CHICAGO -- The Bulls believe again. They believe in themselves. They believe in their team. They believe no matter which team they face on a daily basis, they will win. It's a belief that was missing earlier this season after another knee injury to Derrick Rose and the trade of Luol Deng to Cleveland -- but it has come back with a vengeance and was permeating through the Bulls' locker room after Sunday afternoon's destruction of the hapless New York Knicks.
"If [the scale] was from 1 to 10," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said of his team's confidence level, "it's a 12 right now."
The Bulls are playing with the type of hard-nosed swagger that has defined them under Tom Thibodeau. They want to destroy teams and they want to break their will. That's what they did to the Knicks again Sunday and that's one of the biggest reasons why they've won nine out of their past 10 games. They trust each other on the floor and they have complete faith in the schemes Thibodeau puts together.
"We buy into the team aspect of everything," Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler said. "On offense and on defense. That's great because we don't have one guy that worries about just his stats. That's not the type of guys that we are, so when you've got a roster full of those guys you're bound to win."
That may be rare for teams throughout the league, but Butler doesn't know any other way. He has been raised not to give away anything for free on the basketball court because he's been raised by the Bulls' system. Every possession is a battle, every move has a purpose. That is evident in most Bulls wins, but especially Sunday considering the Bulls turned the ball over only three times -- setting a new franchise record.
"We're working," Gibson said. "When people aren't working, we're still working. We believe in each other. We don't really care about the outside world. There's so much negativity, we're only worrying about what we think about. And hard work always beats talent. We really work hard. Our farm system -- Thibs has guys on edge every day."
The Bulls play each game with a gigantic chip on their shoulder because of all the things that have gone wrong over the past three years. They thrive off all the doubters who say they can't win without Rose or Deng. Joakim Noah, who pulled off his second triple-double of 2014 with relative ease, has made it his personal mission to make people remember this team.
"We're fighting," Noah said. "We're hungry. We want more. We're not satisfied with where we're at right now. We just want to get the best seed possible because we know when the playoffs come, we want to play in this building. This building -- we know that that's what it's all about, playing at the UC, playing well at the UC, especially in the playoffs."
The belief the Bulls have comes from the preparation that Thibodeau puts them through. The trust is earned over hours upon hours of extra work in the gym. The games will keep coming -- but the Bulls are playing for something more. They want the chance to knock off Miami or Indiana in the second round of the playoffs and they want to prove that they belong. The Bulls don't care how far-fetched that may seem to the outside world -- they're just going to keep playing the way they always do and see what happens in the end.
"One thing about our group is we're resilient," Gibson said. "We understand that anything can happen in the playoffs. Anything can happen once you get home-court advantage and just keep believing in each other. And now we got Jimmer [Fredette] -- it's even more fun because you don't know what he can bring, but you know he can bring a lot of scoring. And then once Thibs gets a hold of him, the sky's the limit. So right now I just think we're having a lot of fun. And our bigs are really playing aggressive in the paint and our guards are knocking down big-time shots now, so I think the sky's the limit."