When Paul Pierce’s second free throw clanged against the back of the iron and Glenn Davis pulled the rebound down as time expired, I experienced quite a rush of emotion.
Anger. Sadness. Utter frustration.
All at the Bulls for blowing a ten-point lead when it looked like they were headed back to the United Center up 3-2 with a chance to take a series against the defending World Champions.
And oddly enough, I also felt one other emotion: Happiness.
Happiness that for the first time in a very long time, I absolutely care about the Chicago Bulls again. I was right there with them two years ago when they knocked off the then-defending champion Miami Heat, and nearly knocked off by the Pistons.
But even then I still found it hard to care about that team.
They achieved everything that I expected of them, but didn’t really surprise me. The next season, they underachieved. Picked to go to the NBA Finals by some, the team sputtered and wound up missing the playoffs.
I had to question how much I really loved that team.
Call me fair-weather if you want, but I never gave up on that team. I never jumped to another NBA franchise and called them my favorite team. I found players I liked, and followed them when the team went downhill.
But still, I waited patiently.
Patiently, I sat through goodbyes to Ron Artest and Elton Brand. I sat through “marquee” players such as Jalen Rose and Ron Mercer. I saw the original “Baby Bulls” never quite pan out.
I sat through Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich and Tyrus Thomas getting my hopes up and making me believe that it was all starting to turn around, and I watched them last season affirm that I had no reason to believe in them.
We were spoiled growing up in Chicago, literally being born into the Michael Jordan era. We didn’t have to put up with Jordan’s failures. I started watching basketball seriously during the 1991-1992 season and for two years, all I knew was the sweetest of success.
Two World Championships in my first two years of enjoying basketball. Then, another three-peat two years after that, all while getting the opportunity to watch the greatest basketball player of all time do his thing in Chicago. All I knew was victory, and the disassembling of the team that I loved was enough to leave me jaded toward the NBA at the age of 13.
All of a sudden, though, they have the first pick in the NBA draft. I feel the familiar tinge of excitement this team has instilled in me for the last decade again when they draft Derrick Rose. I manage to suppress it, though.
Vinnie Del Negro is our head coach, nothing good can come out of this. I watch the team anyway, and I’m blown away by Rose. I start to see good things come from this team, but the bad is still there. Like a jaded lover, I won’t let myself get attached again. I can’t help but get excited when the team clicks at the end of the year and picks up the seven seed in the playoffs.
I expect nothing but the worst, they’ve got the Celtics in the first round.
This Bulls team has heart, though, and this series, despite its disappointments, has reaffirmed my belief in them. Thomas has come along as the athlete the team was expecting. Rose is everything I hoped for and more. Ben Gordon has proved his ability to heat up faster then Gilbert Arenas. Luol Deng is nowhere to be found, and it’s funny to think of where this team could be in this series right now if they had him.
All in all, though, despite the fact that this team is down 3-2, that they just blew what might have been their most important game of the season, all I can think of is how attached I’ve grown to them again. That I can actually remain hopeful that this team can contend.
It’s nice to care about pro basketball again.
It’s nice to care about the Chicago Bulls again.