“When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, ‘Come.’ I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.”
– Book of Revelation 6:7-8, New American Standard Bible.
Last season, Joakim Noah emerged as a dynamic new option for the Bulls, and though many have forgotten, he finished fourth in MVP voting. Then, the Bulls picked up Pau Gasol, a MVP caliber big man in his own right, adding both scoring and championship experience, the two glaring weaknesses in a Bulls team that somehow managed to win 48 games, despite the absence of Derrick Rose. Next, the Bulls picked up Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott, two young scorers far enough in their development as players that they could contribute immediately. Roster renovations didn’t stop there: everything that the Bulls needed to do in the offseason, they did.
The 2014-2015 Chicago Bulls season was sanctified by the basketball gods. Two long years after the fall of Chicago’s second almighty baller, the planets were aligning once more. The return of Derrick Rose was destined to be more than a heaven-sent redemption to a team in need of a miracle. Michael Jordan played the role of messiah in ’95 when he came back from the dead to resurrect the three-peat championship Chicago Bulls.
but this time was different.
This time, Derrick Rose was not to be a savior from on high; he was to be Death, the Pale Rider, the last of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
In retrospect, the planets might have been a little bit less aligned than I thought they were.
Chicago artists David Beltran and Brendan Carroll built the shrine you see above to eulogize the deaths of Derrick Rose’s knees in the hopes that they may find peace from the evils of torn menisci. Some Chicagoans found the tribute to be in poor taste for a variety of reasons, but those same people probably suck and are no fun parties. The print of Derrick Rose includes a crown of thorns, referencing the crown that Jesus of Nazareth wore during his crucifixion. I appreciate what Beltran and Carroll are trying to communicate through the Jesus comparison, but my horsemen of the apocalypse thing works on so many levels that it’s not even a competition. Clearly, the Windy City agrees with me:
It’s possible that the shrine was vandalized by disgruntled Bulls fans, but the only logical explanation is that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse trampled through the shrine, spreading pestilence and desecrating the earth on which the shrine once stood.
I had the Bulls slated to win it all this year. The romanticism of the fallen angel Derrick Rose, the reemergence of Pau, the evolution of Joakim from a frizzy haired troll to a talented, multi-faceted, and fully actualized frizzy haired troll: it was too much for my fragile heart to say no. I wanted Rose to return, having spent 2 years in limited mobility, with a jump shot as beautiful and organic as an orchid. (har har)
All this doe-eyed optimism was tempered with the sober realization that should one of the four pillars fall, the Bulls couldn’t win it all. They could contend, but they couldn’t win it all.
The Bulls championship aspirations a la Thibodeau begin and end with hustle. If you give 110%, then you have the competitive edge over the regular season Spurs, who might not even suit up any players, choosing instead to send Timmy and the crew to a spa treatment in Nevada. They’ll throw Spurs jerseys on some random water boys and assistant coaches, throw them to the lions, and sit back, relax, and watch people like David Stern become, well, stern.
We’re not mad, we’re just disappointed. Disappointed that we can’t fine you more than 250,000 dollars for your intolerable shenanigans.
But wait a minute here… why do these rusty old Spurs consistently perform better than the talented young Bulls come playoff time? Last time I checked, Ginóbili’s bald spot was the target of a 2010 NASA rover mission to find evidence of life on the seemingly barren expanses of his dome. Here is a short gif of the eye-opening footage the probe recorded:
Life doesn’t come from protein filled pools of pre-organic soup: it was Duncan the whole time.
Perhaps there is a connection between the absurd minutes the Bulls starters play per game, and their apparent lack of freshness come playoff time? Perhaps ‘hustle beats talent’ when talent is coasting through the regular season, but when the playoffs begin every player on every team hustles, thus rendering the Bulls’ competitive edge null and void?
BusinessInsider.com has a groundbreaking article on the subject titled “Tom Thibodeau Playing Bulls too many minutes.” Consider this brilliant observation:
“Butler leads all players in minutes per game this season at 38.7. Pau Gasol, at age 34, is averaging almost 35 per game (his highest in three years) and Rose’s minutes have gone up each month of the season — 23 to 25 to 30 to 34 to 32 (before getting injured).
These aren’t new trends for Thibodeau, either. Butler ranked second in minutes per game last year, and Joakim Noah averaged 35 minutes per night. Noah had to get knee surgery in the offseason and has seen a decline in his numbers this season.”
Thibs is asked over and over about the possibility of his roster’s constant injuries and fatigue being a symptom of his absurd practice regiments, overuse of starters, and flagrant stupidity. His response?
I don’t even know, but I bet it’s stupid as hell.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE:
Remember that fresh rookie blood I was talking about earlier in this article? Through rigorous analysis, I have uncovered a startling statistical anomaly.
Each position has 48 minutes of play time per game. If each starter plays for 40 minutes a game, 8 minutes of time remains to spread out among the rest of the players. Thibodeau inevitably gives all of this time to the impressively unremarkable Kirk Hinrich, leaving 0 minutes left for the rest of the Bulls roster.
There are 8 other players left on the roster. 0 minutes distributed equally between 8 players is approximately 0 minutes per player.
But what could this all mean? You might want to put your tray tables in the upright position for this one:
Thibodeau doesn’t develop his young players enough for them to be fully utilized during the playoffs.
It took Thibs more than half the season to realize that Mirotic and Snell were valuable assets, and he only did it because there were injuries to key players on the team.
What a shocker.
Rumblings of mutual disdain between management and Thibodeau have bubbled to the surface season after season. Thibodeau has remained firm on the subject, taking a hard stance on the subject, leading to speculation that he may be compensating for something.
It’s a shame that it had to be this way. He’s a stellar coach, truly, especially on the defensive end. Sometimes, I accidentally watch 300 and struggle to figure out when the Bulls signed King Leonidas and which team’s head coach is a giant half-naked Persian man covered in golden piercings. But then I realize that it’s not actually a Bulls game, because Tom Thibodeau would never send 300 Spartans out on the hardwood at the same time; instead, he would just send 5 at a time, watch them get horrifically injured, and then throw 5 more out there. Meanwhile, the 290 other Spartans would be running sprints in practice, to make sure they are as injury prone as possible.
Most importantly, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse would be told to dismount so that they can be mercilessly slaughtered like the rest of their teammates. Luckily, Thibodeau values hustle and bravery, instead of actual winning. They might not get any rings, but they always win in spirit, which is a better prize than an actual championship could ever be.