x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

The Chicago Bulls are the best-kept secret in NBA

Without a great deal of fanfare, the Chicago Bulls have positioned themselves to make a major push in the second half of the NBA season.

Also read: - Time to slam-dump those three-point contests

What is the NBA's best-kept secret?

Try the Chicago Bulls.

In the Western Conference, the San Antonio Spurs have the league's best record and the Los Angeles Lakers are the two-time defending champions.

In the East, the old Boston Celtics are showing they still have another title run in them and the Miami Heat are the new mega-star team.

And then, hovering just under the comparative radar, are the Bulls.

The Bulls who are 38-16. The Bulls who have MVP candidate Derrick Rose. The Bulls who wrapped up the first half of the season last week with a 109-99 victory over the Spurs.

"We have a lot of confidence right now, knowing that we can beat some of the best teams in the NBA," Rose said.

"We just have to keep it going. When we come back, we have to keep it focused. We have to work even harder. We're going to have a few days off and some guys are going to have the opportunity to have their bodies relax, but we've still got to go and try to win a championship."

Here is the frightening part for the rest of the NBA – it is possible the Bulls have yet to reach their full potential.

The Bulls played the first month of the season without Carlos Boozer, the forward who was out with a broken hand, and won. He came back and Joakim Noah, the centre, went down with a torn thumb ligament, and they won.

Noah is scheduled to return after the All Star break when the Bulls open the second half of the season on Wednesday in Toronto.

And for the first time all season, the team will really be at full strength.

Already one of the league's best teams, the Bulls expect to only get better.

The Bulls were one of the teams LeBron James and Dwyane Wade seriously considered joining before signing with the Heat. The Bulls then went out and signed Boozer.

His addition, and the elevated play this year of Rose, have given them a major boost.

"He has taken a monster leap this year," Gregg Popovich, the Spurs coach, said of Rose.

"What's really great about him is he seems to love the pressure in putting his team on his back.

"He has the character and demeanour to do that. Superstars have that character and leadership gene."

The Bulls have been particularly tough at home (25-4), having beaten all of the league's elite teams – Celtics, Heat, Lakers, Orlando Magic and Dallas Mavericks – in Chicago.

The road (13-12) remains a challenge - they have lost twice at Boston, at the Lakers and at Orlando - but this is a young team, whose confidence is still growing.

 

sports@thenational.ae

Players of the week
• Dwyane Wade, Miami. He averaged 34.5 points and 9.5 assists, while shooting 53 per cent from the field.
• Derrick Rose, Chicago. He scored 42 points in a key victory over the San Antonio Spurs, and averaged 30 points and 10.5 assists for the week.
•Steve Nash, Phoenix. The point guard, below, who may move before Thursday’s trading deadline, averaged 19 points and 15.3 assists.
Teams of the week
• Portland.Won three games to push their winning streak to six. At 32-24, they are fifth in the Western Conference.
• Chicago: The Bulls won their only two games last week, including a statement-maker, a 109-99 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
• Memphis: The Grizzles won both their games and have four victories in a row. At 31-26 they are tied with the Utah Jazz for West’s final play-off spot.
Duds of the week
• Grant Hill, Phoenix: The 38-year-old forward looked like he was finally slowing down, averaging 10 points, two rebounds and two assists.
• Jamal Crawford, Atlanta. The guard shot just 22.7 per cent from the field in three games, averaging 4.3 points, 3.3 assists and one rebound.
Games of the week
• Los Angeles Lakers at Portland, Wednesday. The Trail Blazers are the NBA’s hottest team, and the Lakers confused-looking two-time champions.
• Miami at Chicago, Thursday. The Bulls are on a roll and will have Joakim Noah, their centre, back to face the Heat.

sports@thenational.ae

Also read: - Time to slam-dump those three-point contests