I apologize in advance for the BuzzFeed nature of this post. I also recognize that the purpose behind writing this is mostly to convince myself of lies rather than educate and entertain the masses. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
I couldn’t wait for the NBA season to begin. As soon as the calendar flipped to October my anticipation for the regular season had me bursting at the seams. Despite (what appeared at the time) a strong Eastern Conference, I was confident that the Bulls would be playing deep into the playoffs. I thought Miami, exhausted from the last three seasons, would finally fall to the Bulls. Then the preseason started and my title dreams started to look like they would come true. Butler looked to be a much improved player. Nagging injuries to Deng and Noah from the season before had healed with rest over the summer. And Rose was BACK.
I don’t need to go into detail about how the last month has gone. The Bulls fanbase has become, to put it simply, incredibly depressed. As the Bulls have been unable to surpass 80 points in any of their last three games, it has become a struggle to convince myself to sit and watch the games.
But real fans are there for the team through thick and thin. Even at their absolute worst, it’s our duty as Bulls fans to support this team. It’s these dark days that will make the good ones that much more incredible. So what I have set out to do here is to give Bulls fans (i.e. me) some small things to take pleasure in while watching games. Without further ado, here are four reasons to keep watching the Bulls in 2013-14
1. Taj Gibson is a force of nature
When the Bulls extended Taj Gibson last year, effectively choosing him over Omer Asik, I thought the team had made a mistake. With Carlos Boozer on the roster, it seemed absurd to extend another power forward for big money. But Gibson has lived up to his contract this year, as he has far and away been the team’s MVP.
Playing just over 27 minutes a game, Taj is averaging 12.3 points a game, a career high, on 49% shooting. He is also pulling down a robust seven rebounds per game. Gibson’s per-36 minutes numbers or 16 points and 9 rebounds foreshadow an even greater potential impact on the team should Carlos Boozer ever be sent packing. But the raw box numbers don’t come close to highlighting how great Gibson has been this season.
In this age of advanced statistical age, where teams are designing offenses that either shoot threes or take the ball to the rim, rim protection has become one of the most valuable commodities on an NBA team. Rim protection is Taj Gibson’s specialty. For players who have played at least 20 games and are averaging at least 25 minutes and one block per game (basically big guys who see the floor), Taj Gibson has the lowest opponent field goal percentage at the rim at an astounding 31%. The second lowest opponent field goal percentage at the rim belongs to Roy Hibbert, the early favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year. His percentage? 39.9%.
I know it seems like I’m already getting desperate for positives with a heading like “Effort.” And you’re right, I am desperate. This is a difficult thing to write. But the Bulls must remain on your television schedule because you are guaranteed to see this team give it their all every single night. In their most recent game against the Knicks, the Bulls fell behind by 23 in the second half before roaring back to tie the game in the fourth quarter. While they came up short in a bid for victory, they certainly provided some entertainment value for a game that was, to put it nicely, poorly played.
The Bulls average point differential per game is just -.03, a mark that would predict about a .500 record. This is a team that has a lot of fight in it and will only tank if it’s the result of a major trade that strips the team of a talented piece. The guys on the roster right now will never go down without a fight.
3. Nikola Mirotic
Read this and try to contain your excitement. Every time you think that basketball will never be fun again, just remember that potentially next season the Bulls could bring the next Dirk over from Spain. Mirotic and Rose could form a deadly pick and pop combination that would be almost unguardable.
When talking about Nikola Mirotic, it is best to be unrealistically optimistic or else reality is just too sad.
4. Tom Thibodeau’s Face(s)
You just don’t get this type of gold in a 60 win season.