The Miami Heat have won back to back NBA Championships, and have won the Eastern Conference 3 years in a row, this upcoming season they will of course look to add to both of these streaks, and go for the 3-peat. This year though might be the toughest test yet for an NBA championship, and there are some teams standing in the way. In my opinion, there is one team that stands out above all the others, that team is the Chicago Bulls.
April 28, 2012. That was the date when Derrick Rose tore his ACL, and it was also the last time we saw him step onto the court in an NBA game. ACL injuries generally take about a year to recover from, unless you are Adrian Peterson of course, but if you're Derrick Rose, it's been over a year since then. In fact, it's felt like several years, Rose has been a hot commodity on the NBA memes on social media, some joking he will never play again.
That might be a little too far, as the competitor Rose is, you can expect to see him back when the Bulls open up the season against the Miami Heat. You know it had to be tough for him to sit out the entire season, but he knew it was what he had to do, and in my opinion he made the right decision.
Let's say he never tore his ACL, and the Chicago Bulls then went on to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Boston Celtics. Instead of the Miami Heat facing the Boston Celtics in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, it would instead have been the Chicago Bulls.
In the lockout shortened season, the Chicago Bulls owned the best record in the Eastern Conference, and had home court advantage throughout, giving the Miami Heat the disadvantage. The previous season however, the Miami Heat faced the Bulls in the 2011 ECF and won the series in 5 games, even with the Chicago Bulls having the home court advantage.
So, that wouldn't of been a huge problem for the Heat to overcome, but it's definitely something they would've wanted to avoid. In both years, the Bulls had the better record, and home court advantage. The 2011 season was the year Derrick Rose was the NBA MVP, the Bulls had something this year's ECF opponent that took the Heat to 7 games, the Indiana Pacers didn't have, a superstar. Someone to go to in a isolation play, and someone who could beat you 1 on 1 whenever he wants.
We also saw throughout this year's playoff run, that teams that have good big men gave the Miami Heat major issues. The Indiana Pacers had Roy Hibbert and David West, and the San Antonio Spurs had Tim Duncan, all of which ate up Heat center Chris Bosh. Chicago has their own version in Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer.
Even with Derrick Rose gone, the Bulls still gave Miami a fight. They won Game 1 in South Beach, they didn't go down easy. Much to the credit of head coach Tom Thibodeau, who was named NBA Coach of the Year in 2011, and has emerged as one of the top head coaches in the NBA. Coaching matters in the NBA, Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs is a perfect example. All of the Spurs players respect "Pop" and you can tell they want to play for him, and win for him.
The same can be said for the Bulls players and Thibodeau. Even when they were without their superstar for the entire season, Thibodeau was still able to lead the Bulls not only to a playoff berth, but to a playoff series win over the Brooklyn Nets, and gave the Miami Heat a fight in the second round.
In the postseason when Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng went down with an injury, and missed the entire series against the Heat, former Marquette player Jimmy Butler stepped into the role of Deng, and did a phenomenal job covering LeBron James for a majority of a game, in fact, Jimmy Butler rarely even came out of the game. In Chicago's last seven playoff games, out of the 336 game minutes that occurred during this time span, Butler was on the court for 317 of those minutes.
Just think about that, 317 minutes out of the maximum 336, talk about about being in shape. Also, in the 5-game series against the Miami Heat, Jimmy Butler played the whole 48 minutes 3 times in the series, and in Game 4, he only played 46, taking a long two minute break.
Going for the three-peat will be the toughest test for the Heat in the LeBron/Wade/Bosh era, with several elite teams in the Eastern Conference and in the NBA all hungry to be the first team since the Dallas Mavericks to beat the Heat in the postseason. To say right now there is a team definitively better than the two-time defending NBA champs, and three Eastern Conference Championships in a row, might be a little premature, but if there is any team who can end the Miami Heat's reign atop the NBA, it's the Chicago Bulls.
More from Hot Hot Hoops:
- LeBron James sits down with GMA's Robin Roberts
- Miami Heat Player Countdown: #96-93
- LeBron James won't seek NBPA presidency
- Mike Miller: The final farewell to Heat Nation
- Miami Heat Player Countdown: #100-97
- The HEAT is on: New Miami HEAT Dancers announced for 2013-2014 season
- LeBron James keeps his promise, unveils new football uniforms at his alma mater