As I’ve listened to Chicago sports radio this morning and read some of the various accounts, I can’t help but think how short our memories have become and how much we can quickly lose perspective. To be sure, last night was a collapse. There’s really no other way to put when the other team, in your building, overcomes a 12-point deficit in the final four minutes while closing you out with an 18-3 smack down. But it was a collapse within the confines of this one series and the 2011 NBA Playoffs as a whole. Stepping back from that, it was nothing more than a Game 5 loss in a series where the obvious set in from Game 2 forward that the Bulls weren’t going to win.
The comparisons have been endless by people who otherwise should know better. This wasn’t a Game 7 collapse similar to the Blackhawks blowing a 2-0 lead at home against the Canadiens with a chance to hoist the Stanley Cup in 1971. This certainly isn’t the Cubs, as arguably the better team, going 0-6 in my lifetime in often horrific fashion with a chance to get to their first World Series since World War II. This wasn’t the Bears losing home playoff games in “Bear weather” in three successive years after the glorious 1985 season. And a team that most Chicago fans have long forgotten, this wasn’t anywhere near the heartbreak of the DePaul Blue Demons of the early 1980s breaking Chicago’s heart by losing their first tournament game as the number one seed three years in a row.
Nope, last night was the inevitable end against a team loaded with the league’s best talent peaking at the right time. Two questions that really didn’t need to be answered going into the NBA Playoffs were answered in this series. The answer to question number is yes, the regular season is meaningless. There’s a reason players routinely take nights off figuratively and teams don’t push themselves beyond trying to secure a top three or four seed. The Bulls won more games than other in the regular season. They had the regular season MVP, the regular season Coach of the Year, the regular season Executive of the Year and were undefeated in three games against the Heat (Cry Gate seems like so long ago now). As far as question number 2, in the NBA, team play losses to star power every time. The Heat have an eight-man rotation with two superstars and one All-Star – all at their peak. The Bulls have a ten-man rotation with one superstar and no All-Stars – case closed.
Moving on, the pressure is now on the Bulls front office to do something HUGE – be it a blockbuster trade for Dwight Howard or an equally impactful trade for an All-Star shooting guard. For the parade that was led on General Manager Gar Forman’s behalf, the reality is that this organization has failed time and time again to make the blockbuster deal (Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol, Lebron and Wade last summer). Their two big free agent signings in the last five years have been (Ben Wallace) or are on their way (Carlos Boozer) to becoming busts.
They lucked their way into Derrick Rose who looked small – literally speaking – at 6’3 in this series. But Rose has the desire, will and heart to dedicate himself over the summer to raising his game to even a higher level. The question we don’t have an answer to right now is whether or not the organization will, or can, do the same?