By: Thomas Gibbons
“We joke about our 3-20 start all the time, said Kris Dunn. We’re just trying to change it around.”
The Bulls were comeback kids Wednesday night, rallying from 15 down to defeat the Knicks 92-87. Winners of nine of their last 11 games, the Bulls have the best record in their last ten games in the Eastern Conference.
Wait, isn’t there supposed to be a rebuild going on?
The Bulls are playing really good basketball. Behind their emerging point guard in Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen, and the bench play, what was supposed to be a lost season has turned into quite the entertaining one. You may be cheering for losses, but it’s hard to not give this team a lot of credit to be able to close out games and compete with rosters that have better talent.
“We do it for each other,” said Markkanen. The Finnish rookie has been in a shooting slump, shooting just 27% from three in his last five games, but that does not stop him from making an impact elsewhere. He displayed attacking the basket along with getting out in transition in Wednesday night’s win. His maturation this season has been quite impressive, something not many saw coming. We knew he was a very talented player coming out of Arizona, but to be able to score like he has and defend some of the better big men in the league is a fantastic sign.
It is quite impressive what the coaching staff has been able to accomplish with mediocre talent. There is plenty of upside for Dunn, Markkanen, Valentine and others, but this is no Warriors roster. The Bulls have young, unproven players that are still earning a shot to be on this roster to see the rebuild through. In a few years, only a few will remain. Dunn, Markkanen, and LaVine (hopefully) are locks. Valentine, David Nwaba, Bobby Portis are guys with plenty of talent that have to continue to prove their worth.
The Bulls started their “Run with Us” campaign this summer and have attached a mini video series with it. Part one and two was the offseason which included the welcoming of Dunn, LaVine, and Markkanen along with workouts and training camp. It gives fans an inside look of what happens everyday on Madison street. And those workouts, Dunn credits those as a reason why the Bulls are wining.
“It started this summer. We believed in ourselves. We were working very hard as a unit, building that chemistry. I think chemistry is the biggest thing right now. We’re just clicking as a unit. Everybody is liking each other. Everybody is positive.”- Dunn after Wednesday’s victory.
Dunn has become a big voice for the Bulls in the locker room. He is one the best players on the roster and the media goes straight to him, win or lose. You can also make the comparison that the point guard is like a quarterback, the leader of the offense and generally speaks on behalf of the team.
Another quote from the Bulls up and coming guard is his praise of Fred Hoiberg. ” I think he did an unbelievable job to this point, Dunn said after his 17 points, 5 assists performance vs. New York. He’s a great coach and he just gets it. He gives everybody confidence…he’s a fantastic coach.”
The Bulls are gelling on the court, in the locker room, and their relationship with the coaching staff does not seem to have any issues. This is everything you want for a rebuilding team.
You want to know another great thing about the Bulls success? The United Center is rocking and has been an unbelievable atmosphere so far this season. I have been to multiple games already and you can feel the excitement that you did not have last year. The fans are getting behind the younger players and are not staying away from the Madhouse on Madison. As of December 28th, the Bulls rank 2nd in the league in attendance, averaging 20,580 fans per contest.
In the latest lottery simulation, the Bulls have the 9th pick. Yeah, that is low. The front office has some big decisions to make in the coming month on how they will handle this roster. This roster was built to lose. No superstars, no problem. It will be hard for the Gar Forman and John Paxson to justify trading away assets, but they started their rebuild when they traded Jimmy Butler. The Bulls have to strip this team of talent if they still have a top pick in their sights. And it starst with Nikola Mirotic once he is eligible to be dealt. Robin Lopez is another guy the Bulls could get some good value in return. Also, the Bulls have plenty of cap room to take on a bad contract for a team and acquire a pick in the deal.
It is still early in the NBA season. The Bulls are still near the bottom half of the league and are probably going to be sellers before and leading up to the deadline. No matter what, a little part in you is excited about this brand of Bulls basketball.