Let's flash back to the beginning of the most recent NBA season. Miami was the heavy favorites, the Lakers were the defending champs and the Bulls were a middle of the road playoff team hoping to improve and compete.
They did that. Hell, they did more than that.
An emerging, top five point guard with about the "same skill level as Rajon Rondo," was leading a newly configured team into unknown territory. Bulls fans didn't know what to think with so many new players and only Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah looking familiar in the starting lineup.
There was no more Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich, Vinny Del Negro, among others.
Who was going to score?
That's when they brought in Carlos Boozer, who unfortunately struggled so much to answer a door that he broke his hand and took the first month of the season off.
Then the season began, Boozer-less and all. The Bulls were off to a 9-8 record, which tied them with the Miami Heat. It looked as if that they would continue to have an exactly even record, as they did the previous four years combined.
All of a sudden, Chicago began rising in the ranks.They played every team tough, and even had an emerging bench. In the sole missed game by Derrick Rose, C.J. Watson posted over 30 points against the Denver Nuggets in a slim loss.
By the time the All-Star break was coming up, the Bulls had one more game to play and it was against the San Antonio Spurs; the team with the best record in the league.
In an amazing effort by Derrick Rose, who was already having a fantastic season, he dropped 42 points in the somewhat surprising victory. This put the Bulls in third place in the East, right in the midst of Boston, Miami and Orlando, the expected powerhouses.
The starting point guard in the All-Star game was none other than Derrick Rose, the first All-Star to represent Chicago and start since the Jordan Era. Rose would be on his way to a few more awards by seasons end.
The Bulls got off on the wrong foot following the break, with a loss to the Toronto Raptors. It was only a temporary struggle, though. Chicago would go on to win 24 of their next 27, including match-ups with Boston, Orlando and Miami twice.
That put them at the top overall seed in the NBA, pulling off the unlikely and closing the gap on the Spurs.
Home court throughout the playoffs seemed nice. They would have the advantage over any team they played. First up, the Indiana Pacers with a losing record. Easy, right?
Bulls fans could not take a breather in this series. Rose led the Bulls on big comebacks in order to pull these games off, but nonetheless, the Bulls went up 3-0. The Pacers weren't just going to give up, though.
They shut the Bulls down and stole Game 4. That looks bad on the resume, doesn't it?
Then the Bulls came out and meant business in Game 5. They did what was expected of them and dismantled the feisty Pacers 116-89.
Next up was the Atlanta Hawks, who surprised many and knocked off the Orlando Magic. What a relief for Chicago. Game 1 was up and what? The Hawks won? This wasn't supposed to be how the series started off. Atlanta stole a game in Chicago and home court advantage was lost. We had a series on our hands, folks.
The Bulls bounced back and took the next two from the Hawks, including the newly named MVP Rose posting a career game with 44 points and seven assists.
Just as Chicago thought they were coasting to another 4-1 series win, Atlanta took another. It evened up the series at two and it seemingly made the Bulls wake up. The Windy City's own took the next two, including Game 6 pretty handily by 20 points.
It was just like the Indiana series. Tough games throughout with a breakout performance to close the series. Next up, Miami.
The showdown we had all been waiting for was about to come true. Miami vs. Chicago. The group of assembled All-Stars vs. the underdog who had the Coach of the Year and MVP. It was a classic battle of "Good vs. Evil." Good had to prevail, right?
In Game 1, it certainly looked that way. After a tie at halftime, the Bulls came out and put a 21 point beat down to defend the Madhouse on Madison.
Then each and every dedicated Bulls fans had their hearts ripped out and stomped on.
Game 2, close game eventually pulled out by Miami.
Game 3, same thing.
Game 4, same thing.
Chicago was shocked. The blame game pointed figures at Rose, the bench, Boozer, role players in the starting lineup and coach Thibodeau. Miami was celebrating in the United Center and they were the only ones who could be heard. Chicago was silent.
But it's okay, Chicago.
Did we expect to go to the NBA Finals this year?
I know, it's disappointing, but Miami was the better team. They shut down Rose which would ensure our demise with a lack of late-game scoring ability.
We'll get better, better than they are.
This season was an amazing, triumphant run. Heroes emerged, a team grew together and experienced was gained. Free agency will bring us better players and maybe the Bulls will be having their own party in South Beach next year.
So hear these two pieces of advice, Chicago.
1. Keep your chins up and stay loyal to this team; they'll figure out the issues and be back next year.
2. Don't shrug off this season as a failure and say "There's always next year." That's what another Chicago team does and I'm sure we've all had enough of that for one lifetime.