Did time freeze for about 15 years?
Did we fall back into the future, only to regain consciousness in the spring of 1996?
In a return to the days of His Airness, the winds of change are once again blowing in Chicago, where a certain Zen-like feeling has returned to the Second City. With Derrick Rose having blossomed into the league's youngest-ever MVP (22 years old) and Tom Thibodeau serving as a thorn in the side of all other NBA coaches, one wonders: Are the Bulls back?
Now, clearly these Bulls are far from those Bulls. And one MVP trophy plus one Coach of the Year Award does not equal six rings. But while Rose, Thibodeau, and Company have a lot of running still to do, they are out of the gate in a nice direction.
Sure, Phil Jackson often opted for the cross-legged approach, staying seated along the sideline while his squads navigated their own path through adversity. Meanwhile, Thibodeau is much more likely to explode into action, gesture frantically and punch up a quick T.O. than his Zen-quoting predecessor.
Nonetheless, in 2010-11 the defensive mastermind has proved that you don't need the triangle offense to avoid being an NBA square.
In doing things his own way—on both ends of the floor—the long-time assistant empowered the Black and Red to 62 wins, good for best in the league and a record for first-year coaches.
With a rim-attacking style, a significant offensive repertoire and a flare for the fourth quarter (see multiple Round-1 comebacks,) Rose is at the very least channeling his inner MJ. While he lacks a significant Chicago running mate in the form of Scottie Pippen (can he import Joe Biden?) there are enough old-school parts on the new-age Bulls to suggest a return to the glory days of multiple three-peats.
Enter Joakim Noah, a defensive-minded free spirit who gobbles up round balls with a side dish of elbow grease, embodies passion and encourages confrontation. Hellooooo, Dennis Rodman!
How about a power forward who can bang on the block or step out to drain a mid-range J? Carlos Boozer is Horace Grant, sans goggles.
A spot-up shooter who can drain a triple in transition? Kyle Korver: First meet John Paxson and then Steve Kerr.
Heck, both teams even boast a baby-faced, initial-sporting point guard, as B.J. Armstrong has given way to C.J. Watson.
Of course, comparison can only carry you so far. And already trailing in the Conference Semifinals, this modern-day Windy City squad has a bunch of competition to blow by before it can ever join their oft-parading predecessors in the same bull ring.
But in a town that already boasts ties to the Leader of the Free World, the Queen of all Media and the greatest player who ever laced up high-tops, this much we know: The Second City has no interest in playing second fiddle.