Chicago Bulls All Decade Team

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By Paul M. Banks

The 1990s were a refreshing change for Chicago sports fans. For the better part of the decade, the city abandoned it’s dysfunctional obsession with its two lovable losers (Bears and Cubs) in order to fully embrace the only true consistent winner that the second city has ever known: Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dynasty. As great as the 90s were, the 2000s were kind of lean. Especially in the beginning when they ended the ’99-’00 with 65 losses, followed that up with 67 losses the next year, and two more 50+ seasons after that.

However, they did make the playoffs four out of the last five years this decade, and they did it without a true franchise player or star. In fact the Bulls haven’t had an all-star since Michael Jordan retired in 1998 (I don’t acknowledge that whole Washington Wizards thing, and no true NBA fan really should-EVER). This reality makes picking the all-decade team all the more murky and debatable. Not to mention the arguments you could have about who belongs on the first team versus the second team. Here’s what I choose:

All-Decade First Team

Elton Brand

The 1999-00 NBA Rookie of the Year was also the last in team history to average over 20 points a game in consecutive seasons, and he averaged a double-double in those years as well.

Jalen Rose

On teams that struggled to score, he grabbed the Bulls by the horns and put up a 22.7 ppg average during his time in Chicago; second only to MJ.

Kirk Hinrich

Yes, his career essentially peaked in ’07, but the class and leadership he displayed in handling the shift in his role on the team is worth emulating and commending. Earlier this season, Hinrich spoke about what he’s trying to improve upon, “Trying to stay aggressive offensively, keep my defensive intensity and just trying to help the guys along, I realize I’m in a position to be somewhat of a leader, and try to do that.” And he’s arguably the franchise’s best defender this decade, and 4th in Bulls history in assists, 3rd in 3-pointers made and top ten in scoring.

Tyson Chandler

Maybe he never lived up to the hype, but he still finished his time here 5th in blocks, 9th in offensive rebounds and 8th in defensive boards.

Ben Gordon

Yes his defense is like a Fergie song with intelligent lyrics: non-existent. But he was the team’s most consistent scorer for the latter half of the decade, and he tied a NBA record for most 3-pointers made in a game without a miss, going 9-9 in April of ’06 versus Washington. I was there that night- it was electric.Fergie

A Category all his own

Ron Artest

Hard to decide what to do with Ron Artest when you make this list. Consider the achievements of his NBA career, consider how “colorful” he is both on and off the court, consider what a great soundbite he is, especially in a world of “we’re just taking it one game at a time” and “I’m working hard and I’m just happy to be here” and finally consider he wasn’t Bull very long at all.

For an exclusive interview with Ron Artest, where he discusses his pro Tiger Woods blog click here

All Decade Second Team

Jamal Crawford

What can I say? It was a slow decade for the Bulls. Even though they had a few winning seasons, they TRULY lacked legitimate stars.

Eddy Curry

Again, it was a REALLY slow decade for the Bulls.

Derrick Rose

Last season’s Rookie of the Year should become the franchise’s first All-Star since Michael Jordan. “It would mean a lot. It’s one of my goals, I’m going to fight for it,” Rose told me earlier this year at a practice. In ’09, Rose tied Lew Alcindor for most points scored by a rookie in his postseason debut.  And Chris Paul is the only other player ever to score 35+ points and 10+ assists while losing his playoff virginity.

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Luol Deng

Ok, so he’s come nowhere CLOSE to being worth the $71 million they shelled out to keep him here, but the team has only one playoff series win this decade, and he averaged 22.2 points and 8.7 rebounds during that postseason.

Scottie Pippen

Was technically a member of the team this decade, as Pip played sparingly on the ’03-‘04 team. But he’s obviously here for old-time’s sake. As the record book will tell you “Pippen Ain’t Easy,” as Scottie is second all-time in franchise history to Michael Jordan in pretty much every stat you could possibly care about.

Honorable Mention

Joakim Noah (Hey, he’s leading the NBA in rebounds right now- name the last Bull to do that), Ron Mercer

Joakim Noah is the NBA’s Leading Rebounder

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By Paul M. Banks

Just before the season tipped off, I wrote a column asking if Joakim Noah would make “the leap” this season. I saw something in him during the preseason that made me believe it would happen. Now bear in mind that making the leap forward for someone like Noah isn’t about scoring. It’s defined by becoming a dominant defender and rebounder- Or basically answering the $64 million question that Ben Wallace resoundingly did not. Noah is now giving the Bulls exactly what they paid a lot of money for, but never got in the Wallace signing three years ago.

At just under 12 boards a game, Noah is ahead of both Toronto’s Chris Bosh and Charlotte’s Gerald Wallace for the number one spot in rebounding. By also averaging over 11 points a game, he’s put out a double-double every night. And he’s setting a new career high in blocks so far, so I guess the answer is yes, Noah is indeed making the leap.

I recently had an exclusive with Noah, and asked him what led to his cleaning the glass like Windex this year (but not in those words). “I think it was just minutes, just being out there. The way it is in this league, the more time you’re on the court, the more productive you’ll be. You’ll pick up on things after games, crafty moves, holding someone’s arm, doing some dirty things down there that maybe you weren’t accustomed to doing when you were in college,” Noah responded candidly; and sounding a bit like Dennis Rodman and Bill Laimbeer in their primes.

Another significant reason for his development is the ten pounds he gained from hitting the weight room hard this season. “It was something I needed to do in order to help the team this year, it was something I needed to focus on in the off-season, I feel like in that series against Boston, I was being pushed around a little too much, and now I feel a lot stronger, and I feel I’ve put on good weight cause I’m still running the floor well,” Joakim stated.noah

And given his role within the Bulls offense, which emphasizes the drive-and-kick in most offensive sets, He’ll get lots of opportunities to grab offensive boards. “Oh, the drive and kick game is huge. We’re a team that at all five positions on the court, we can play that draw and kick game.”

But perhaps more than schematics, or even physical development, Noah’s mental growth is contributing to his new found superior statistics. “I think he’s made another step- both physically and mentally. He’s starting to understand what it takes,” Bulls GM Gar Forman said about the third year center.

Noah, the former Florida Gator loves watching his old college team, but he also enjoys taking in a lot of NBA games on television, but he obviously doesn’t view the game the way we do.

“I look at the game differently now than I did in college or when I was coming into the league. You have an admiration for the players you grew up watching, and now they’re like your enemy. There’s no admiration anymore, sometime in my first year I felt like I would see guys like Garnett, Tim Duncan, Kobe, and you’re like oh my God wow, I grew up having the jersey of some these guys on, I once had a Garnett jersey on.” He said.

So I then inquired about him viewing these NBA superstars as heroes, and now they’re his peers. ‘Not peers, definitely not peers,” he responded.

And that shows a tremendous out of humility and maturity on this part. With those two traits, expect him to continue his fantastic play this season. And Noah’s career arc should continue trending positive.