PHILADELPHIA -- The Chicago Bulls surprised plenty of people with their 4-2 "circus trip," a two-week journey capped off by a 105-89 cakewalk over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night, but they didn't shock themselves.
Out of all the positives that have come from the Bulls' impressive 10-6 start, the one that stands out most is this group's belief in itself. Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade always believed this group was going to be better than most NBA pundits and fans believed it was going to be. A month into the season, that optimism has been rewarded in the form of victories and a continuity the Bulls haven't had in several years.
"When you have a team new together, once you get to that point where you realize you're a good team, then you become a good team," Wade explained after the game. "And I think on this trip, with the way we performed, we started to understand that we're a good team and we can play with anyone in any building. And that's key for a team, especially a young team like us trying to come together. So once you have that confidence that you can go in anywhere and win, and be able to win, then that goes a long way. It's early in the season still and we know we got a long way to go, but to be 16 games in and we've played 11 on the road, not a bad start."
Wade's production on the floor and his leadership off of it are big reasons why the Bulls have opened so strong. But the reason the Bulls have been able to believe in themselves and the possibility for sustained success throughout the season is because of Butler. He set the tone again Friday night, scoring 26 points in 31 minutes. Yet again, Butler has elevated his game to another level after months of hard work in the offseason. He is more confident in his game than he's ever been, and just as important, his teammates are more confident in him.
"He continues to impress," Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He's doing it in every possible way on the offensive end."
Butler averaged 28.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists over the six-game trip. He also was a combined 51-for-58 from the free throw line, getting to the rim seemingly whenever he wanted. The excitement he has created within his own game has caused a positive electricity within the locker room.
"Of course, it gives us confidence," Butler said of finishing 4-2 on the trip. "We don't think about it, but I don't see why we couldn't have went 6-0 on this trip if we do what we were supposed to be doing. But I think we're all fine with 4-2 -- we'll take it. Now we got to go home and win some more games. This trip is over with."
The Bulls accomplished something on this trip that eluded them throughout much of last season: They beat teams they were supposed to beat. Hoiberg called it "a great sign" that the Bulls finished off the lowly Sixers at the end of such a grueling part of the schedule.
"When you're on the road for 12 days, you come out either loving each other or hating each other," Hoiberg said. "And I think our guys grew and they got closer. They spent a lot of time together. We've now played more road games than any team in the league. Now we got to go back home and come out and play with that same type of urgency, same type of effort. And continue to hopefully play well and give ourselves a chance on a nightly basis."