Monday, March 28, 2011
Posted: 3:48 p.m.
By Aggrey Sam
Joakim Noah hit the nail on the head
"We feel like were never out of it," said the charismatic center, who recorded his first double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds) since March 9 in Saturday's win at Milwaukee. "Were fighters. Were a team of fighters and I think weve showed that since the beginning of the year. Even when we were going through adversitywed go down a lot, come backwe were always fighting.
"Were a team with a lot of character and were playing with a lot of swag right now."
From early in the season, the Bulls--their double-overtime win at Phoenix in November, for example--have played with a fierce determination that should have enlightened observers that this team would be a factor, if not a serious contender, this time of the year. Even in most of the team's disappointing losses, such as their last defeat, an overtime setback at Indiana, it wasn't a question of effort. And with a groundswell of support on the road--Saturday's game had so many Bulls faithful in attendance, you could substitute "United" for "Bradley" in the Bucks' home arena--that inner confidence the players have continues to grow.
"You get it from the crowd," explained Ronnie Brewer. "The crowd builds the energy. you go on the roadwe have a large following in any arena we got toyou get a defensive stop here, defensive stop there and you get an 'and-one' play from 'D-Rose' or him distributing the ball, you cant help but want to play hard and get back into the game."
Added Noah: "Its unbelievable. The love weve been getting on the road latelyI dont know what it isbut it really makes you feel like the peoples champ team.
A lot of that sentiment among fans, as well as the Bulls' fortitude, comes from their on-court leader, Derrick Rose. Unintentionally vying to be the youngest MVP in NBA history--his "I haven't done anything yet" remark postgame in Milwaukee, while showing the proper perspective, could very well be inaccurate in a month's time--the All-Star point guard's inspired play goes well beyond the nightly highlights upon which fans outside of Chicago base his popularity.
"Hes playing his best basketball since hes been here, hes playing with a lot of swag and we feed off that. When your star player is playing at that level, it just makes you want to go to bed early, eat right and do all the right things to get right for this final stretch. Its all about affecting winning and he does it in so many different ways," said Noah. "The way hes contesting shots now, with his passing ability. He understands the plays and knows exactly what he wants out of them. Hes an unbelievable scorer and its unbelievable at the end of the game, how composed he is out there."
Chimed in Brewer: "Sometimes you get bad habits because youre watching him instead of playing the game. So if he misses a shot, sometimes leak out and get back, and Thibs is on your back, but its amazing to watch some of the moves he makes, some of the shots that he makes. Even some of the passes that he makes to guys; hes not even looking them in the eye and finds them crosscourt right on a dime. Hes a blessing to play with and Im just glad hes on my team."
"A lot of people say hes a scoring guard, but you dont find many guys in the league who can have 17 assists and drop 30 points. Hes able to mix it up and take over a game whenever he wants to," he continued. "Theres not a point in the league who has the same athleticismand if there is, you can say a Russell Westbrook, but he doesnt do the things Derrick Rose doesand thats why I think hes one of the best point guards in this league."
Rose takes joy in creating opportunities for his teammates, perhaps more than scoring a boatload of points. His "just win" mentality has allowed him to embrace shouldering more of the scoring load as his career has progressed, but his background as a team-first player and pass-first point guard--his reputation as an elite high school prospect was forged as a result of his playmaking, not scoring--makes the times when he can pile up assist totals more gratifying.
"It makes me feel good. If anything, Im happy for my teammates. They were knocking down shots, making the right cuts and I was just trying to get them the ball," he told CSNChicago.com. "When youve got that going, everybodys playing hard and weve got confidence right now."
Coupled with his fierce competitiveness, that spells trouble for Bulls opponents, especially point guards, as the Chicago native prepares for a potentially deep postseason run.
"Theres no off time right now," Rose told CSNChicago.com. "If Im playing against you, Im definitely going to come at you."
Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.