Fact vs. Fiction: The Chicago Bulls' NBA Playoffs Performance so Far
The Chicago Bulls love this role.
For the entire playoff season, the Bulls have played the role of the under dog.
Most prognosticators predicted that they would be outlasted by the Brooklyn Nets.
And you would be hard-pressed to find a writer that thought they would win a game in Miami, much less knock off the defending champs.
But this Chicago Bulls team continues to gut out wins and extend their season.
Here, we will take a look at some of the big storylines thus far, and debate what is fact versus fiction.
Fiction: Derrick Rose's Return Would Disrupt Team Chemistry
Let's just disrupt this little bit of nonsense right off the bat.
Derrick Rose, when he was healthy, was one of the top five players in the game.
He is a dynamic point guard that can get to the hoop at will and set up teammates like few others in the league.
Obviously nobody besides Rose knows where his health is at right now, but if he is close to 100 percent then he needs to be playing in this series.
Some have argued that this Bulls team is scrapping wins, and bringing Rose into the fold would disrupt this team's chemistry.
But at this point, the Bulls are getting by on grit and luck. However, they are running out of bodies.
Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich continue to be questionable to return. Joakim Noah is losing control of his emotions. And the bench is down to less than a handful of able bodies.
Rose represents a huge advantage for the Bulls. The Heat don't have anyone in their backcourt that can handle him, placing all the pressure on LeBron James to step it up and chase down the Bulls' star. If that happens, Nate Robinson is given even more room to operate.
Now let's get this straight, the Bulls don't need Rose to average 27 points per game like he did in the 2011 playoffs. But what kind of a psychological advantage would it be if the Heat looked up this weekend and saw the former league MVP warming up?
The Bulls need Rose, plain and simple.
Fact: Luol Deng Is Essential to This Bulls Series
Luol Deng has been the face of the Bulls' franchise for nearly a decade.
He has seen highs, lows and even trade rumors for Kobe Bryant back in the day.
But above all else, Deng has seen some serious pain with the Chicago Bulls.
Now, this team needs to see Deng come through.
Deng has been battling a brutal illness during the playoffs. This illness has quite nearly knocked the life out of the Bulls star, forcing him to be not only bed-ridden but also hospital-bound as well.
That being said, the Bulls need Deng in order to have a chance in this series against Miami.
Deng provides something that nobody on the team can bring. He is a versatile scoring wing that will force the Heat to commit way too much perimeter defense.
Right now, they are able to key on a couple of players and essentially coast against the others.
Deng's return would force this Heat team to play honest on every possession.
Now would a Deng return signal a likely win for the Bulls? Of course not, the Heat are the better team. But without Deng, the Bulls certainly have no shot.
Fiction: Nate Robinson Will Be a Bull Next Year
No upcoming free agent has seen their stock explode like Nate Robinson has.
Not Josh Smith, Monta Ellis or any of the big names.
Robinson essentially had to beg his way onto the Bulls.
A free agent with a reputation as a ball-hog, Robinson signed on with the Bulls and immediately made his presence felt.
During the regular season, Robinson averaged 13 points to go along with four assists. Most importantly, he has been a key player in the ongoing story that is this Bulls' postseason.
Robinson has exploded in the playoffs, averaging over 17 points per game.
In the Bulls unlikely game one victory over the Heat, Robinson dropped in 27.
But this has been bittersweet for the Bulls.
On the one hand, Robinson has been a savior for this club.
But on the other, he likely just played himself out of their budget.
Robinson is now likely to be looking at a contract upwards of $6 million per season for at least three years but likely four. The Bulls will already be committed to paying over $68 million next season even after they decline the team option on Rip Hamilton.
This means that Robinson will most likely be wearing a different jersey next year.
Fiction: Joakim Noah Needs to Play Under Control
One of my biggest pet peeves is hearing columnists or prognosticators implore emotional players to play under control.
So let's get this straight: Joakim Noah is an emotional player.
He was emotional in college at Florida, as he has been his entire NBA career. He plays with fire and determination.
In this sense, he is no different from Dennis Rodman, Rasheed Wallace or even Shawn Kemp before him.
The key to his game is getting under the opponent's skin and he does it like few can.
So why would you want to curtail that?
Game two represented a perfect storm for the Bulls. They melted down at the same time that the Heat were finding their groove.
Sure, the refs didn't help matters, and the Bulls probably could have played better as a whole.
But emotion didn't do them in. They just boiled over after they were out of it.
In order for the Bulls to extend this series, they are going to need Noah to play like himself, and that means to get fired up and passionate.
Fact: The Bulls Have What It Takes to Win This Series
I may be laughed right off this site, but I truly believe that the Bulls can win this series.
Just like I believed that they could beat the Nets.
Scrappy, defensive-minded and well-coached teams are generally successful in the playoffs. And the Bulls, with the exception of the San Antonio Spurs, are the best-coached team in the league right now.
What's more is that they have a psychological edge that has them believing that they not only can play with the Heat, but they can beat them.
How else do you explain their improbable game one win?
Sure, the Heat stormed back and smoked the Bulls in game two. But even that lopsided loss was to be expected. The Heat had just been embarrassed at home.
More importantly, the Heat got a little scared. They didn't think that this series with their bed-ridden opponents would be a contest.
Now the series shifts to Chicago, and the Bulls have an opportunity to hold serve.
Obviously there are a lot of factors up in the air for the Bulls. They still need to have a healthy or relatively healthy Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich. They also need Robinson to continue to step up. They also have the possibility of a Derrick Rose return to think about.
But this is a team that can give the Heat trouble. They split the season series with the Heat because they are big, physical and can control the boards.
They are never going to take LeBron James out of the game. But if they can keep him in this stratosphere, they have a chance.
They already cleared the biggest obstacle—they won a game in Miami. Now they just need to remember that they can beat this team.