The 2010-11 season is the 20th anniversary of the Chicago Bulls first NBA championship. In 1984 Michael Jordan arrived in Chicago and it took him 7 seasons to bring the first basketball championship to Chicago. After only 3 seasons in the league, Derrick Rose has the Bulls locked into the top spot in the Eastern Conference and poised for a long playoff run. Can the Rose-led Bulls make a championship run this year, thereby avoiding the many seasons of growing pains that the Jordan-era team went through in the late 80s?
The Chicago Bulls lost in the 1st round of the playoffs in Michael Jordan’s first three seasons. He averaged 28 points per game as a rookie, missed most of his sophomore season due to injury and then averaged what would become a career-high 37 points per game in his third year. In those 3 seasons the team had a 44% winning percentage and didn’t top 40 wins. Derrick Rose averaged a modest 16 points along with 6 assists per game in his rookie season. In year two he took a step forward becoming an All Star and increased his points per game to 20. The Bulls had a 50% winning percentage in each of his first two seasons but couldn’t make it past the Celtics or Cavaliers in first round playoff match ups. If the 2010-11 team win their final 3 games, they will end Rose’s third year with a 62-10 record; a 75% winning percentage. Though Rose’s scoring average will not come close to Jordan’s year three average, his 25 points and nearly 8 assists per game has him contending for an MVP award one season faster than Michael Jordan captured his first. More importantly, he has helped put his team in position to go the distance in this year’s playoffs.
In his fourth year in the NBA, Michael Jordan’s team finally made it past round one of the playoffs. The roster around him in 1987-88 was young, similar to the core of this year’s team. Charles Oakley was a rebounding force in his 3rd year and the team added promising rookies Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant. But those Bulls would lose to the Detroit Pistons in three consecutive playoff series. Finally, in his 7th season they swept the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals and then beat the Lakers 4-1 to win the franchise’s first NBA championship. As his team progressed further in the playoffs, there was a steady decline in Jordan’s points per game. In 1986-87 he averaged 37 points per game. By the time the Bulls beat the Lakers in the 1990-91 NBA Finals his average was down, but still a league leading 31 points per game. He still dominated the NBA but took fewer shots per game and learned how to make his team better.
Derrick Rose will likely never fill the shoes of Michael Jordan in this city but his work ethic, athletic ability and humbleness has quickly made him a fan favorite. He is currently ranked 6th in points and 10th in assist per game. Along with key contributions by Loul Deng, Rose has kept the team winning despite injuries to Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, who both missed significant time this season. In the upcoming playoffs the Bulls will meet the Indiana Pacers and, likely, the Orlando Magic before facing the Celtics or Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. Judging by how they fared against the Heat (3-0) in the regular season they will match up well against the LeBron-Wade-Bosh trio in the playoffs. They finished only 2-2 against the Celtics this regular season but did win the final two match ups and dominated them in the final game, winning 97-81. The Jordan-led Bulls struggled against the Pistons and the new Bulls have struggled similarly in Round 1 losing two straight years. I expect this to be the year they get over the hump.