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Bulls v. Heat: It’s About More Than Basketball

May 15, 2011

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All you need to know about the differences between the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat is exemplified by the differences between Luol Deng and LeBron James.

While LeBron was announcing where he was taking his talents last year, Luol was in a refugee camp in Kenya, where TVs are scarce and NBA players are even more rare.  While the Heat have featured 14 different starting line-ups this year, the Bulls had 8 (and 7 of those line-ups were due to injury to Boozer or JoNo while only 8 of the Heat’s combos can be attributed to a Big Three injury).  And while LeBron was named to the All-Defensive First team and despite the fact that the Bulls have one of the best defensive teams in the league with Luol leading the charge, Luol wasn’t even recognized.

It seems only fitting that the fortunes of the Bulls will largely depend on Luol’s ability to slow down the former MVP.  Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to one of the most anticipated NBA playoff series in recent history not featuring the Lakers or Celtics.  Beyond Luol’s defense and because sportswriters have already written thousands of words dedicated to trying to predict the outcome of this series, I won’t pretend that I have a crystal ball.  Instead, here are some subplots to watch out for:

  • The Big Three vs. a Thibs’ 10-man rotation – which team possesses this year’s John Paxson – the role player who steps up to hit the game winning shot?;
  • Two hometown heroes battling it out and possibly guarding each other on the court – D.Wade v. D.Rose – Dwyane made a lot of headlines last year with his flirtation with the Bulls.  Say what you will about midwesterners but understand this – we don’t value the fickle or the feckless and in the eyes of many Chicagoans, the Heat represent both;
  • The two top defenses in the league trying to stop each other – by beating the Celtics, did LeBron and the Heat finally figure out how to overcome Thibs’ defensive schemes?;
  • Will the Heat who had trouble squeezing out wins against the Bulls be able to beat a Bulls team that hasn’t lost more than two games in a row all season?;
  • Pat “slick rick” Riley vs. Gar Forman – that sharing of the Executive of the Year Award was mildly awkward;
  • Bosh v. Boozer – who will show up to play in this series? Both have been maligned by fans and press alike but are crucial to their teams’ success.  Both also could have ended up swapping teams;
  • The Big Three vs. MVP – LeBron may possess physical skills that are the best in the league but I’ll take D.Rose’s maturity and iron will – for two athletes who overcame numerous odds and have been closely scrutinized by the media and press since they were old enough to watch Michael Jordan play, this series is the beginning of the next generation of Eastern Conference battles yet to come.

Last year, after the Bulls “lost” the LeBron sweepstakes, and filled out the rest of their roster, I predicted that the Bulls would make it to the conference finals, where they would run into walls known as the Celtics, Heat, or Orlando.  I still stand by that statement and hope the Bulls prove me wrong by moving on to the Finals – one thing’s for sure, this one will be a dog fight and I can’t wait.


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