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In the '90s, Michael Jordan and the Bulls weren’t just a basketball team, they were bigger than basketball itself. It felt like the sport would cease to exist without them. They were pop. They were Michael Jackson; they were The Beatles. Their presence was ubiquitous and it permeated the entire culture.
Even if you weren’t a fan of basketball, you were still a fan of the Bulls. You didn’t watch the Bulls because it was basketball. You watched the Bulls for the same reason we watched "Family Matters" and "Full House." You watched the Bulls because they were the Bulls — and everybody watched the Bulls.
There have been some rough patches since that dynasty ended, but not many have been worse than the most recent. They have been really bad over the past few years, but not simply because they’re losing games. The front office has appeared misguided, and the franchise as a whole has seemed hopeless. Three out of the last four seasons were sub-30-win teams and last season — with two All-Stars in Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic fighting to right the ship — they barely squeaked past the 30-win mark, tallying 31.
I can imagine it’s been an abysmal experience for the fans who have stuck around over the years. Yes, the Derrick Rose years were promising. And even the Ben Gordon-led Bulls were enjoyable at times. But for the most part, the team that was once more popular than basketball itself, has watched basketball continue without it.
The Bulls played in only three nationally televised games last season.
However, this year will be different. The Bulls are back. They were more aggressive than we’ve seen in a while and won big in free agency.
Lonzo Ball is special in the open court, has improved his jumper every season to become a very reliable catch-and-shoot guard and is a solid defender. This also gets LaVine off the ball and lets him do what he’s best at, getting buckets.
DeMar DeRozan is an All-Star-caliber wing who adds depth, is great in the pick-and-roll and a player who can create for himself in the biggest moments as one of the league leaders in clutch scoring.
Alex Caruso is a great backup guard who can be counted on to run the offense and make good decisions with the ball. He can knock down the open three as well as defend.
There’s no telling how good they’ll end up being. With the Eastern Conference getting even deeper this season along with the Nets and Bucks being as good as they are, this season won’t mimic the Suns' unforeseen turnaround, and I don’t see them going on a playoff run like the Heat did in the bubble.
So, even though this season will be different, it won’t be the year. But I feel certain that they are a playoff team. And even more certain they’ll be extremely fun to watch. Potentially one of the most fun teams in the league.
For a franchise that’s barely won 100 games in the past four seasons and fans who have managed to stick around through the worst of times, being fun is a considerable step in the right direction. A step worthy of celebration.
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