Chicago Bulls ready for tipoff

By JeffGraveline

After the 2008 – 2009 NBA regular season, the Chicago Bulls were a .500 team with a record of 41 and 41. They had earned the seventh seed in the playoffs and drew a matchup against the defending champions, the Boston Celtics.  The Bulls and Celtics dueled seven games before Chicago succumbed to Boston.

That seven-game push against Boston and the growth of several key players during the offseason has given Bulls fans, players and the front office a goal to reach the playoffs again this season, according to Sam Smith, a writer.

“I don’t think you’re looking at a team that’s going to compete for a championship or the top of the East, but I think you’re looking at a team that’s trying to make the playoffs,” Smith said. “They’ll be in the group of teams trying to get between fifth and eighth in their view to make the playoffs.”

During the off-season, the Bulls decided not to re-sign guard Ben Gordon, who led the team in scoring the last four seasons. The Gordon loss, while a blow to the offense, is seen as a boost for the defense by some, said Joel Brigham, writer for

“Vinny Del Negro, [general manager] Gar Foreman and a lot of the suits are preaching this new ‘nose-to-the-grindstone’ defensive philosophy this year,” Brigham said. “That’s almost a direct shout out to Ben [Gordon] being gone.  Now they can actually afford to play real serious team defense.”

Besides the loss of Gordon, the roster the Bulls put on the hardwood will be very similar to the team from last season, following the midseason acquisition of John Salmons and Brad Miller. With Salmons and Miller added to a young core of players, the Bulls have found their identity.

“They had a number of players on the team that they really didn’t want—Tim Thomas—all those players are gone,” Smith said. “So they’ve got the same group for the whole season—they should be a little more consistent this year.”

During the NBA draft, the Bulls added rookies Taj Gibson and James Johnson, two players expected to contribute off the bench during the season.

“I’ve seen plenty of those two guys and I like them both—I think they’re good kids,” Brigham said. “I think they will be OK in terms of how they play this season, I’m not sure the minutes are going to be there … there is some potential there.”

Along with Gibson and Johnson, Chicago has a young nucleolus to build around, including budding superstar Derrick Rose, forwards Tyrus Thomas and Luol Deng. Thomas is expected to be a highlight for a team in the front court, Brigham added.

“You’ve got to see [Thomas] play consistently, his numbers have gone up every year,” Brigham said. “He’s poised for a true break-out season, but it’s got to be consistent. I think potentially he’s a double-double guy down the road this year.”

With the roster the Bulls have put together, the issue for the team will be with consistency on the floor, said Mike McGraw, Bulls beat writer for the Daily Herald.

“I think the team should be in position to pick up from that Celtics series and keep going,” McGraw said. “How much better they can get, I don’t know.  They might have a chance to challenge for one of the top four seeds in the [Eastern Conference].”

The Eastern Conference is already set at the one, two and three spots for the playoffs with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics, Brigham said. Following those three teams, the league opens up to a wide race between the Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat, Charlotte Bobcats, Washington Wizards and the Bulls.

The real question for the Bulls will be if they can live up to expectations and earn between a four and six spot in the playoffs. Barring injury and whether the team can stay consistent on the floor, Brigham, Smith and McGraw all agree that the playoffs and earning between a four and six seed are within the Bulls’ potential this season.