MUSICK: Regardless of injuries, bring on the playoffs

Published: Thursday, April 18, 2013 5:30 a.m.CDT
Caption
(AP photo)
The New York Knicks’ Iman Shumpert (left) defends as the Bulls’ Nate Robinson drives to the basket during the second half April 11 at the United Center in Chicago. The Bulls won, 118-111, in overtime.

CHICAGO –As basketball fans, we have become pretty spoiled in this town.

Yeah, sure, a spot in the NBA playoffs is nice. So is a turkey sandwich.

Ever since a certain player who wore No. 23 lifted the Bulls to No. 1 status, we measure success in championships.

That’s how it should be. Everyone remembers which team hugs the trophy at the end of the playoffs, not which team won 40 or 50 or 60 games during the regular season.

Maybe that’s why the Bulls’ upcoming first-round playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets feels kind of like trying to ride a bicycle on a pair of flat tires. It probably won’t take us very far, and it will be grueling along the way.

But even though the Bulls will not win a championship, the playoffs matter to third-year coach Tom Thibodeau and his players.

And if you tuned out for most of the season while the rest of us obsessed over Derrick Rose’s progress and cringed at every new injury, now is a good time to tune in.

Why the Bulls will win

The Bulls might be missing Rose, a one-time MVP who by far and away is their best player, but they have proved throughout the regular season that they can win without him. Nate Robinson has stepped up to provide a scoring threat in the backcourt, while Carlos Boozer has been productive in the low post despite serving as a lightning rod for criticism.

Ultimately, if the Bulls win a playoff series, it will be because of top-notch defense. That has been the staple of Thibodeau’s teams, with or without Rose, and that has been the biggest reason why the short-handed Bulls have beaten teams with greater individual talent.

Why the Bulls will lose

The Bulls’ try-hard approach yields great results during the regular season, when many teams go through the motions at three-quarters speed and shrug off the occasional bad loss. But when the playoffs start, every team tries to win as hard as the Bulls do, and everyone has the same insatiable appetite for success as the Bulls’ hard-driving coach.

Ultimately, the Bulls could fall short in the course of a series because they lack a go-to scorer when the moment matters most. That player was supposed to be Rose, who rejoined the team in practice in February, but he remains hesitant to test his repaired knee in real games, and he appears content to watch from the sidelines while his teammates go to work.

Bottom line

One playoff series win is better than none at all.

Rose is one of the most exciting players in the NBA, and he will be back next season with the goal of leading the Bulls to a deep playoff run. In the meantime, building-block players such as Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler can benefit from a much-needed dose of playoff success one season after a forgettable first-round loss to Philadelphia.

Noah has appeared in 31 career playoff games to go along with 396 regular-season games. Gibson has 27 playoff contests under his belt to go along with 290 regular-season games. Butler needs the experience even more, appearing in only three playoff games as a rookie.

Frankly, we all could benefit from watching some playoff hoops.

Besides, what else are we going to do? Wash dishes? Take out the trash? Mow the lawn?

No thanks.

Bring on the postseason, no matter how long it lasts.

•Shaw Media sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at tmusick@shawmedia.com and on Twitter @tcmusick.

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