Hello. It’s been a while. Sorry about that. Between paternal responsibilities, non-covid related health things, the holidays, and a severe case of writers block, I needed some time away from the blog. Well, in the words of the GOAT, I’m Back!
And HOO-BOY did I miss some goings on. In my time away, the Bulls seized control of the Eastern Conference, lost everyone on the roster to Covid, got everyone back with a few new faces to boot, lost half the team to injury, went on a 9 game winning streak, went on a 4 game losing streak, lost control of the Eastern Conference, but gained an ALL-STAR starter. It’s been a hell of a ride this season, and we still have a third of the games left to play!
I just want to take a little time in this post to point out a few positives from all those goings on. First off, the Bulls have won 30 games this season and we’re just about to exit January! I can’t tell you how happy this makes me. Last season, with a much improved attitude and Zach LaVine blossoming into a super star, the Bulls only managed to scrape together 31 wins. Right now, they are on pace for something like 45-50 wins. After watching too many seasons of being nowhere near a 30 win team, it’s great to see the franchise earning victories.
The second positive I want to point out, the team has complete confidence in Billy Donovan as a coach. There is no questioning of authority, there is no controversial decision making when it comes to the roster and rotations. The style the Bulls play with, the intensity that Donovan demands from the players, everyone has bought in. The Bulls have definitely slipped over the last couple months in defensive intensity, but that isn’t because the players on the court aren’t trying, it’s more a matter of talent. With Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, and Derrick Jones Jr on the shelf with injuries, leadership of the defense falls on Javonte Green and Ayo Dosunmu, two capable defenders, but that’s a lot of responsibility for just 2 individuals.
Which leads to the third positive from the last 2 months, Ayo Dosunmu has erupted on the scene as a defensive stopper and regular contributor off the bench. He and Coby White have given the Bulls a huge boost during a very tough period with multiple players out for extended periods of time. There contributions will continue to be counted on as the Bulls stare at another 2 months without the services of Ball and Caruso.
The final positive I want to touch on in this post is the play of the Bulls’ Big Three: DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, and Nikola Vucevic. DeRozan is the reason the Bulls have won 30 games before the end of January. He has played his way into a starting position on the All-Star roster, and is a regular name that continues to surface in early MVP conversations. DeRozan is a master at mid-range basketball, and proves that being 30+ years old doesn’t mean your career is necessarily on the down swing.
Likewise, Zach LaVine has played his way onto another All-Star roster. While nothing has been made official, it’s hard to imagine that one of the top vote getters in the Eastern Conference would be passed over as an All-Star reserve. LaVine has been just as amazing as DeRozan this season. He has continued his run of top tier scoring efficiency that started last season, but he’s not just as scorer any more. LaVine has really taken to finding different ways to help the Bulls win. Whether it’s grabbing boards, dishing out assists, or exerting strong and smart defensive pressure, the Bulls are not 2nd in the East without LaVine’s winning plays.
Winning plays are what Nikola Vucevic excels at. Late game blocks, steals, rebounds, and threes, if the Bulls need any of those things you can count on Vucevic to get it done. Even as he’s struggled to find his place next to DeRozan and LaVine, Vucevic has still been able to make key plays to help the Bulls win. Over the last few weeks, Vooch appears to be more comfortable in his role with the team. There has been a greater emphasis on him taking the ball into the paint and scoring around the basket, and that has given him, and the team, a boost in confidence. I only expect Vooch’s contributions to increase as his confidence continues to grow.
The Bulls are in a great position right now. They have the talent and intensity of a playoff team. When they are fully healthy and engaged, the Bulls have the look of an Eastern Conference Finals contender. They have an amazing group of starters, the bench has blossomed and continues to surprise with their contributions. Billy Donovan has gotten the roster to buy into his style of play, and with an aggressive front office, the Bulls have found ways of navigating all the twists and turns that Covid and injuries have thrown at the team. Even with Ball and Caruso out for a while, the Bulls are a better team than they were in early December, and the trade deadline is still a couple weeks away.
As I wrap things up today, I just want to say thank you to all my readers, especially those of you who have reached out to me to see how I was doing and make sure everything was alright. There were far more of you than I expected. Thank you for your concern, and for reading my Bulls thoughts! This season has been such a joy to experience, especially after so many bad Bulls seasons, I’m just glad we all get to experience it together. Until next time, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!