The Chicago Bulls are now 5-0 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Cleveland Cavaliers and the Toronto Raptors, teams combined to go 108-48 on the season thus far. The Bulls themselves don't sport a bad record, sitting at 17-12, though we all know their record could be conceivably better. Nine of the Bulls 17 wins have come against teams that are over .500. On the other side of the coin, four of the Bulls 12 losses have come against teams that are under .500. After last nights' 104-97 victory over the Toronto Raptors, the postgame centered around one thing, and that one thing is the one thing that the Bulls have been missing all season in consistency. It's not something that they can fix in a trade or in a roster overhaul. In all reality, it seems very elementary. It's effort.
Postgame, the talk of the locker room was effort. Pau Gasol summarized beautifully what the effort means to the Bulls, whether it's the bench bringing it (as was the case this game), or any other player/group that brings it.
Obviously, it means a lot [to get that much effort from the reserves]. The bench came in and played with this energy, intensity, aggressiveness, sharpness; it makes a huge difference and obviously tonight it was the difference maker and allowed us to win the game. The depth of our team has to show in these types of situations when maybe a player or two are not having their best game or the energy required.
When the reporters asked Derrick Rose what the focus of the team going forward should be, his answer was very straightforward.
Energy and effort. If we bring those two things who knows (how far we can go)? We’re having problems with teams under .500. I’d rather have that problem than to have a problem with the better teams. Energy and effort would have changed some of those games against teams that were under .500. Teams over .500 we come out and compete, but we have to change it.
Well, that's a cat let out of the bag if I have ever seen one. This has been an issue encompassing the Bulls since Tom Thibodeau had the reins. But Rose has an excellent point. The Bulls always play to the level of their opponents. We know what effort we will get out of them against the better teams in the league. It's the effort against the sub-.500 teams in the league that always seem like a trap game for the Bulls. They come out with low energy, low effort, and when they should be well on their way to a victory, they're falling deeper and deeper into said trap and fall into a deficit.
Those two things, energy and effort, those really aren't things you'll find in a trade, especially when the name rumored on the trading block the most is Joakim Noah, the heart and soul of the Bulls. With Noah out with his shoulder injury, however, that has opened up some room in the rotation for Bobby Portis, the 20 year old rookie who has been patiently biding his time, waiting for his moment. Bobby Crazy Eyes Portis has had a plethora of mistakes in his short time thus far. However, his positives have far outweighed the negatives, and when he is out on the court, his play is infectious, playing with unwavering energy, exerting all of his effort, and simply playing without fear. Pairing him in the frontcourt with Taj Gibson is definitely something that needs to happen more often.
The Bulls, despite what everyone may think, actually have a shot of winning the East this year. With Hoiberg at the helm implementing the beautiful hoiball, the Bulls finally have a system in place on offense to compete with the higher scoring teams. The ball movement and rotations are hard to follow at times as they are done with such fluidity and precision. The Bulls just need to exert the energy and effort every game to run that offense to the best of their abilities while maintaining the same energy and effort on the defensive end that has been their identity in recent years.