Seeing Actual Progress, OKC Was a Turning Point, the Playoff Pursuit, and Other Bulls Bullets

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Seeing Actual Progress, OKC Was a Turning Point, the Playoff Pursuit, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

At times, I catch myself in the midst of excitement and feel kind of silly. I wonder whether or not I should be this excited about a 16-18 team. One that sits 10th in the Eastern Conference and still very much susceptible to missing the playoffs.

Then, I say, “screw it.” After three-straight seasons of atrocious basketball and off-court storylines that only added to the embarrassment, Bulls fans deserve an excitement cushion. The team may be far from a true contender – let alone a trustworthy above .5oo team – but damn it if the basketball isn’t fun again! If anything, that is all Bulls fans have really wanted since Jimmy Butler was sent to Minnesota, right? Whether it was reluctant or not, we all accepted a rebuild. That wasn’t really the problem. Where the organization lost us was by removing the one actual fun competent of a rebuild – progress.

•   There has been arguably no greater indictment of the Bulls previous organization than when the final buzzer sounded on Wednesday night. The Bulls pulled off their second victory over the New Orleans Pelicans this season and walked into the All-Star break with legitimate momentum. While the 4th quarter of that game was rough, it was an exclamation point on the best first-half of basketball we have seen in years. Again, they may remain a below-.500 team, but it only took Arturas Karnisovas, Marc Eversley, and Billy Donovan 33 games to show Bulls fans what they desperately waited to see since 2017. Now, finally, the bar has been raised.

•   Development and change is pretty much the plotline in BullsTV’s latest episode of Run With Us. By the way, I’m always amazed at the quality of these episodes. Great content.

•   The episode above suggests that the Bulls 2-point loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in January might have been a turning point for this young roster. For those who asked Scarlet Witch to manipulate their mind into thinking this never happened, let me refresh your memory. The Chicago Bulls were up 22 points against the Thunder, only to be outscored 68-50 in the second half and eventually lose 127-125 in overtime. Oklahoma City turned out to be a bit better than expected this season, but it was still a game the Bulls had completely in the bag … until they didn’t. According to Run With Us, the team recognized that, and LaVine explains that it forced them to talk through their mistakes in a way they simply had not done before. Since that game, the Bulls have gone 12-10. Great? No. Pretty good in the Bulls universe? Absolutely.

•   The question now is how excited should we allow ourselves to be for the second half of the season? One of the best parts about this first half was that we didn’t expect much progress, especially after the first two games. Now, we walk into the final 38 games with an idea of what this team is capable of, which feels kind of dangerous. So, for the sake of not being blasted by an emotional harpoon, I think I’ll walk into the Bulls first game back one step behind cautiously optimistic. Also known as … cautious. I want to believe this team can stay on its current path, but I keep falling back to their 11th-toughest strength of schedule. In fact, Five-Thirty Eight’s opponent ELO ratings arguably paints the Bulls an even grimmer picture. They predict the Bulls to win 13 of their 37 games in the second half with a 12 percent chance at making the playoffs.

•   The good news for the Bulls, however, is that two Eastern Conference threats have harder schedules moving forward, including the Orlando Magic and New York Knicks. The Magic don’t appear to be a legitimate threat to pass the Bulls in the standings right now, but the Knicks shockingly sit 4th in the East with a record of 19-18. While I’m not sure how far we should expect them to fall, Five-Thirty Eight lists the Knicks as going from the easiest first-half schedule to the third-hardest schedule.

•   Two other squads we should keep our eyes on over the next 37 games are the Miami Heat and Toronto Tampa Bay Raptors. Despite what early-season woes showed, the Heat are now one game ahead of the Bulls and set to play one of the easiest remaining schedules (and the Bulls on March 12th). The Raptors are currently tied with the Bulls in win-percentage, but also see an annoyingly easy schedule in the second half. The East standings might be a cluster[word I will not type] at the moment, but a more established hierarchy could soon take shape. It will not be easy for the Bulls to be apart of that.

•   Listen to my friend’s podcast. #ShamelessPlugForSomeoneElse

•   Seriously, I still don’t think we are talking enough about how absurd this LaVine performance has been.

•   Speaking of LaVine, time to tamper!

•   Of course.

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is a writer for Bleacher Nation and a human being. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.