BULLS CAN HANDLE THE HEATBy Jon Greenberg
After watching the Bulls struggle to put together a coherent offensive performance in their defense-fueled win over the Lakers on Christmas, it seems like they are still four games apart, a veritable chasm, from the Miami Heat, who rolled over Dallas in their opener.
Yes, Chicago's big men need to alleviate the stress on Derrick Rose's tattooed shoulders, and Rip Hamilton can't get waylaid by fouls, but I don't think it's civic boosterism to think the Bulls can beat the Heat and win the East.
Of course, it took the Bulls four consecutive playoff battles (losing two in the ECF and one in the semis) to get past the Pistons. Knowing Paxson, I'm guessing he doesn't have the patience for two more losses. I know Rose and Tom Thibodeau don't.
I have no analytical evidence the Bulls can get past Miami, should they meet again in the conference finals, but I do like what I've heard from this team. I've heard enough empty rhetoric in time to know that Rose is sincere in his monomaniacal desire to beat Miami. The other day he told me he felt last season, his MVP season, was basically a failure because the Bulls didn't win it all.
That's the right attitude, and it's prevalent among the team. Thibodeau and Rose are the voices of the team, and while their outward personalities are different, both are united by their focus.
Putting all that aside, though, for the Bulls to beat Miami, Hamilton has to score and the Bulls' bigs have to dominate a few games, at least. Joakim Noah can't go 3-for-12 and Boozer has to play bigger than he is.
I don't think the Bulls were just happy to be there last spring, but now I think they expect to beat Miami.
Defensively, as we saw in the season opener, the Bulls haven't dropped off from last season, when they won 10 of 14 games in which they scored under 90 points. Chicago knows how to win close games, and that's an asset.
It's a long road to the playoffs, but one thing is for sure, nothing is out of this team's reach.
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
BULLS' BURDEN TOO MUCH FOR ROSEBy Scoop Jackson
The hype has officially begun: The Bulls: The "It" Squad. The sexy pick (along with the Miami Heat) to win the East.
But in reality they shouldn't be.
It's not that they can't win it or that they won't take that next step to greatness this shortened season, but the Bulls -- as was exposed during the Eastern Conference finals last season -- have one problem that even with the addition of Rip (Hamilton) will still be the reason they have a strong chance of falling short of being better and going further than last season.
For long stretches in games -- and series -- they become very easy to defend. Too easy. It happened in the series last season against Indiana and it happened in the failed series against the Heat. Their offense is not just one-dimensional, but it's one-person dimensional. They rely too much on Derrick Rose. Not just to score, but also to run the offense and bring the ball up.
Stop him or make his life difficult and everything else is affected. Everything.
Miami did it once and there's nothing the Bulls did over the offseason to stop the Heat from doing it again. And we all know the road to the Eastern Conference crown, without disrespect to the Knicks, the Celtics and the Magic (if Dwight Howard stays past the trade deadline), goes through the 305: Miami.
And the Heat will be better this season than last, which is something we're not sure of with the Bulls.
Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com and ESPNChicago.com.