When we think of American basketball, perhaps it is the franchise that comes to mind first.
Building on their decade of unchallenged reign over the NBA in the 90s, the Bulls, then led by Michael Jordan, forged a notoriety far beyond the borders of Uncle Sam. So much so that the name Chicago Bulls speaks to almost everyone, including neophytes in the field.
But the most iconic franchise in the history of the sport has seen much more stormy times.
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First in the early 2000s after the withdrawal of the ruthless dynasty of the 90s and more recently in the 2010s half-fig, half-grape for the Illinois franchise.
Chicago hasn't tasted the play-offs since 2017 and has only played 3 Conference semi-finals in the past 10 years.
Over the past 4 seasons, the Bulls have never finished beyond 10th place in the East.
But this season, a new wind is blowing on the franchise and Chicago, 3rd in the Eastern Conference, has serious arguments to believe in the rebirth of its bulls.
Zach LaVine is no longer alone
At the end of 2017, Zach LaVine arrived in Chicago from the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of an exchange with Jimmy Butler.
Among these Bulls condemned to the second half of the table in the east, he almost looks like a UFO.
Capable of attacking the circle, of dunking but also very adept at long and mid-distance shoots, he has a wide range which makes him an almost complete basketball player although he can be improved defensively.
A major asset but also well on its own.
Since arriving in Illinois, Zach LaVine has never really been able to count on a competitive team to back him up.
This season, the situation has changed.
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In fact, this upheaval from the top of the Bulls' starting 5 started last season with the arrival of all-star pivot Nikola Vucevic from the Orlando Magic.
There followed a heavy arrival at the winger position with DeMar DeRozan.
Considered one of the very best mid-distance shooters in the league, he is an NBA heavyweight, passed through Toronto and San Antonio and 4 times all-star.
Finally, the arrival of Lonzo Ball from the Pelicans completed the strengthening of the back line of the Bulls.
The mayonnaise set quickly
Compared to the start of last season, almost the entire starting 5 of the Bulls has changed dramatically. If one could imagine a certain delay in the ignition, for lack of sufficient benchmarks between all these new players, the reality on the ground quickly swept aside the doubts. The Bulls immediately found the right formula.
With nearly 26 points average per game, DeMar DeRozan has successfully integrated into the squad of the Bulls. “
He's a very different player compared to Zach LaVine. He's a very creative player, while LaVine is more of a 3-point shooter
, ”developed former basketball player Stephen Brun in the“ Basket Time ”show on November 2 on
. By being a more defensive leader, Lonzo Ball brings the balance and stability the team needs while leaving the scoring initiative to LaVine or DeRozan. The former angelino, much more skilful at 3 points this season (44% success against 36% over his entire career) has everything a great pick. "
The Bulls' problem last season was loss and ball and they took Lonzo Ball.
They needed a scorer alongside LaVine, they took DeRozan,
”observes the former pivot Frédéric Weis on
This summer, the Bulls were able to identify their weak points and address them.
As a result, Chicago is the 4th best defense in the league and the LaVine / DeRozan duo is the most prolific in the NBA with 25.3 and 25.9 points per game, respectively.
All without counting the contribution of the bench symbolized by Alex Caruso, an excellent defender capable of shooting from 3 points and the rookie Ayo Dosunmu who brings him his liveliness and his percussion.
This Bulls squad seems particularly well built and intelligently thought out.
Enough to aim for the peaks?
However, it is difficult to see these Bulls win the NBA title this season. First, because the Brooklyn Nets, led by their duo James Harden-Kevin Durant, and the Milwaukee Bucks, defending champions, are favorites in an Eastern Conference, which is quite open despite everything. Then because in the West, the Warriors and the Suns display an impressive dynamic and appear even stronger collectively than the Bulls. Finally because Chicago still shows some signs of feverishness like the slap received a few days ago at home against Indiana (77-109) or the defeat in Houston, the worst team in the NBA this season (118-113 ).
Nevertheless, reaching the play-offs seems to be a more than reasonable objective for these Bulls who will however have to learn to manage the particular atmosphere of these much more intense and contested matches.
Last season, the strong winger and star of the Knicks, Julius Randle, had failed in the revealing of the play-offs, he who was playing the first final stages of his career.
This is the pitfall that will have to avoid a Zach LaVine who has not played any play-off match in his career but who can count on a DeMar DeRozan, experienced in the exercise, at his side.
Far from being expected at this level this season, these Bulls have been able to replace their franchise in the center of attention, while perhaps waiting to reconnect with a glorious past.