Last Wednesday, I posted some tough criticism of the Bulls. I voiced the frustration I was feeling watching my favorite team flounder, struggling to compete against more talented NBA rosters. It was a fairly negative article, the type I want to avoid regularly writing for this blog. Negativity is a trap that is easy to fall into, a trap that can distort a persons love for life and the people around them. I love basketball and I love the Bulls. I don’t want to be one of those jerks that ruins the joy of seeing a team grow, overcome, and fulfill potential because I’m a “Debbie Downer.”

DebbieDowner

This should be an exciting time for us Bulls fans. We have a unique opportunity to watch a talented group of young men grow into professionals. It can be a real drag watching loss after loss. Losing drains the morale of a fan base, and runs counter to the essence of fandom. No one wants to watch a losing team. But are the Bulls losing? The games… yes. But the rebuild? I think they might be on the right track.

The signs of growth are already evident.

As easy as it is to heap criticism on this young team, it is just as easy to praise the squad if you recognize the transformation taking place. Inconsistency is the nature of a young team. Someone goes off for an efficient 25 points one night, and lays an egg the next. We fans see this and gripe about player X being a bum. I think I’ve written a post a week saying something like that. That is where I’ve lost sight of the forest through all the trees.

How many times have we heard Coach Hoiberg utter the phrase “it’s not about wins and losses this season…”? He is right. This team, this season, maybe the next 3 or 4 seasons, we cannot use traditional NBA barometers to evaluate success and failure. Effort, understanding, the ability to bounce back from poor performances, playing through adversity, these are the things we fans have to look for in the Bulls.

Kris Dunn gets injured, keeps turning the ball over, can’t crack the starting roster. How does he respond? Does he get down on himself and his teammates? Does he clam up and play tentatively, like a turtle in a shell? No, he continues to be aggressive both defensively and offensively. He has shown strong leadership characteristics, working hard on both ends of the court. This is the effort we need on this team. And it is not unique to Kris Dunn.

Cristiano Felicio starts the season playing basketball like he is wearing a blindfold. He can’t catch the ball, he can’t defend a player without fouling him, Cris looked lost and frustrated on offense. He plays through it. Coach Hoiberg keeps throwing him out there with the second unit. What have we seen from Felicio in the last week? Much improved play. He is clicking with teammates in the pick and roll. He hasn’t taken his frustrations out on the defensive end with dumb fouls. Hoiberg letting his players struggle, players like Felicio growing into their roles, this is the understanding that points to positive growth in a young squad.

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Felicio’s splits for Oct. and Nov. according to ESPN.com

The Bulls have had several atrocious performances this season. The games against Oklahoma City and San Antonio stand out to me as particularly loathsome. Lack of effort, frustration, defeatist attitudes, all of it was apparent in those games. Negativity abounded. The important thing about these losses was that the Bulls did not string awful performances back to back. They have repeatedly shown resilience, recommitting to outworking other teams after bad losses. When they get knocked down, they bounce back with gusto. They compete. They don’t balk at a challenge.

Players slump, get injured, fight each other, move in and out of the lineup, lose sight of who they are and what they should do on the court, it’s the normal day to day adversity that will erode a teams confidence. So far, this group of guys have persevered through the grind. The wins have provided little boosts along the way. They give fans hope, and players confidence, that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The Baby Bulls 2.0 give fans something to cheer about every night. Even if it’s just Lauri Markkanen moving his feet well on defense, or Denzel Valentine going 6-10 from the field, or somebody throwing a pass into the post, there are positives to be found on this team. The challenge for us fans is to step up with the players. As the Bulls goes through their metamorphosis, we must be patient. We cannot allow ourselves to become mired in negativity. We must trust that in 3 or 4 seasons, the team first cocooned in “Rebuild” will hatch as a beautiful, fully formed, and completely different team.

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Lauri Markkanen retreating on defense

As a fan and blogger of the Bulls, I will stick this rebuild out for as long as I can. I will stay positive the majority of the time. I would encourage my fellow fans to do the same. Let’s not hang our heads or give in to negativity. Let’s step up, support the young guys, and focus our attention on the growth of our players, not the failings. Let’s take a page from their book and approach each game with resilience. Let’s maybe even think about giving Cam Payne a second chance… Did I just ask too much? I’ll leave that up to you.

Injury Update:

The Worst Records in the NBA:

1. Dallas Mavericks: 3-14 .176

2. Atlanta Hawks: 3-13 .188

3. Chicago Bulls: 3-10 .231

4. Sacramento Kings: 4-12 .250

5. L.A. Clippers: 5-10 .333

One thought on “Stepping Up

  1. Awesome blog post. I agree with you. While the team struggles, there are glimpses of hope out there to take away so far.

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