MORRISSEY: Depleted or not, Bulls simply no match for LeBron’s juggernaut
BY RICK MORRISSEY email@example.com March 25, 2013 10:19PM
Miami Heat LeBron James,left, and Dwyane Wade,right, celebrates after a play during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Friday, March 22, 2013. (AP Photo/El Nuevo Herald, David Santiago) ORG XMIT: FLMEH204
Updated: April 27, 2013 6:29AM
Only one game matters this week in Chicago. Actually, only one team matters. That would be the Heat, which many of you hate so disproportionately that you have taken to championing Attila the Hun’s “underappreciated good side.’’
I was so sure Miami was going to win Monday night’s game against lowly Orlando that I began tapping away at this column Monday morning. The final score was 108-94 with Dwyane Wade resting on the bench, and the winning streak will be at 27 games when the Heat rolls into town for Wednesday’s game at the United Center.
It’s more than a little sad that this will be the biggest night of the season for the colossal bruise known as the Bulls, and likely not for any good reasons. The Bulls, beaten up beyond recognition, figure to be Miami’s 28th straight victim as it pursues the 1971-72 Lakers’ record of 33 consecutive victories. The Heat is playing so well, and LeBron James is ruling so absolutely, that it’s difficult to imagine the depleted Bulls playing the spoiler. At this point, LeBron’s special powers are stronger than lightning strikes, spontaneous combustion and Nate Robinson.
This will be a what-might-have-been game, and it figures to be full of wistfulness for Bulls fans. What if Derrick Rose were 100 percent healthy and playing? What if Joakim Noah had two healthy feet and Richard Hamilton one healthy body? What if Taj Gibson and Kirk Hinrich were whole?
Ready for a shot of reality? It probably wouldn’t have meant much against the defending NBA champions on Wednesday night, and certainly not in a best-of-seven series.
We’re left to face the reality that LeBron & Co. are in the process of building the kind of dynasty Michael Jordan & Co. once had. And some of you are left with one faint, wispy hope that isn’t at all a good idea for the Bulls: that Rose will decide Wednesday is the night he’s finally going to test his surgically repaired left knee. Somebody tie him down. Adrenaline shouldn’t override reason and scar tissue.
As to the possibility of a Heat dynasty, a topic that steps over the line of blasphemy for many people in town, what can I say? James, Wade and Chris Bosh merged their talents with world domination in mind, which is what we’re witnessing. We Chicagoans see nuance in that last sentence that others might not see; Jordan’s Bulls were mostly built the traditional way, through the draft and through trades. The Heat was built through cell-phone calls among three All-Stars. But in the end, it doesn’t matter. There will be no asterisks involved. There will just be numbers. Not two NBA titles, not three, not four …
You can roll your eyes at the Heat’s audacity and its “Harlem Shake’’ video, but the only thing that matters is how Bulls vice president John Paxson reacts long-term.
If Rose comes back healthy next season and the Bulls field much the same team, they still won’t be in the same stratosphere as the Heat. And, yes, that does back up what Reggie Rose said last month about the franchise. Remember? He complained that management hadn’t put enough talent around his brother. He got ripped for opening his big mouth and received no credit for being absolutely right. The nucleus of Rose, Noah, Gibson and Luol Deng isn’t nearly enough. Paxson and general manager Gar Forman have their work cut out for them.
Would the Timberwolves consider trading double-double machine Kevin Love and, if so, at what cost? Would the Bulls be interested in Al Jefferson or Andre Iguodala, who become free agents after this season? Wait, Dwight Howard wouldn’t think of signing with the Bulls, would he?
This is what happens when you have to respond to James, who is, by far, the best player in the NBA.
Time will tell whether he’ll be looked upon as the best player in league history, but in terms of all-around game and physical skills, he’s right there with Jordan. The best team of all time? Until the Heat starts putting together consecutive championships, it’s not even a discussion. But Miami certainly has the talent to do it.
If the Bulls want to do something about that, they’ll have to get busy in the offseason. And if not this offseason, then next, when some intriguing players will be available. Perhaps you’ve heard of some of them: James, Wade and Bosh have early-termination options in 2014. Just saying.