why I haven’t watched a non-Bulls game yet this season, but who knows. The league is full of guys who can take over a game at any moment and immediately make his team a winner, but the Bulls just don’t have any of those guys.

    When teams like the Cavaliers are able to reach the NBA Finals on the strength of one great player, extra importance is placed on superstars.

    This extra importance makes superstars all the more valuable and when one becomes available – especially if he may end up being one of the top ten players of all-time – you have to do what it takes to acquire said superstar.

    I’m not the biggest Kobe fan around but even I was willing to sell off most of the Bulls assets when he became available.

    But, like I said earlier, this Bulls team will probably turn things around enough to reach the playoffs in the weaker Eastern Conference. Though, I’ll be the first one to tell Paxson “I told you so” when they are bounced out by a team like Lebron’s Cavs or the three-headed superstar that is the Celtics.

    Dave Fultz is a junior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected]