By Argie Grigorakos
With a monumental holiday passing us, there are so many things we all can be thankful for, as the festivities can provide a sense of reflection and appreciation. When it comes to sports many can lose sight of perspective of what the sense of true team play can provide. A sense of togetherness, collective growth and camaraderie is often overlooked as fans, radio hosts and TV analysts mostly mention wins and losses. No matter a team’s record, many should be thankful for the positives that standout during a gruelling sport season. In the early part of the NBA season there is plenty of news surrounding all 30 teams, but arguably the Chicago Bulls have heard the most “noise” in the Association when it comes to their roster. Even though the Chicago Bulls are facing a great amount of adversity in the first few weeks of the season, there are plenty of reasons to be thankful for as a Bulls fan. Here are 10 reasons all Bulls fans should be thankful this holiday season:
- Derrick Rose is playing: Yes Derrick Rose has only played in 9 of the Bulls first 17 games, but the idea that he isn’t on the sidelines nursing another major injury should have all Bulls fans feeling cautiously optimistic. Recently Derrick Rose has made various comments that must have had all Bulls fans scratching their heads, in regards to sustaining his health for after basketball, but for most of the games he has played in Pooh has shown flashes of his past greatness. His elite athleticism that separated him from most in the NBA seems to have remained, but the rust he has shown needs to be knocked off. Despite his controversial comments, we should all be thankful that this Chicago son is back playing the game that he loves.
- Tom Thibodeau remained as the Bulls Head Coach: It has been well documented during Tom Thibodeau’s tenure that he and management have bumped heads on a variety of different issues surrounding the team, most notably minutes for players. Major issues that exist have led to many assuming that both parties will soon go their separate ways. This past summer there were a plethora of reports that other teams such as the Lakers, and Grizzles were ready to lure the great Coach away from the Windy City offering the Bulls incentives that included draft picks and future considerations. Ultimately, the Chicago Bulls didn’t even address the rumours. Arguably, Tom Thibodeau is a top 3 coach in the NBA, even though he is a very demanding Coach that may push his players over the limit at times. Coach Thibs has proven to be very successful when he has a healthy roster, and a genius on the defensive end of the court. The day Tom Thibodeau leaves the Chicago Bulls, the hard working no nonsense culture that he developed may go along with him.
- Joakim Noah is surviving his knee surgery: Last Summer Joakim Noah had major knee surgery that led to an extensive rehab which still plagues the Florida Gator to this day. Even though on most nights this season Noah hasn’t looked like his old self as he struggles with the injury, he is still affecting the game in different ways that should prove to be inspiring to his teammates. Joakim Noah has become the leader of the team and just his mere presence on the floor can drive his teammates to give more and push through any hurdles they are fighting. There may not be a bigger supporter of Derrick Rose than Joakim on this roster, and having the team Center with him between the 4 lines must help the former MVP battle his own demons each day. Having 70% of Joakim Noah is better than not having him at all.
- A change in the Medical Staff: The minute that Fred Tedeschi, the long time Chicago Bulls athletic trainer left the team to accept a position at Oregon State, there was an immediate shift in the ideologies of managing the rosters health. It could have been a mere coincidence the shift occurred once Jen Swanson joined the organization (hired to oversee the training and strength and conditioning of staff), but it is clear that the Chicago Bulls are now taking a more conservative approach in maintaining their roster’s health by restricting minutes for certain players, or giving them games off when minor injuries occur. Management along with their medical stuff seem to be very hands on with the process which is smart, as being more conscious of every player’s health should lead to long term benefits.
- The emergence of Jimmy Butler: For months it has been debated what Jimmy Butler’s true market value is as he is about to enter restricted free agency next summer. In October Jimmy Butler stated that he will bet on himself and rejected a reported 40 million 4 year deal presented to him by the Bulls organization, thus looking to prove he is worth so much more. Up to this point Jimmy has shown that he is a very clever betting man. So far this season Jimmy Butler is averaging 21.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg,3.1 apg and shooting 49.8 % from the field. Along with his elite defense, Jimmy has evolved into a premier offensive weapon that bolds well for any championship contender. As long as Jimmy keeps up his superb play, the Chicago Bulls will have another All-Star on their hands.
- The amnesty of Carlos Boozer: This past summer the Chicago Bulls used their Amnesty Provision on Carlos Boozer and paid the Power Forward 16.8 million dollars left on his salary in order to clear 13 million in cap space for this season. For years the Chicago Bulls have been labelled a “cheap” organization but by this one transaction they showed they were willing to send a player away in order to upgrade their roster right now, and swallow a hefty pay out while doing so. Ultimately, the Bulls were able to release one of their poorest defenders in order to add quality pieces in Nikola Mirotic, Aaron Brooks and 2 time champion Pau Gasol.
- The signing of Pau Gasol: There were other teams that offered Pau Gasol more money, or a more recent successful track record than Chicago, but the Bulls provided the Center/Power Forward an opportunity to play with a team full of hunger, desire and a want that cannot go unnoticed. By signing the Spaniard to a reasonable 3 year 22 million dollar deal, the Bulls were allowed to continue to add to their roster and solidify their chances of winning a championship. In the early stages of the season Pau has provided the Bulls with solid inside scoring and passing. Surprisingly his length has also proven to be a major asset in changing opponent’s shot or even blocking them. Pau may have been the biggest steal of this past offseason in the NBA.
- The arrival Of Nikola Mirotic: For several years it was reported that the Chicago Bulls have eagerly awaited Nikola Mirotic the Montenegro Star to join the team on US soil, and finally the European prospect has arrived. Early on this season it is evident that Nikola is an ideal “stretch 4” as he is shooting 39.5% from the 3 point line which a very promising rate. He has struggled at times understanding the team’s defensive concepts, but Niko has shown a willingness to be physical and battle with the other 4’s in the league. Mirotic has also shown the ability to put the ball on the floor. The next step for Nikola is understanding when to find his own shot or quickly move the ball to a teammate. The more he gets acclimated in the team’s system, the more successful he will be.
- Carmelo Anthony not signing with the Bulls: When Adding Carmelo Anthony to any roster, it automatically provides a team with a top 2 scorer in the league and a player that can get you points in the most crucial of situations. For several weeks this past summer, it was reported that Carmelo Anthony would be joining the Chicago Bulls which left many fans with great anticipation, but the acquisition would have to come with a hefty price. Ultimately Carmelo decided to resign with the New Knicks, but if he had decided to join the Bulls it would have came at the cost of some of their core players. Carmelo would have demanded a max contract, and the only way the Bulls could have provided it was by moving certain players from their roster (also using all of their cap space in conjunction). Players like Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler would have had to be moved with other players, thus dismantling core pieces the Bulls had developed and obtained. The Bulls would no longer be a deep team. Carmelo’s decision may have helped the Chicago Bulls quite a bit, as they seem to be a more deep and a balanced team after going with plan B this past offseason.
- LeBron James left Miami for Cleveland: The biggest change in the NBA this past summer was undoubtedly LeBron James leaving the Miami Heat and returning to Cleveland. LeBron left a 2 time NBA Championship roster full of experienced veterans in order to join a team with outstanding talent, but lacking great playoff minutes. By joining fellow All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, LeBron James should have enough talent to win an championship some day, however due to chemistry issues already arising in the early stages of this season, 2015 may not be the Cavs year. The Cavs are currently 1 game over .500 and showing an inconsistency that may prove to be their Achilles heal, therefore they may a need full year to build chemistry that is required to be true contenders. If LeBron stayed in Miami, they may have been a major road block for the current Bulls team, as their championship pedigree may have proven to been too much for Chicago. Fortunately for the Chicago Bulls LeBron decided to go back home.