Here’s a mind scrambler for you. According to the Chicago Tribune: “The Bulls at 5-4 are actually off to their best start since the 1997-98 season (also 5-4). And, they have done it against the second-toughest schedule in the league to-date. The Bulls have played teams with a .595 winning percentage; only the Wizards have played a tougher schedule (.625).”
So despite an offense that has been something of a phantom menace, the Bulls have actually done reasonably well against a pretty tough schedule. Who knew? I mean, besides the Chicago Tribune.
Things won’t get any easier as the Bulls begin their annual circus road trip: five of the six opponents are above .500, and their combined record is 36-21. The fun starts tonight against the surprising Sacramento Kings (5-4), who have won five of six overall and four straight without their best player (Kevin Martin). Then it’s off to face the Lakers (7-3 , 5-2 at home), Nuggets (7-3, 3-0 at home), Trail Blazers (8-4, 3-2 at home), Jazz (4-6, 2-2 at home) and Bucks (5-3, 4-1 at home). It will take a minor miracle for the Bulls to return to Chicago above .500.
The circus trip has been an annual horror show for the Bulls this decade. From 1999-00 through 2008-09, the Bulls are 9-56 on this trip, including a five-year stretch (1999-09 through 2003-04) in which they went 0-32. Ouch. In the last five seasons, the Bulls have “improved” to 9-24.
It’s not all doom and gloom. Sacramento’s recent hot streak hasn’t exactly come against the league’s top teams. The Lakers have had some injury problems, including Kobe Bryant (groin strain). The Bulls played the Nuggets tough in Chicago and held Carmelo Anthony to a season-low 20 points. The Jazz are struggling and Deron Williams is hurt. And Milwaukee is kind of overachieving right now. The Blazers…well…I’ve got nothing there.
Maybe, just maybe, the Bulls could walk away from this trip with a 3-3 record. I think that’s probably the best case scenario.
Here we “Jo” again:
Joakim Noah, currently the league’s leading rebounder by the way (12.2 RPG), until recently had no idea what the circus trip was all about. Said Noah: “Why do they always call it the circus trip? What’s so circus about it anyway?”
That’s okay, Jo. You just keep concentrating on crashing the boards.
(In case you’re like Noah, the circus trip is so-named because — as Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald pointed out — the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus moves into the United Center for two weeks every year, forcing the Bulls and the Blackhawks to hit the road.