The Chicago Bulls are rapidly approaching the end of the NBA 2021-22 regular season, and, barring an unmitigated disaster, they will be playing playoff basketball for the first time since Jimmy Butler, Dwayne Wade, and Rajon Rondo all shared the court together. There’s an old, saying which I’ll paraphrase because it fits my point better if I do: “Water finds its level”.
This last couple months of basketball has been rough on Bulls fans. Since the All-Star break, we’ve seen our team reach the heights of 1st place in the Eastern Conference only to have the Bulls flounder and slide down the ladder to where they currently sit, 5th place. It’s been one beating by a top tier opponent after another, with a couple dud performances against so-so teams mixed in. Like I said, rough to watch, but really a necessary part of the process.
The Bulls seem to have found their level. They aren’t quite NBA elite, but they’re definitely better than the middle of the NBA pack. As of today, they are right about where they should be, 5th in the East, and probably just outside the top 10 teams in the NBA, and there should be no shame in that. In fact, considering where they were last season, and the previous 3 before that, the Bulls are light years ahead of schedule when it comes to competing for a championship.
As rough as these past couple months have been, the victories the Bulls collected this past week against the Toronto Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers, went a long way toward securing their playoff hopes and position. With those two key victories, the Bulls now hold the tie-breakers over the two teams that are chasing them in the playoff standings. It is unlikely that the Bulls will vault into the top 4 of the East and secure home-court advantage, but that too is not completely outside of the realm of possibility (nor is my wish for a 50 win season). The teams they are chasing, the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks, are both 3 games ahead of them in the standings with 8 games left to play (for the Bulls). Also, Chicago has an opportunity to make up some ground on both teams, if they can miraculously beat them back-to-back when they play Milwaukee on Tuesday, April 5th, and Boston on Wednesday, April 6th. It’s a tall task, but a win against any of the top teams the Bulls will face over the last few weeks of the season, will go a long way toward quelling the fears of the fan base that they will be an easy 1st round out.
Even as we hurdle closer and closer to the close of this season, questions still linger about how good this team could actually be. I say they’ve found their level, but what if Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso had been healthy down the back stretch of the season? What if Zach LaVine’s knee issues hadn’t flared up? What is the true level of this team, when healthy, together, and playing at full tilt? I believe we saw glimpses of it before Covid struck, and if you can remember back to that time, it was glorious.
Will the Bulls ever reach that top tier? Is there enough “water” on this roster to reach that level? I don’t know, but I trust that Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley will keep trying to build a roster capable of reaching the Mountain Top. Until they do, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!