Last season, the Chicago Bulls finished 41-41, got the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, and created one of the best six-game playoff series of all time. This season, they are becoming less and less likely to repeat their playoff magic.
The Bulls looked poised to make a run to the playoffs despite trading away Tyrus Thomas and John Salmons, that was, until they went on a ten game losing streak, going from 31-28 to 31-37.
However, the Bulls are back on the winning track, going 4-2 since that streak.
But they are going to need a lot of people to step up and get them back into the playoffs.
Despite their current 35-39 record, they are still just a game and a half out of the coveted eighth playoff spot that would give their young guys like Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose some more much needed playoff experience.
Here are a list of a few guys that need to step up for the Bulls to make the playoffs.
Derrick Rose, PG
Rose, for only being in his second season in the league, has tremendous amounts of hype surrounding him, and this is the exact situation where legends are born.
With a big losing streak seemingly knocking the Bulls out of the playoff run, he needs to step up and be the leader this team needs to drag them kicking and screaming, to the playoffs.
If he doesn't do this, he will still have plenty of opportunities to cement himself in Chicago Bull folk-lore, but if he does pull it off, he will be one step closer to getting his jersey retired one day.
Joakim Noah, PF/C
Noah was looked at as a big mistake when the Bulls used an early pick on him just two years ago, but he has spent the entire season proving critics wrong and becoming a rebounding beast in the paint.
Becoming a 10-10 guy every night has been huge for the Bulls, as they have needed a consistent presence, and Noah has been just that, doing the same thing almost every game.
Although his stats have dropped off slightly as of late, that is mostly because he has been battling injuries and has been in and out of the lineup. But if he can be a big part in the Bulls making a late season push to the playoffs, he might be able to finally silence the critics that have been following him.
He has already proved that the team isn't as good without him, as he didn't play in any of the ten games that they lost in a row through the first half of March.
In fact, those ten games are the same ten games that Noah missed during injury; he played in the win before the streak and the win that broke it.
Of course, if he cut his hair, a lot of those critics would go away anyway. I'm not saying, I'm just saying.
Luol Deng, SF
I know what a lot of you are saying, "Luol Deng is still on the Bulls? I haven't seen him all year." However, he is the most important Bull you never hear of.
Without Deng, who knows where the Bulls are this year, he has had a surprisngly quiet season considering he still puts up 20 and ten many nights.
Unbeknown to the public, he has scored 18 points a game, second on the team behind Rose, and he is tied for second on the team in rebounds per game at 7.3 behind Joakim Noah.
Although he has been having one of the best seasons on the team, he gets very little recognition unless he scores 35 points, in which case he will get the headline for the night before dropping back into obscurity.
If he is able to lead the Bulls into the playoffs, he will be back into the public spotlight, fans will want his jerseys, and he will be back to the fame he got when he was scoring 15 ppg and grabbing five rebounds.
Although he hasn't played since March 9th due to an injury, he is expected to be back this weekend and could give the Bulls a much needed boost.
Vinny Del Negro, Coach
For Del Negro, getting the Bulls in the playoffs isn't big because he is expecting to win a championship. Yes, that is what every coach wants, and he isn't going to keep the Bulls from winning one if they were to go on some magical run.
But he has to realize that they will play the Cavs in the first round and lose.
However, he is coaching this team for a completely different reason, to show the 2010 Free Agent class that this is a prime destination.
Lets face it, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh don't want to play for a team that choked at the end of the season and missed the playoffs, they want to play for a young team that has been in consecutive playoff series and has nothing but promise.
They want to work with Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose and Luol Deng, who have a combined eight years of experience between them and could all be perennial All-Stars with the possible exception of Deng.
If Del Negro is able to get this team to the playoffs and land a big time free agent, he could have a star-studded squad that will be able to compete with the Cleveland Cavaliers year in and year out.
I'm Joe W.