"There’s no question that we need to play better than we have the last couple of games. To beat this team, we’re going to have to play very good basketball. Our intensity has to pick up. I think our intensity has been up and down all year. It’s disappointing.” -- Joakim Noah, before Game 6 vs. Milwaukee.
Now it has to stop.
Everything. All of the half-hearted, 36-minute (instead of 48-minute) commitment, no-attention-to-detail, no-sense-of-urgency basketball that has become a brand of basketball for the Chicago Bulls has to end.
Some call it lack of intensity, others call it lack of focus, most are calling it … consistently inconsistent.
The “consistently inconsistent” label that has in a single season become synonymous with these Bulls the way “lovable losers” has with the Cubs since forever has to be put to rest. Immediately.
For seven months there have been some of us who have had to defend the Bulls' court irregularity. Locally, it was easy. Chicago understood. But nationally? That’s a whole other story. There’s only so far their erratic behavior is going to float when discussing a team that is supposed to be a championship contender.
That “beat Golden State one game and lose to the Lakers the next,” or that “beat the Cavs and follow it up with a loss to the Pistons,” or, better yet, that “take a 3-0 lead in a playoff series against the Bucks then lose two in a row” method of operation can no longer exist if the Bulls are going to have any chance of getting past (even a depleted) LeBron & Co. and into their predestined place as one of the final two teams standing in the East.
It’s one thing for Taj Gibson to say "strong execution from start to finish” is what it’s going to take for the Bulls to get past the Cavs, but it's another for the Bulls to actually execute consistently. Their “strong” executions can no longer come in spurts, no longer vacillate from quarter to quarter, then game to game. Starting Monday: Consistency is imperative; strong secondary.
Which is something that can not get lost on the Bulls in this heavyweight “Spurs-Clippers of the East” series.
Being in the elite NBA crowd means being dependable and being who you are expected to be all the time, not in moments. For the Bulls, fake hero ball has to be a thing of the first-round playoff past.
So, as much as I love Derrick Rose, I’m sorry, I just can’t go with the “take it like every other series” approach he said would be the team’s mindset. No one in the city can. This series is different, this team is different, this situation is different, the significance is different. Which means the approach they take has to be different.
Which means the Bulls have a small window of time to not only discover who they want to be, but more importantly, show who they actually are.