Commentary

Bulls headed in right direction

With Rose at the controls, Chicago's evolution should be exciting to watch

Updated: October 26, 2010, 9:39 PM ET
By Jon Greenberg | ESPNChicago.com

Derrick Rose has kept his promise so far.

[+] EnlargeDerrick Rose
Ron Turenne/NBAE/Getty ImagesDerrick Rose wants to be considered the best player in the NBA, and fans are taking notice.

"I think you'll be seeing me [doing] a lot on TV this season," he promised during the Bulls' media day.

Rose has already been featured prominently in two adidas commercials with comedian Ken Jeong for his newly designed shoe.

Rose is silent in his commercial, while shoe buddy Dwight Howard sings and hams it up in a music video featuring both of them.

"That ain't me," Rose said when the first commercial debuted. "I'll probably give the little wink or something, but that ain't me."

So, obviously, the next step for Rose is a speaking role. He's comfortable joking around in viral videos for NBA 2K11, and Rose already has made headlines for proclaiming his goal to be considered the best player in the NBA.

And for the Bulls, it's going to be a similar evolution. First they have to make an appearance with the elite, before they get a chance to take a leading role.

Right now, the Bulls are the strong, silent team of the Eastern Conference.

They're not Hollywood like the Heat, or old-school like the Celtics. They don't have the playoff experience of the Orlando Magic.

Once again, the new Bulls are on the precipice of being the old Bulls, the ones you remember from NBA on NBC. Was it just me or did the Bulls play the Knicks every Sunday back in the day?

Now the Bulls are playing fellow up-and-comer Oklahoma City on Wednesday to kick off ESPN's coverage.

It's not a game that carries forced narrative or the baggage that championship contenders must lug around from city to city. Rose against Kevin Durant is just a must-see matchup for basketball nerds and casual fans.

The Bulls and the Thunder are perfect complementary teams for the NBA this season, which is going to be dominated by talk of dynasties, challengers and a misguided search for right and wrong.

Personally, I'm glad the Bulls remained mostly intact from last season, and I'm optimistic about the additions they've made.

The Bulls are an easy fourth in the Eastern Conference, a team behind the team, one that easily could win 50 games, even with the ever-present threat of suitcases in their hallways, but isn't a favorite to make the conference finals.

While the Heat-wave takes over the East, what should we expect from the Bulls this season?

Well, AccuScore predicts 52-30 and a 73.2 percent chance to win the division. I predicted 50 wins this past weekend on ESPNChicago's "Sports Reporters" radio show (7-9 a.m. CT), so I'm right there.

None of ESPN's experts pick the Bulls to win the East, with noted Bulls fan Scoop Jackson taking the Heat and Orlando native and Bulls beat writer Nick Friedell taking the Magic.

All but three of ESPN's experts pick the Bulls to win the Central, with the holdouts taking Scott Skiles' Bucks.

As far as what the Bulls think of themselves, Rose said it's the best team he's ever been on, eclipsing Memphis, Simeon High and Beasley Academic Center, while Luol Deng called it the deepest Bulls squad of his tenure.

"The vibe that [we have] every day in practice when we come in is crazy, where guys are always working out, helping each other, always hanging with each other," Rose said. "It's kind of like getting into a college team, so that's a good sign."

If collegiality promises wins, then yes, it's a good sign, but the Bulls, like the Cubs with their day games, have a rough schedule, built-in thanks to their Midwestern location, which equals a slew of back-to-backs, not to mention the always-draining West Coast "circus trip."

With big addition Carlos Boozer on the shelf thanks to rogue luggage, the Bulls will have their challenges early on, as a newly built team tries to coalesce under a first-time head coach in Tom Thibodeau.

I'm a Thibs guy already. He's got to get used to running a team, rather than just coaching one, but I think his hire was a slam dunk by John Paxson and Gar Forman.

[+] EnlargeBosh/Wade/James
Steve Mitchell/US PresswireThe Bulls struck out on the big three free agents, but there's something to be said for acquiring complementary players to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.

Rose recently said Thibodeau is giving him free reign on offense, while hammering his defensive lapses. It's a simple, yet brilliant strategy. Rose is responsible and heady enough on offense to offer implicit trust, but his defense was below his potential. Thibodeau made his reputation by coaching defense, and he's got Rose playing hard on both ends.

"I guess [I'm] playing more defense, man," Rose said. "Like, my knuckles are all messed up now. At least like six fingers are all messed up. I guess that comes with playing in the NBA."

The lead-up to the summer was that the Bulls "had" to get LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh, the headliners of the ballyhooed free agent class, and we all know how that turned out.

But I can't say I'm not happy that the Bulls wound up getting guys to complement Rose and Joakim Noah, rather than usurp them as defacto team leaders.

Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, C.J. Watson and Keith Bogans, along with the aforementioned Boozer, who is rehabbing a broken hand, give the Bulls the ancillary depth they were missing.

Luol Deng is comfortable in a real offense once again and Taj Gibson is a valuable asset down low.

Aesthetically, NBA games are a blast to watch, especially in person if you can afford any seat below the 300 level. And this Bulls team with Rose at the helm promises to be more exciting than any team since the Jordan era.

With the Bears en route to a painfully mediocre season, the Bulls and Blackhawks are the best thing going right now, and rather than wonder about what might have been had the SuperFriends broken ranks, or what could be if Carmelo Anthony pushes for Chicago, I'm happy to enjoy the present, and watch likable athletes such as Rose, Noah and Deng.

That's just me, though, I'm a basketball romantic. I like the way the Bulls are building a team, rather than a collection of superstars. If, or when, this team makes a jump from learning how to contend to actually doing it, it will mean more and it will be authentic.

Truthfully, if the Bulls upset any of the big-three teams in the playoffs, it'll be a successful season. That's the blueprint for how a real team matures.

The summer is yesterday and the playoffs tomorrow. For now I'm content to enjoy today.

Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.

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