Even in a game where the Bulls had nothing to play for, they nearly beat the Pacers (who were playing for the far-more-desirable 6th seed rather than the 7th), sporting a lineup that included Pargo, Pike, Reiner, and new signee Lawrence Funderburke. A game like tonight just solidified how fun it's been all year to root for these guys. Despite the outcome, it was a fitting end to a great regular seaon.
Even if the Bulls lose every playoff game against the Wiz, Scott Skiles has accomplished just about every goal a second-year coach with a rebuilt team full of rookies could ever hope for.
And more from Unknown Column, who declares (and I agree) that Ben Gordon is the rightful Rookie of the Year:
Gordon, meanwhile, has played the role of hero on a team that has defied the odds and shocked the NBA. He's hit an assortment of clutch shots in pressure situations in games that truly matter.
Okafor has been impressive.
Gordon has been amazing.
This ROY vote, if it goes to Okafor, will go down as one of the prime examples of 'double-doubles' being the most overrated stat in basketball.
Meanwhile, Sun-Times columnist Rick Telander doesn't quite feel the elation that the rest of us do, instead he feels sad that Michael Jordan isn't involved:
But Michael is stunningly noticeable in our town by his absence from the team he made globally famous.
Oh, he'll show up for a game every now and then, sit in his 100-level box, avoid the crowds. Sometimes he comes because one or the other of his sons will want to watch a visiting player like LeBron James.
At least once this season Jordan said hello to some of the Bulls players after a game. But he's not a part of the team, nor is he a part of the organization.
More than that, Skiles was implying, Jordan is not a part of the thought process of the team.
Nor its spirit.
"In a lot of ways, it's been a wonderful, magical thing,'' general manager John Paxson said of this brilliant, odds-defying Bulls season.
It has been. And legendary Michael Jordan has been absolutely no part of it.
Which, when you think about it, is just kind of sad.
Eh, not really Rick. At the risk of repeating myself on Jordan, go here and here. Needless to say, I'm hoping that Jordan goes nowhere near the Bulls locker room, except maybe at most offering an 'attaboy' after the game. Ask yourself if Larry Hughes and Kwame Brown would welcome Jordan, and you'll know where I'm coming from.
Where Telander's right is that Jordan has no connection to this team. Skiles showed class by deferring the suggestion that Jordan address the team, but privately he should've been peeved. This is his team, his players' team, Pax's team. This is their moment. They can enjoy it without the great Michael Jordan coming to bask in some reflected light.
While there's a case to be made that it would've been nice if Jordan was an Ernie Banks-like superfan of this team, its didn't happen that way. The fault of this will always be debated here, but in no way does this make me feel like it detracts from what is happening right now. Let this be a new dynasty.
Playoff preview to come...