I can’t believe it. I simply can’t believe it.
With just one game remaining, the Chicago Bulls have a chance to be the third seed in the Eastern Conference. However, the East is an absolute joke.
But so is the Bulls’ roster.
The team lost arguably their two best players this year. In truly heart-wrenching form, Derrick Rose went down with another knee injury just 10 games into what was supposed to be his huge comeback season. Then, in a somewhat unexpected move, Luol Deng was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers for basically a couple of draft picks.
Having little depth in the backcourt to begin with, the Bulls’ core of guards was entirely in shambles. At the time of the Deng trade the Bulls were 14-18 and seemed to be headed toward tanking. At least that’s what you’d expect from a team that didn’t have any true starting guards and nobody but Taj Gibson coming off of the bench.
Yet the Bulls did anything but tank.
Instead they went on a 34-15 run since Jan. 7, the day Deng was traded. The Bulls’ unbelievable success is owed almost entirely to two people: Head Coach Tom Thibodeau and “point center” Joakim Noah.
Save maybe Greg Popovich, there currently isn’t a better coach than Thibodeau. His defensive system smothers even the most offensive of opponents. His “do whatever it takes to win” mentally results in victories the Bulls have no right to claim. Thibodeau emulates Chicago’s blue-collar identity that no matter how tough things are, you work your ass off to accomplish your goals.
But most of all, it is his uncanny ability to get the most out of his players that makes the Bulls legitimate contenders every year no matter how depleted the roster is.
Last year Thibodeau’s poster boy was Nate Robinson.
This year it was “nobody wants me” D.J. Augustin. Once a former lottery pick, the point guard had been waived by two teams before being picked up by the Bulls.
Since being under Thibodeau’s tutelage, Augustin is the team’s leading scorer, averaging 14.9 points a game. Despite coming off the bench, he has outperformed starting point guard Kirk Hinrich and when it comes down to crunch time, Augustin is the player Thibs calls on.
But the Bulls wouldn’t be anywhere without their All-Star center, Joakim Noah. The man has been playing out of this world. He plays lights-out defense, racks up rebounds, consistently nails his “tornado” jump shot, leads fast breaks and tosses alley-oops.
Noah has four triple-doubles on the season and has come close several more times. He literally does it all. If Thibodeau emulates Chicago’s blue-collar identity, Noah embodies it. He deserves to be in the MVP conversation.
The Bulls shouldn’t be the third seed in the East. Just don’t tell Coach Thibs or Noah that. They aren’t listening.