After a season of change in the NBA, the older teams showing their age (Lakers, Celtics, and Spurs) while the younger teams vaulted into the forefront (Thunder, Grizzlies, and Bulls). The Conference Finals are here, and with Game 1 gone in the East it looks like we’ve finally gotten what we’ve wanted all year: A villain and a hero.
Only Oprah has the power to reschedule a Bulls game in Chicago, and for Game 1 (originally slotted for Monday night at the United Center) no one wanted to wait anyway. Moved to Sunday night because Oprah’s last show had booked the venue Monday, the Bulls and Heat gave us a taste of what’s to come in this series, and for years to come.
“I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.” Those words rang loud last July and started a chain reaction throughout the NBA that has led to this moment; this series. The proverbial villain formed in the south. Three great players took big money and joined forces, but with the money came unprecedented pressure to win, and win now.
After the Bulls were spurned by all three of Miami’s “Big 3” (LeBron, Wade, and Bosh) they didn’t panic, didn’t waste time feeling sorry for themselves, and took on the attitude of their young leader: who need’s ‘em. Derrick Rose and coach Tom Thibodeau turned the Bulls into heroic underdogs (quite a feat for a #1 Seed), facing the hated Heat.
The race to sign LeBron this past summer was well chronicled; eight teams vying for his talents, one city left in heartache (Cleveland), while the evil superpower assembled by Biscayne Bay. The report that Derrick Rose didn’t want to play with LeBron wasn’t true; but he didn’t want to recruit the self proclaimed King either. The text Rose sent LeBron was brief and to the point:
“I’m just hitting you up to kill all the rumors that I don’t want to play with you. I’d like to play with you. I just want to win.“ In other words: come, don’t come, I’ll see you in the playoffs. Joakim Noah had his own take on D-Rose’s comments: “If you want to come here and be part of this, that’s cool. If not, we’re going to kick your ass.” Well put Jo.
Either way you look at it D-Rose has always been true to his teammates (saying they didn’t need LeBron when they already had Luol Deng at small forward), and he always wanted to be top dog on the Bulls. After his MVP season and resounding Game 1 win. Series on.
The sellout crowd was loud and on their feet at the start of the contest. Still, the Heat were not deterred or shaken at all in the early going. After trading the lead throughout the first half, the teams went into their locker rooms tied at the half (48-48). That’s when the MVP spoke up and rallied his team.
“Just by nature I’m quiet, but being in this position, being the point guard, being one of the leaders on this team, you have to talk a bit more,” Rose took the blame for his turnovers in the first half and vowed to lead his Bulls better in the second. With only one turnover in the second half, it was Rose’s team who turned the close game into a statement.
This being the first game of what’s sure to be a long series, one shouldn’t read too much into the final score. There will not be another 20 point victory in the Bulls future. With the veteran superstars the Heat have they will bounce back and go hard in Game 2. A split in Chicago would give the Heat house money when they return home for Games four and five.
Chicago needs to remain focused and concentrate on the next game; judging by the teams’ reactions after Game 1 that won’t be a problem. With the leagues most humble MVP, the deepest bench, and the best defensive tactician in the league coaching them, this team won’t take anything for granted.
“I just want to win.”said Derrick last summer. Show us how much you want to win, how little you need LeBron. So humble, so reserved; it’s the MVP standing in the spotlight against three of the games most elite. A hero against a villain.
About the Author
Written by Frank Sullivan
Frank is a graduate of Old Dominion University, sports fan, author, and founder of TheBloosh.com. He's been working with prosportsblogging.com since April 2011, and has covered the Chicago Bulls, Baltimore Ravens, Virginia Tech Hokies Football, and the Washington Wizards. Frank can be reached @franksullivan on twitter.