COMMENTARY | What is the real price of admission to the "Greatest Show on Earth?"
For the Chicago Bulls, the price could be more than the ticket face value circus goers will shell out to head under the big top when the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey bring their annual show back to the United Center.
Each year, when the United Center is overrun by clowns and vicious animals, it forces the Bulls on an extended road trip. Much like the San Antonio Spurs' rodeo trip each year, the Bulls will be a team without a home for the next six games.
For a team with championship aspirations, this slate of games would be nothing more than a bump in the road, but the Bulls are still a team in search of an identity, and one that has started the 2013-2014 season playing poorly away from the United Center.
The Bulls are 5-0 when playing at the Madhouse on Madison this season, but they are only 1-3 away from Chicago. Some could argue that this is just an expected correlation of having to play both the Heat and Indiana Pacers early in the season, but, if Chicago wants to remain a member of the top of the Eastern Conference, it will have to prove it can string together a bunch of road wins.
The Eastern Conference is so weak; Chicago could go 0-6 on this road trip and still find itself holding one of the playoff spots. Only four of the top eight teams in the East even have winning records at this point in the season (Heat, Pacers, Bulls and Atlanta Hawks). But, with the Pacers jumping out to a 9-1 record to start the season, Chicago could losing too much ground in the Central division and be struggling to climb its way back up for the rest of the season.
It could be a lot worse. The six-game road trip does include games against the 9-2 Trail Blazers, as well as the 7-4 Clippers, but the other four teams on the schedule are a combined 12-30 this season. Some could argue that this trip could be exactly what they Bulls need to find their groove and fine-tune some things against inferior competition.
The real key will be trying to get Derrick Rose playing like the old Derrick Rose. He has started the season by producing career lows in points, rebounds, assists and steals while shooting the second-worst percentage from the field (34.4 percent). Rose has also turned the ball over at the highest rate of any of his five NBA seasons.
The season is still young, and everyone assumes Rose will find his way back to form. But, until then, the former MVP leaves himself open to justifiable questions about whether or not sitting out the entire 2012-2013 season was actually the right move or not. These next six games will answer a lot of questions about this team's future.
Dalton Russell is Chicago native and longtime follower of the Bulls. His championship expectations were irrevocably ruined by the Michael Jordan-led teams of the '90s and now impatiently awaits the next great chapter of Bulls basketball.
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