Look, I’m happy the Bulls won. I’m also glad they didn’t mess around and just dropped the hammer on a bad team (well, minus New Jersey’s brief third quarter comeback courtesy of Jarvis Hayes’ three-point bombing). And I’m downright relieved they didn’t lose a second home game this season to one of the worst teams in NBA history.
But I’m not sure what this win means.
Let’s face it, the Bulls are a a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. This season has been so schizophrenic. Between Derrick Rose’s early season ankle woes, Kirk Hinrich’s busted finger, Tyrus Thomas’ broken forearm followed by his malcontent, John Salmons’ career-worst slump, the subsequent trading away of Ty and the Fish Man, Joakim Noah’s plantar fasciitis, Luol Deng’s recent calf strain that might have ended his season, and the fact that Chicago management approached this campaign as a throw away so they could preserve cap space for this summer’s free agent market…
…and I didn’t even mention that nobody outside of the Bulls’ front office has any idea about whether coach Vinny Del Negro is going to be around next season.
Simply put, the Bulls have never been able to develop a sense of identity this season. They have ranged from very bad, to merely bad, to mediocre, to sort of good, to pretty good, all the way back to very bad again. I don’t think there’s been a single time all season in which we could say: This is who and what the Bulls are.
And we still don’t know.
Technically speaking, Chicago is only 1 1/2 games behind the Toronto Raptors for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Now, the Raptors have lost eight of their last 11 games, with two of their three wins coming against the league-worst Nets and Minnesota Timberwolves. Chris Bosh has been questioning his teammates’ desire while the local media has been questioning Bosh’s desire.
And now tonight, the Bulls get a crack at the cellar-dwelling Detroit Pistons while the Raptors have to play the Heat in Miami. All these facts point to the distinct possibility that Chicago could be right back into the playoff race only days after a loss so crushing it felt like they had been mathematically eliminated for the next two or three seasons.
But we still don’t know.
Last night, Jannero Pargo led the team by scoring a game-high 27 points on 10-for-19 shooting. Pargo’s previous high in points this season had been 20 in the infamous Kirk Hinrich Meltdown Game. The last time Jannero scored 27 or better was for the New Orleans Hornets in a first round playoff loss to the Dallas Mavericks on April 25, 2008. The last time before that was when Pargo put up 34 off the bench during his first stint with the Bulls on March 26, 2004. That’s it. That’s the entire list of Jannero’s 27-plus point games.
So what does it tell us?
What does it tell us that Derrick Rose had a Rajon Rondo-like game: a game-high 9 assists to go with 7 points, 5 rebounds, a steal and a blocked shot? Or, for that matter, Taj Gibson’s dominance (22 points, 7-for-9, 8-for-10 from the line, 13 rebounds, 2 blocked shots) over Yi Jianlian (7 points, 3-for-9, 8 boards)?
I’m not sure anymore. I’m not sure the entire season means anything. Bulls management is treating it like an afterthought and maybe it is. Maybe all that really matters is which big name free agent — if any — comes to Chi-town for 2010-11.
But that doesn’t mean the players are giving up.
Said Rose: “We just got to keep this going. We got a good feeling. We came back from a terrible loss [on Thursday night]. I’m glad to see us play like this. We need to continue to play like this.”