With the Bulls 2012-2013 season in the books, it’s time to look back at the year. For right now, with the season still visible in the rear-view mirror, it makes sense to discuss what will stick with us about this season.
What follows are the things I will remember about each player from this season, ranging from quick thoughts to very quick thoughts, both good and bad, big and little.
Nate Robinson: When he was signed, I didn’t think he would be much more than John Lucas III: a small scorer that would be a backup point guard; a guy who could occasionally fill it up and possibly steal you a game. But Nate was so much more. By season’s end he jumped into my top three favorite Bulls to watch this year (behind Noah and Jimmy). He was just pure energy and scoring, and even though the mistakes were plenty, he made games more fun—and fun was something often in short supply with this Chicago squad. At some points, it looked like he had enough energy to power a small country.
Nate did something people didn’t see coming: he ran the team well while also being himself. That’s not an easy task when you’re a shoot first, second and third point guard. Some credit goes to Tom Thibodeau, but Nate bought into the system and it paid off for everyone.
With his contract up and his bags most likely packed, I can honestly say I’ll miss him—something I did not expect coming into this season.
More quick thoughts on Nate: his Karl Malone layup. His feud with Steve Novak over a stolen celebration. Then discount double-checking into eternity against the Knicks. His sneaky jump ball. How he brought the Bulls back from 14 down very late in Game 4 against the Nets, scoring 29 points after the third quarter and in turn playing the lead role in the most exciting playoff game of the season. After the game he said “I always think I’m on fire, kind of like the old school game NBA Jam…Whenever I’m in the game, I just play with a lot of confidence.” (If one quote could sum up Nate Robinson, it’s that one, or “shooter shoot”) Swatting LeBron in the playoffs.
Marco Belinelli: Another guy probably on his way out,Belinelli didn’tlook like a valuable signing early on, but started to contribute when Rip Hamilton went down and was inserted into the starting lineup. I’ll remember his game-winners against the Pistons (with a great save from Joakim Noah) and the Celtics most of all. Oh, and his celebration against Brooklyn in the playoffs that he got fined for.
Luol Deng: Deng going down in February, bringing more Jimmy Butler into my life. Leading the league in minutes per game again, because Tom Thibodeau doesn’t care about your rotations or rest. A down year from beyond the arc. Another productive season—good defense and solid scoring.
Carlos Boozer: Another solid year from Booz, even though his shooting percentage took a big dip (his lowest shooting percentage of his career and just the second time he shot under 50 percent over a season—he shot 49 percent in 2008-2009 when he played 37 games).Boozer not driving to the basket for about 18 straight games, then unleashing a pretty nice dunk, making everyone ask “why doesn’t he drive more often?” SO MANY FADE-AWAYS. ‘Bum slaying,’ in which Booz puts up big numbers against subpar teams. The surprising opinion from many that he was an All Star, even though it was mainly just three really good weeks around when the voting took place. SO MANY SCREAMS. No-showing the first two games of the Miami series. Using the force. Boozington being one of the best teammates in the league, cheering on (read: screaming for) teammates and continuing to be professional throughout the very open “amnesty Boozer” talk. Being the healthiest Bull once again.
[Late addition from @JoeyLeCroissant on Twitter: Carlos Boozer accidentally punching the ref against Dallas]
Joakim Noah: Noah being the MVP of the team. His 30 point, 23 rebound game against Detroit and his two triple doubles—one of which being his amazing 23 point, 21 rebound, eleven block game against Philly that still blows my mind to this day. Jo playing 38.3 minutes per game before the All Star Break, then being named an All Star for the first time in his career. “Point Noah.” Playing just 32.6 minutes after the All Star Break because of injuries and because that’s the right amount of run a center with foot problems should be getting. Him fighting through plantar fasciitis through two entire playoff series and staying the Bulls’ MVP even with that injury. Coming up huge in Game 7 against the Nets (24 points, 14 rebounds, six blocks). Trolling Chris Bosh and the Heat in the playoffs. First team All Defense.
Jimmy Butler: Becoming my second favorite Bull to watch (and surprisingly close to Joakim Noah). Having that unexplainable talent of being in the right spot on the floor at all times. Playing 48 minutes per night (like a lot of nights) and becoming the new Deng. Turning into a consistent three-point shooter while (at least from my memory) hitting nearly all of his open looks from beyond the arc. His great perimeter defense. Posterizing Chris Bosh. Growing into the shooting guard of the future (hopefully).
Kirk Hinrich: The Bulls having a much, much better record when he plays, even with his awful shooting. All the different injuries because he plays with “so much heart and grit.” That one time he hit a jump shot this season.
Taj Gibson: Gibson never really looking right all season. He started off slow, got injured, came back slow…he just never had a rhythm all year. His “one amazing dunk per postseason series” habit continuing—especially his dunk over Kris Humphries, because we all want to dunk on Kris Humphries.
Omer Asik: Averaging 12.2 points and 14.0 rebounds per 36 minutes.Oh, whoops. Never mind. My mistake. He did that in Houston.
Nazr Mohammed: Rarely missing a shot in the preseason, making me say “hey, maybe letting Omer Asik walk won’t be the worst decision ever.” Missing everything to start the season, making me say “Man, letting Omer Asik walk was the worst decision ever.” That time that he dunked when I had no idea he could still dunk. Also, this move. Actually playing pretty well towards the end of the season and into the playoffs, filling in crucial minutes for Noah when he needed a rest. The joke he made at the start of the playoffs that he was the Bulls’ secret weapon and Thibs was waiting to release him. Being a lesser Kurt Thomas. His knuckleheaded play when he shoved LeBron James.
Rip Hamilton: Injuries.Rip playing in the Miami series, shooting 43 percent and yet somehow still convincing people that he still had value and that Thibs made a mistake not turning to him earlier.
Daequan Cook: An amazing amount of confidence for a three-point shooter that shot 28.6 percent from three. That time he was the Bulls’ leading scorer when Chicago got blown out by Denver. Seriously, this guy just kept chucking. How he went 1-10 in the playoffs, when all the Bulls needed from him was a few buckets. Him stepping out of bounds over and over again in the playoffs, making one wonder if he knew the width of a basketball court.
Trade exception from Kyle Korver off-season deal: Not as much production as I would’ve liked. Also, less of a lady killer than Korver.
Vladimir Radmanovic: He went 3-3 for 9 points in garbage time in the Game 2 blowout loss against Miami. And he was tall…that’s all I got on this one.
Marquis Teague: Great ability to get to the basket, without any other ability…except the ability to turn it over. Not doing much in his first season, but remember Jimmy Butler didn’t do much his rookie year, so hopefully Teague can make a jump and become valuable next year.
Derrick Rose: That time he—HAHAHAHAH…we laugh so we don’t cry. But honestly (and sadly), I’ll probably remember this season most of all as the “Will Derrick return tonight” year.
And that is extremely unfair to all the guys who actually played, because for all the reasons above—good and bad—they are what we should remember.