Although I’m an avid Chicago Bulls fan, I’m a little conflicted about tonight’s game between my team and the Miami Heat. The Heat have won 27 games in a row and have the all time record of 33 in their sights. Some part of me would like to see them get that record, albeit for arcane reasons.
Many of the records for excellence in the NBA occurred during expansion years in which talent around the league was diluted from the addition of two or more new franchises. The Lakers 33 game win streak in the 1971-’72 season came during an entire expansion era as the NBA ballooned from nine teams in 1964-’65 to 17 teams that season. Even my cherished Bulls season of 72-10 came after the addition of Toronto and Vancouver ahead of the 1995-96 campaign. It would be nice to see an formidable record broken during a season when every team was fully up and running.
But that doesn’t mean I’m rooting for South Beach tonight. I’m rooting for the Bulls for a bigger reason. This year’s team has been amazing. All guts, effort, grit, everything a fan could want. Yet the primary issue for anyone not watching the games, has been the Beckettian wait for point guard Derrick Rose, the 2010-’11 MVP to return from knee surgery. Maybe he’ll be back tonight, though I doubt it. Maybe he’ll come back later this season. Or, maybe not.
I don’t care.
Most pundits forecast the Bulls to go .500 this season, but a few optimistic ones, figuring on a full recovery and maybe even an early return by Rose predicted 46-36. This Bulls team has fought through a myriad of injuries and the will-he-or-won’t-he drama involving their star point guard, and they are poised to match that 46 win mark. That’s an exceptional feat of teamwork and great coaching from Tom Thibodeau.
Yet, the only notoriety about the Bulls in the national media has been about Rose. A victory tonight would be the kind of signature win that makes everyone notice. D-Rose or no, the Bulls will be a tough out in the postseason. And a win might make people recognize Joakim Noah (who hopefully will play tonight after missing two games with foot issues), Luol Deng, Carolos Boozer, Taj Gibson, Nate Robinson, Jimmy Butler and others in red and black for the exceptional season that they’ve had. They deserve it.