Bullying is the hot sports topic. At first it was hard for me to swallow the possibility that an NFL player could be bullied by a teammate. Really, a professional player in a violent sport can be bullied? This kind of undermines the lectures I give to kids about the evils of bullying. Now, I don’t profess to know what’s going on between Joe Philbin, Jeff Ireland and the Miami Dolphins, but I gotta admit, professional athletes can be victims of bullying behavior. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. My D-Rose-ified Chicago Bulls seem to be getting it from some of their peers. Or have I misperceived the school-yard drubbings that were handed out by the Heat and, last night, the Pacers?
The Bulls are only four games into their 82-game season. Yet if it wasn’t for a Derrick Rose runner in the lane they’d be winless. The Bulls have certainly played the cream of the crop in the Eastern Conference thus far, but last night was pretty embarrassing to watch for those of us who waited 18 months for the prodigal son to bring it back home.
In Miami’s homecoming and ring-bearing opener, the Bulls looked more like the Washington Generals. They followed with a home opener win of their own, but only barely, and have gone on to lose the last two games. The Bulls have yet to win a road game. Yeah, only four games in and I’m already seeing a half-empty cup. But last night’s fourth quarter (and, no, I’m not ignoring the first and third quarters) was so bad, so incredibly brutally awful, that I’m imagining Thibodeau has already got a rough draft of his resignation letter floating around in his otherwise gifted mind. He was probably talking about it on the sidelines while the officials reviewed Hinrich’s ridiculous flagrant foul late in the fourth. I can’t read lips, but it looked like he said something like, “If I dreamed of coaching high school basketball I’d be living that dream right now”. But my Bulls are an NBA team – appearances to the contrary – and I’m hoping Tom can point to this game at some point late in the season and say, simply, that it was the game that lit a fire under the Bulls’ asses.
Oh, right, I’ve gotta point out that the Bulls brought a 6-point lead into the half. I say this so the cup-half-full folks can have a little something to write home about.
The Pacers owned all the statistical categories that are relevant. The offensive rebounding number was 17-11 in Indiana’s favor, they won the turnover margin, and shot a much higher field goal percentage while attempting 13 more shots. Add all these numbers up and you get the 17-point differential in the game. But that’s just numbers. The Bulls looked scarily easily dominated in the fourth. They were not only unable to impose their will, but they didn’t appear to have any will to impose. And, here I dare say it, Jordan’s Bulls NEVER lost their indomita-BULL spirit. Ever. This isn’t Jordan’s Bulls, I get it, but without making too fine a point about it, this also isn’t Jordan’s Bulls.
Jeez, John-o, why so much trash over a 17-point blowout on the road this early in the season? Well, because Indiana isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Indiana is the biggest rival in our division and we’ll have to beat them on their own court if we want to face the Heat in something more than an opening round sweep. The reason Indiana got Miami to go seven games in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals was because they did everything then that they did tonight. They owned the boards and inside presence. They playing impenetrable defense (best in the league this year at 85 OPPG). Indiana was doing all of these same things last year without one of their best players, Danny Granger. Now Granger’s going to be back and, with the emergence of Paul George, Indiana’s the team most experts are picking to dethrone Miami in the East if it’s going to happen.
Chicago being demolished on the road tonight could be a sign post that points to how far they are from actually competing this year. If Rose is healthy and close to 100%, then either the Bulls have been stunning underachievers so far, or….
I really really (really) want the bloom to stay on Rose. I think I waited patiently enough.