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Thursday, February 14, 2013

SDH Presents the NBA's Worst to First for December: 10. Chicago Bulls

Overall Win/Loss Record (as of December 31st): 16-13 ,  tied second place Central Division

This Month:

Team Statistics and League Rank (as of December 31st):
  • Points Scored: 92.3(27th)
  • Points Allowed: 91.5 (3rd)
  • Team FG%: .435 (22nd)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .430 (5th)
  • Rebounds per game: 43.3(11th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 41.1 (8th)
  • Turnovers per game: 15.0 (22nd)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 14.3 (21st)

Individual Statistical Leaders (as of December 31st):
  • Scoring (ppg): Loul Deng (17.6)
  • Rebounds per game:  Joakim Noah (10.0)
  • Minutes per game: Loul Deng (40.0)
  • Assists per game: Kirk Hinrich (5.4)
  • Field Goal Percentage:  Joakim Noah (.483)
  • Steals per game: Joakim Noah (1.4)
  • Blocked Shots per game:  Joakim Noah (2.1)

Worst Player of the Month: Taj Gibson

At the start of the season, so many Bulls fans had the delusion that Taj Gibson as the better option at the starting power forward spot than current starter Carlos Boozer.  Here is a player that has no post moves in the paint and whose only move in his offensive repitoire being a mid range jumper.  Compare that with an established veteran who at 31 years old, still has the ability to attract double teams in the paint thus opening the court for this teammates.  Gibson certainly has not proven that he is worthy of usurping Boozer this season as he has posted a rather lackluster performance thus far.  In December, Gibson had been all but nonexistent on the offensive end as he posted career lows in points (5.6 per game) only scoring in double figures twice for the entire month. He certainly has not shown that he is starting power forward material--if anything, he has made a case for himself being traded instead of Boozer with his rather lackluster play.    
First Player of the Month: Joakim Noah

For much of his career, Joakim Noah has hovered under the radar earning the reputation as a solid role player capable of nothing else but providing energy and toughness.  This season, however, Noah has finally risen his game from just being a blue collar bruiser to become one of the top elite big men in the NBA.  As of December, he has averaged averaged career highs in scoring, rebounding along with leading the Bulls in steals and blocked shots per game.  Noah has also shown quite the adept ability to pass to his teammates averaging close to five assists per game--4.7 to be exact.  That's second on the team behind the Bulls' starting point guard, Kirk Hinrich, making him one of the best passing centers in the NBA.  Although, he still needs to work on being a factor in terms of being more aggressive offensively, but he certainly has shown that he is definitely a force to be reckoned with in the NBA.

After struggling through November to finish with a .500 record, the Chicago Bulls managed to step up their game going 9-6 for December finishing 2012 with a respectable 16-13 record.  They started December well enough by winning four of their first five games losing only to the Indiana Pacers in a close and rather low scoring affair (12/4/2012) while at the same time upsetting the Eastern Conference leading New York Knicks (12/8/2012).  After a heartbreaking home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers (12/11/2012), the Bulls went on to win another four of five losing to only the Memphis Grizzlies (12/17/2012) while handing losses to four of five Atlantic Division teams.   Their first victims were the Philadelphia 76ers (12/12/2012) who the Bulls took down on the road followed by a narrow win at home against the Brooklyn Nets (12/15/2012).  After the loss at Memphis, Chicago picked themselves up by beating the Boston Celtics rather handily (12/18/2012) while beating the Knicks yet again--this time on their own home floor of Madison Square Garden (12/21/2012).

Unfortunately Chicago seemed run out of gas as they finished December on a sour note losing three of their last four games by rather large margins. The Atlanta Hawks drew first blood sticking it to the Bulls by 17 points (12/22/2012), and then Chicago got humiliated at home against the Houston Rockets losing by 23 on Christmas Day (12/25/2012).   Finally and most embarrassingly the Bulls allowed the lowly Charlotte Bobcats of all teams, to beat them at home by rather convincing 10 point margin while holding them to scoring a mere 81 points for the game (12/31/2012).  Chicago's only win came at the expense of the Washington Wizards, who still managed to keep the game close until the Bulls pulled away at the very end losing by 10 points (12/26/2012).  Thus despite their improved performance in December after struggling November, the Bulls still remained clinging for life trying to stay relevant in the Eastern Conference.
This current Bulls team certainly does not resemble the Chicago team that earned its first 60 plus win season in the post Michael Jordan era two years ago.  In fact, this current version of the Bulls does not even resemble the team that finished first in the Eastern Conference last season only to fall in the first round of the playoffs at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers.  Sadly, it seems that in the span of one season, the Bulls went from potential championship contender that looked to be the sole obstacle to the Miami Heat to becoming a hollow shell of their former selves.  They are no longer the dominant team that they once were as their entire roster was completely gutted due to financial reasons and the absence of their leader and former league MVP, Derrick Rose.  One can go as far to say that Chicago's window of opportunity for a seventh NBA title has all but closed and it may be team for the team to start tearing down and overhauling the current roster as this team has sadly reached its peak and can no longer go any further.

It has to be rather unsettling for a Chicago Bulls fan to witness their team that had so much so much promise only a year ago suddenly just fall flat as they have this season.  This was supposed be be the start of a new Golden Age in Windy City basketball as Bulls fans were finally able to let go of the past and look forward to a new future of new championship banners being raised up on the rafters of the United Center.  Unfortunately, it looks as if all those dreams have all gone up in smoke as Chicago have returned to wallowing in mediocrity after two glorious seasons that brought so much optimism and hope to a city starving for another championship trophy.  Chicago is no longer the force that it once was as they currently struggle to maintain what little clout it has left scratching and clawing in a rather disappointing Central Division race.  They rest currently behind an equally underwhelming Indiana Pacers squad while struggling to separate themselves from a perpetually mediocre Milwaukee Bucks team.

This is certainly not what owner Jerry Reinsdorf and GM John Paxson had envisioned when they had originally orchestrated the moves to assemble this team in the first place.  They, along with the fans they cater to, also planned for a long and glorious championship run that would rival the championship dynasties of the 1990s; however, it seems as if their plans have been stopped right in their tracks and it may be time to start back from the drawing board.  It certainly will not be easy for head coach Tom Thibodeau, whose sole purpose for being hired was to lead the team to not just one, but a string of championships.  With the current prospects for winning a title looking bleaker with each passing day, so will his future of remaining the Bulls' head coach as the first changes will certainly start at the top leaving him a the first victim of the team's restructuring process.  Hopefully the Bulls can carry on the momentum and build upon their success in December or else they will all be heading down a long hard road.