Bulls point guard Derrick Rose goes to the basket as Atlanta Hawks shooting guard Joe Johnson defends in the third quarter of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series. (Photo: AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Something just doesn’t seem right about the Chicago Bulls advancing to the Eastern Conference finals and Michael Jordan not leading the way.
Even all these years later His Airness and the Bulls remain synonymous.
But perhaps these new Bulls, most of which were probably in elementary school when Jordan was around, are slowly creating their own legacy. They took a major step Thursday night in eliminating the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals to earn their first trip to the conference finals since 1998 when Jordan and Scott Pippen paved the way to two different three-peat runs.
This Bulls team, led by MVP point guard Derrick Rose, will probably never be as dominant as the Jordan-led Bulls that won six NBA title. But this is a nice beginning for a team that was maybe the biggest surprise of the season by earning the Eastern Conference No.1 seed with the best record.
Now the Bulls will face what mean believe is the best team money can buy in the NBA when they take on Miami’s Super Three, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh for the chance to play in the NBA Finals.
"It's not a surprise to me at all where we're at right now," Rose said to the Chicago Tribune following Thursday night’s Game 6 win. "As guys came in for training camp, I could tell everybody wanted to win. Everybody is positive on this team. They don't care about stats. They just want to win.
"We know we have something special in front of us. We still have to put the work in and play hard."
They will need that and then some to get past a Miami Heat team that assembled last summer with the expectation of starting a dynasty similar to the one Scottie Pippen and Jordan had in Chicago back in the 90s. This Bulls team, while not as front-loaded but definitely deeper than the Heat, is hopeful to begin a run of its own.
“Miami has a lot of weapons," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, whose team swept the Heat in the regular season. "The obvious is the three great players, but it's more than that. They have shooting and rebounding. You have LeBron James and Dwyane Wade off the dribble. Chris Bosh up front is very skilled. They play great defense, extremely well-coached. It will be a great challenge for us."