And so it goes.  The team that everyone wanted to lose lost and moral justice was served.  If anything I guess I kind of feel bad because the story you’re going to hear for the next week is more about how the Heat lost rather than how the Mavericks won.  I’ve mentioned it in this space before but in a lot of ways this is what the Heatles signed up for last summer, and the post signing celebration they hosted last June, complete with smoke and an elevator no less, was a fantastic way to affix a bulls eye onto ones chest.   America, the media, and a very tall German who once cut his hair like this, all got what they wanted.

The point of this website is to not provide game recaps or anything special like that.  There are a good 5,000 places on this inter-net thing that the kids use that you can find all the in-game analysis and breakdown your heart could desire.  My thing is not that.  What I thought I was ready for was to finally break into taking a look at the Bulls season that was, particularly how we left them in the playoffs, and try to pickup the pieces and outline a path of where we go from here.  Unfortunately for me we live in what I believe we will look back on as a golden age of Bulls coverage, and in doing my research I’ve found folks who can do what I had hoped to much better than I ever could.  If the Bulls are of interest to you I’d strongly recommend that Sam Smith become a part of your life, as for lack of a better term, he just gets it.  Sam knocked his season recap out of the park so I’ll just bow at this point and let you appreciate greatness at work.  For the record I echo everything he says:

For those not into reading Sam’s work due to his sweater vest attire, or if you don’t support people with moustaches in general, here’s a basic summary.  The Bulls were not supposed to win 62 games this year.  They were supposed to be good, don’t get me wrong, but you had to be drinking the Kool-aid in buckets if you thought in the pre-season they were going to be better than the Heat or Celtics (and potentially the Magic) this year.  This was our year to win a playoff series or two, make our intentions clear for the next 4-5 years as a threat in the East and let the team grow together.  Well in a lot of ways everyone hit the fast forward button or applied the Miracle-Gro ahead of schedule.  Derrick Rose was supposed to be good but the MVP?  I remember people laughing when he declared why not me? back in October.  Coach Thibs came highly recommended but Coach of the Year?  Unexpected yet again.  So the team got too good too fast, is that a bad thing?

The answer to that question is maybe.  The worst thing getting 62 wins does is set expectations.  Let’s all acknowledge 62-20 is pretty damn tough to pull off (no one else in the league did it this year) so even if we add the greatest 2-guard on the planet somehow this summer, there’s no guarantee they reach the same heights next season.

What ails the Bulls is the need for a secondary scorer.  Dwyane Wade made a comment after the Heat beat the Bulls that it’s easy to kill a snake if you chop its head off.  That’s essentially what they were able to do to the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals by getting the ball out of Derrick’s hands and making someone else beat them.  The team came together and did just that in Game 1 (a 22 point route mind you) but no one stepped up again to the degree they needed to.  That was the Bulls biggest flaw as there was no one to turn to when Derrick was off.  Despite that Derrick had a chance to win Game 4 in Miami (he missed and the game went to overtime where the Heat prevailed) and then Game 5 in Chicago the Bulls had a 10 point lead with 2 minutes left and then Wade and James started raining threes out of the blue.  So despite our weakness being exploited, the Bulls had a very legitimate shot at being up three games to two needing only to win one more game with Game 7 scheduled to be in Chicago.  Se la vie. 

 So what do the Bulls do now?  The next five years are going to be all about beating the Heat as they’re going to be in the way of any trip to the Finals as long as the Three Amigos are still together.  A couple quick notes:

  • For everyone that says trade Boozer as the answer I’ve got news for you.  Every other team in the NBA watched the same games you did and no one is going to give you anything good for four more years of that at $60+ million.  It’s like Cubs fans who want to trade Soriano.  It’s not going to happen.  Get over it.
  • Luol Deng impressed me.  Mind you, he may never make an All-Star game, and similar to Boozer, there probably are not a lot of teams willing to give you an All-Pro or a significant improvement at a lower price out of the goodness of their heart.  Deng did a formidable job guarding and staying with LeBron James (remember – even if we were able to trade Deng we then need someone who can guard LeBron for five more years) and if he’s the third or fourth best player on your team you’re probably going to be in a good spot.

The answer… well I don’t have one.  That’s why they pay Paxon and Gar Forman the big bucks.  They have played their cards very well as Korver (very disappointing in the playoffs but not a lost cause), Bogans, and Brewer all make in the $2-5M range and this is essentially the last year of each of their deals.  So you may be able to get something for them if it’s a significant upgrade from a team looking to clear salary for the summer of 2012.  Taj Gibson and Omer Asik as attractive pieces to other teams but I’d encourage the Bulls to hold onto them as the advantages we have over the Heat and other teams in general going forward are Derrick Rose and our general size.  Without Asik, when Noah gets hurt (all too often the case) or into foul trouble, then we have the same size problems the rest of the league does.  It would essentially be a very poor man’s version of the Kendrick Perkins trade for Boston.  Boston traded their size and quickly lost that advantage and became just another team.  The league is becoming more guard oriented by the day but as they say, you can’t teach size. 

So this summer I think the Bulls shop some combination of Korver/Brewer/Bogans or any and all of their three upcoming first round draft picks and get a Ray Allen type 2-guard that can hit a three, not hurt you on defense, and ideally create his own shot to take some of the pressure off of Derrick.  If that guy’s not out there – they’ll be picking from the likes of Courtney Lee in Houston, JJ Reddick in Orlando, JR Smith in Denver, OJ Mayo in Memphis or generally a bunch of guys that aren’t leaps and bounds better than those they already have – then they take a stab at two guards 6’5” or larger in the draft and turn training camp into the Thunderdome.  Two men enter, one man leaves.  Seeing as how the picks are numbers 28 and 30 in the draft (the third is the Bobcats starting as early as next year), who’s available at that point is anyone’s guess so I’ll save you 500 words of speculation and just use the description provided of the needed skill set as a template. 

Personally I’m happy with where the Bulls are and where they’re headed.  Again, I think they arrived at the party a year too early but now they know the lay of the land in the playoffs and will be better for it.  Derrick will be another year older with some of those battles under his belt and another summer of new skills at his disposal.  I’m willing to give both Boozer and Noah another shot to get on the same page and stay healthy to truly compliment each other’s games.  Even if no major trades are made this summer, and remember, the grass is not always greener and thus sometime the best trades are the ones you don’t pull the trigger on, I have confidence in the stupidity of other teams to give us the pieces we need when the trade deadline rolls around next February.  It’s just way it works. 

So keep your chins up Bulls fans, we’ve got a good thing cooking here, it just needs to simmer.  At this time just wait and take in the aroma and thank your lucky stars we don’t have the collection of douche bags they do down on South Beach.