Mar 9, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) celebrates a play with shooting guard Jimmy Butler (21) during the second half against the Miami Heat at the United Center. The Bulls beat the Heat 95-88. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bulls: Are They A Legitimate Playoff Threat?

For the last two years, the Bulls impressive perseverance has been predicated on an outstanding defense that has successfully stifled over confident offensive contenders.  Despite not having Derrick Rose or Luol Deng, the Bulls have some how managed to battle valiantly through this type of adversity while staying competitive in a weak Eastern Conference.  Although the Bulls have had their fair share of devastating defeats, their triumphs are what make them the emotionally driven franchise that they are today.  While the Bulls may never garner the same amount of attention or appreciation that Miami and Indiana do on a regular basis, being the underappreciated warriors of their conference is just the way they like it.

It goes without saying that the Bulls prolific defensive resiliency is directly influenced by the relentless and emphatic teachings of coach Tom Thibodeau.  Throughout his career, Thibodeau’s intuitiveness as a sound defensive mind was critical to the success of several teams throughout the years.  Most notably, during his seven-year tenure with the New York Knicks as an assistant coach, Thibodeau and then head coach Jeff Van Gundy were able to orchestrate a dominant defense that was able to hold 33 consecutive opponents to under 100 points during the 2000-2001 season.  After establishing his reputation as a defensive guru with the Knicks, Thibodeau set his sights on the defensively deflated Boston Celtics.  Thanks to his experience and inspirational abilities as a passionately intellectual basketball mind, Thibodeau was able to help keep star shooting guard Kobe Bryant in check during the 2008 NBA Finals.

Clearly, Thibodeau was destined to be a stand out head coach because of his love for the game and his unwavering competitive nature.  As a result, the Chicago Bulls have seemingly emulated the tactics and intense emotions of their beloved head coach, which is especially true with the Bulls fearless center Joakim Noah.  Although Noah has always been known for his on the court tenacity, his contributions as of late have been extremely impressive to say the least.  Despite his awkward shooting game, Noah has still found a way to average double-double’s throughout the majority of the regular season (12.2 PPG, 11.3 RPG).  Beyond his statistical accolades, Noah also has the vast leadership intangibles to uplift his team’s morale even when things seem bleak.  The fact that Noah goes into every game believing that this team can win every single contest is what makes the Bulls performances so entertaining even if they end up losing.  Even just watching Noah sacrifice his body for a ball that is on verge of going out of bounds is enough to make any basketball fan be mystified in awe at just how committed this one man is to helping his team be the best that they can be.

Yet, even with the Bulls exceptional defensive prowess and leadership intangibles, there is one dignified attribute that this team has that no other franchise is able to match: relentlessness.  While many teams go through their ups and downs emotionally and physically, the Bulls have always been at the top of their class in terms of their mental resiliency.  No matter how their season pans out, the Bulls never succumb to the depression or immense tragedy that comes with losing when everything is on the line.  Rather than displaying themselves as aggravated victims, the Bulls always find a cause to rally around. Whether it’s going to battle for their injured comrades or simply just trying to overcome the next offensive juggernaut, this team has developed a respectable reputation for always looking forward to the next obstacle rather dwelling on their previous failures.  If teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks could instill this type of mental fortitude within their own organizations, they may discover a completely new avenue with which to motivate their currently downtrodden franchises.

When all is said and done, the Chicago Bulls are hands down the most driven and physically gifted team in the NBA.  While they may not garner the same appreciation that the Heat and Pacers do, their desire to persevere as the underdog can never be underestimated.  At this point, the only thing holding the Bulls back is the lack of a consistent shooter that could keep this team in critical games down the stretch.  Still, despite the absence of a reliable offense, the Bulls have still flexed their muscles and have proven emphatically that a sensational defense is more than enough to take down any opponent that stands in their way. 

Tags: Chicago Bulls NBA