Yeah, I said it. Call it the backlash against all the non-stop, breathless Bull love going on these days, or more specifically, a case of and old Basketball-savvy fan knowing a faux contender when he sees one.

Hey, I’m making this statement ahead of time, knowing full well that I picked them to win about 10 games less than they actually did, and that Derrick Rose is America’s new Basketball boyfriend or whatever.

Trust me when I say this, though. THIS TEAM IS NOT READY TO WIN THE TITLE.

What makes the NBA unique to the the major professional sports is that you almost never see a team come from nowhere to win the title. In the NFL, NHL and Baseball this kind of thing happens routinely. In Basketball, it never does. The history of NBA Champions features a long list of would-be contenders who got smacked around for several years before ascending to the throne. The Detroit Bad Boys (haunted by the Celtics for an eternity) the Jordan Bulls (made to sit down while peeing by Detroit for several seasons) and the Shaq/Kobe Lakers (spanked year after year by a more disciplined Utah Jazz team)) are but a few notable examples. Hell, no less a player than LeBron James has already been made to endure numerous postseason humblings. In the NBA it’s a process.  You learn to win by losing, so to speak. Ask Isiah Thomas about THE STEAL, or Magic Johnson about the 1984 finals. In a sport where the best teams are almost always left standing at the end, winning is a long, often intolerable process.

Listen, I’m not saying these guys aren’t plenty good or destined for greatness or any of that. Matter of fact, I’d consider them, Miami and Oklahoma City to be the three scariest teams heading into next year and beyond. Still, you’ve gotta take some lumps first, and I’m confident they will.

Put it this way. Winning 60 games in the regular season is impressive, but it means almost nothing in the grand scheme of things. As “arrivals in the big-time” go, it wasn’t bad. Of course, young, hungry teams tend to place a slightly higher value on things like that then, say, veteran teams like the Lakers and Celtics. This would be a good time to get all stat-geeky and tell you that the 2008 Celtics were the only team in the last nine years to win East as the #1 seed. What’s more, the Celtics won the East as the 4 seed last year, beating Cleveland AND Orlando without home-court advantage. So you tell me, what is the discernable difference between a 55 win team with championship history and experience, and a 60 win team with absolutely zero playoff pedigree? Who would you put your money on?

Point is, beating the Milwaukee’s and Sacramento’s of the world is nothing fancy. You won’t be seeing any of them this time of the year. The NBA Playoffs are truth time, period. If you have a pronounced weakness, you aren’t winning 16 games without it being exposed, and is great as Rose is, the rest of this cast isn’t up to snuff. It might be Boston. It might be Miami. Hell, it might be Orlando. In the end, one of these teams will do enough to keep Rose from dominating the way he has against inferior defenses and force the secondary guys to beat them. Any coach worth his salt is smart enough to embrace this concept, and several of the teams the Bulls will have to beat employ such men. When the going gets tough, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Keith Bogans are going to be forced to make baskets and more importantly, be enough of a presence on offense to prevent Rose and Carlos Boozer from getting gangbanged (metaphorically speaking, of course) by opposing defenses. Are the Bulls supporting guys talented enough, or experienced enough to make this happen?

My guess is no.

Of course, all the credit in the world should go to rookie coach Tom Thibodeau for putting his defensive stamp on this team, and it’s been proven both here and in Boston that his defensive philosophy, involving the funneling of players toward help and everybody being accountable as opposed to playing straight up man-to-man defense is a winner. Thing is, when you break down Chicag
o’s personnel to the sum of it’s parts, what you are left with is two solid guys (Noah, Bogans), one indifferent defender (Deng), and two flat-out liabilities in Boozer and Rose. As compared to the Celtic Defenses of the last few years, for example, the Bulls fail the eye test. And again, they aren’t going to be facing any soft touches at this time of the year. The postseason is a time for exploiting mismatches, whether it be Boozer in the post or Rose on the perimeter. It’s not a matter of if, but when.

And really, this is the long and short of why I love the NBA. By and large, the best teams win in the end. It isn’t about what team gets hot and hits 15 3’s like in the NCAA Tournament (I LOVE the tournament, for the record), it’s about being the best team on a nightly basis. Nobody wins the title without doing that. Well, unless you get gifted the title by fluke injuries like the 1988 Lakers did, anyway.

Bottom line, Chicago is going to have to beat Orlando, the Boston-Miami winner and the West champion to win it all and I really don’t see it in the cards for them just yet. Can they score with the Magic, run with Miami and match Boston’s intensity?

Give ’em another year or two, continued health and a two guard who isn’t a total self-check on offense and I’ll be more than ready to soil myself in fear of the Chicago Bulls.

Until then, Patience, young grasshopper.

Oh, and if they somehow do pull it off, I officially promise to post a picture of me wearing a Jud Beuchler throwback or a fucking pink nightie with Derrick Rose’s face on it. Whatever does it for you.

Good thing for me they won’t.

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