Bulls Should Shut Out Doubt and Play to Win Now

Kevin Ding@@KevinDingNBA Senior WriterJanuary 21, 2016

MILWAUKEE, WI - JANUARY 12: Head coach Fred Hoiberg of the Chicago Bulls stands on the sidelines during the third quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center on January 12, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

CHICAGO — Shortcuts and quick fixes are what we crave in this day and age.

And these are not moderate, imperfect results we seek: Our championship-or-bust mentality is more pervasive than ever.

The NBA, where a single player can swing the pendulum overnight, is the sports league that makes rising to No. 1 with a bullet seem actually possible.

That's good and bad.

After the defending champion Golden State Warriors stomped the Cleveland Cavaliers, 132-98, on Monday, LeBron James was exasperated by the ongoing assumptions that his return to Cleveland alone should deliver a title without the requisite work and growth to be a great team.

James understands the process is meant to be slow.

The Warriors followed up by moving on to Chicago and crushing the Bulls, 125-94, on Wednesday. The result only further demoralized a Bulls fanbase worn out from so many years as a consensus contender producing consistent disappointment.

Even before the lopsided loss, there were suggestions here, there and everywhere on local talk radio that Joakim Noah's injury cinched it, the Bulls weren't going to win the title and Pau Gasol should be traded—even if just for low draft picks—as a show of surrender to the future.

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Folks should be worried in both Ohio and Illinois, no doubt. The Cavs have a lot of work to do to beat the West's best in the NBA Finals, and the Bulls have a lot of work to do to threaten the Cavs' presumed place from the East in those NBA Finals.

But neither group should give up.

Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

They won't give up in Cleveland; the issue there is more impatience, undoubtedly sparked by the trade of Andrew Wiggins' future for Kevin Love's present.

Chicago is a different story, and actually the more intriguing one.

The fan frustration is natural, especially with the Chicago Blackhawks having won three of the past six NHL titles. The idea that the Bulls should capitulate now is emotionally understandable…yet wholly illogical.

The Bulls came in Wednesday leading the league in field-goal defense—holding opponents to 42.3 percent shooting, threatening the 42.1 percent of Tom Thibodeau's best Bulls team in 2011-12. They've got a new coach (Fred Hoiberg) still finding his voice and reconfiguring the offense. They've got a legitimate rising superstar (Jimmy Butler) still harnessing his powers as a player and leader.

Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

As for Noah, Chicago was getting next to nothing many nights from him anyway in a too-crowded frontcourt; he had all of one double-double this season—in a game the Bulls lost. And though Noah may be gone, another key glue guy will be back from injury next month in Mike Dunleavy.

Equally promising, the Bulls have seen real burst from Derrick Rose lately, prompting Draymond Green, after seeing Rose's downhill-racing style rack up 29 points in 30 minutes Monday, to remark: "He looked like that guy we all used to watch."

It was only last spring that they held a 2-1 series lead on the Cavaliers before Gasol strained his hamstring and sat out the next two games and looked gimpy in the one after that—all Cleveland victories. They've sold out 249 consecutive home games and led the league in attendance for the past six years, reflecting one benefit of being consistently good.

James himself listed on Monday only the Bulls, with Golden State and San Antonio, as the NBA's true title contenders, teams with established talent and experience. (The Cavs, James said, are light on experience.)

No doubt the Bulls could use a clearer identity, better chemistry and more dependable aggressiveness from Rose going forward, but there is undeniably a chance to win here and now. No one besides Cleveland is imposing at all in the East, and the Cavaliers have their own significant problems besides the fact that they are hugely dependent on James' health.

The Bulls front office knows all that, which is why it isn't about to sell off parts for future considerations before the Feb. 18 trade deadline.

Even if fans are quick to forget the brutal post-Michael Jordan time frame, Bulls executive vice president John Paxson has been with the organization for more than 30 years. He can remember the woeful years after his playing days, serving as a broadcaster and then in management as the Bulls struggled to come anywhere close to respectability, much less contention.

The truth is that despite the defensive communication breakdowns and the 1-of-20 three-point shooting Wednesday leading to a second loss this season to the Warriors, the Bulls are 5-0 against the Cavs, Spurs, Thunder and Clippers this season—plus 2-0 against the No. 2 team in the East, Toronto.

All is not yet lost.

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 30: Pau Gasol #16 of the Chicago Bulls high fives teammates during the game against the San Antonio Spurs on November 30, 2015 at United Center in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by down
Jeff Haynes/Getty Images

Yes, the odds are that the Warriors, Cavaliers or Spurs—or even the Thunder or Clippers—will be the team on top at season's end.

Meaning the Bulls and their fans would wind up disappointed once more—the long, unfulfilled process just growing longer.

No one would be as bummed as during those eight years they didn't win a playoff series from 1999 to 2006, mind you. But if disappointment comes again, so be it. At least try while you have a shot.

You can throw the carton out when it expires.

Don't cry over spilt milk now.

Kevin Ding is an NBA senior writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @KevinDing.


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