Luol Deng Welcomed Back by Chicago Bulls: Is It Too Little, Too Late?

Josh Herman@@JoshHermanPJSCorrespondent IApril 3, 2010

PHOENIX - JANUARY 22:  Luol Deng #9 of the Chicago Bulls puts up a three point shot against the Phoenix Suns during the NBA game at US Airways Center on January 22, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Bulls defeated the Suns 115-104.  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 Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Maybe it's the warm weather in Illinois. Maybe it's a full slate of night baseball games (albeit spring training) scheduled for tonight. Or maybe it's just the Washington Wizards. Whatever it is, I was excited to watch the Chicago Bulls tonight.

Sure, I've loved watching Flip Murray and Taj Gibson keep the Bulls close in most games while riding a 10-game losing streak against some of the best teams in the league, but it never felt like winning. Seeing Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Kirk Hinrich, and Luol Deng ride the pine was just enough to think that maybe this team could've been something more than a hopeful eight seed in the East.

And while dreams of Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh or maybe even LeBron James danced through my mind while the times were rough, there was still a feeling of sorrow for what could have been.

Were they a title contender? Not close. Could they have been a No. 4 seed in the East? Very easily. But roster dumps, key injuries, and an overall lack of depth brought the Bulls back to reality and back to the sub-.500 realm.

But still something compelled me to watch a seemingly meaningless game (barring a win in Toronto) against a team engulfed in the middle of scandal with arguably their "franchise player".

It wasn't that Shaun Livingston (a hometown hero from where I'm from) has finally found himself a consistent gig, and it wasn't to see if Andray Blatche would throw a temper tantrum.

I guess the quick answer could be that, for once, the Bulls looked like, well, the Bulls. With recent contributions from Murray, Hakim Warrick, and Acie Law, it was tough to figure out at times what team I was actually watching. But joining Rose, Hinrich, and Noah (who all have recently returned from injuries) was Luol Deng who had missed the previous 11 games with a calf sprain.

Now I'm not saying that Deng is equitable to say an Aramis Ramirez comeback for the Cubs last season. But I am saying that Ramirez's return last season (along with the return of injured catcher Geovany Soto) created a feeling much like Jake and Elwood Blues felt when "they got the band back together".

Ironically enough, though, it seems that the Bulls are headed for a similar fate as the 2009 Cubs in that they don't look destined for the playoffs. However, there is a nice sense of comfort when a team has all of its pieces back in place, even if it's with only eight games remaining.

Then again, most counted the team out against the defending champions last April, and instead the lack of faith caused an inspired team to go head-to-toe with one of the best teams in the league in what was the best first-round playoff series in the history of the NBA.

If this Bulls team can somehow rekindle the fire that got them nationally recognized last season, what's stopping them from wrestling the final playoff spot from the fighting Chris Bosh's? Unfortunately, it's the Cavs and, yet again, the Celtics standing in their way.

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