The Chicago Bulls were pushed around on national TV by the Heat Thurday night with cheap fouls and cheap shots. Twenty-four hours later, questions sprang up about the team possibly being soft.
While certain Bulls players at one point or another have received the disparaging label, this is the first time the question has been raised of the entire team.
It's hard to call Chicago soft behind what was clearly dirty play on the part of Miami. Their roster only has one legitimate "tough guy" in Udonis Haslem, and the mental toughness and manhood of one LeBron James -- their best player -- has been called into question on more than one occasion over the past two seasons. So to try and apply that label to the Bulls is way off base when this team has thrived in the face of adversity on multiple occasions going back several years.
Yes, they've been plagued by injuries thus far, particularly to their superstar in Derrick Rose who has missed more games this year than his first three years in the NBA combined.
While much has been made about his recent ailments and questions have been raised about his ability to lead based on his inability to stay on the court, does that denote a lack of physical toughness on his part or is it just a fluke? Until we see it again, let's call it more of the latter than the former.
No, the team didn't retaliate and answer Miami's attempts to intimidate them. In fact, there were moments where they appeared to completely fold in the face of the Heat's “bullying” and in that respect these Bulls must get tougher. Guys in the NBA pay just as much attention to what goes on in their league as fans and they're like sharks who smell blood in the water if they perceive any sort of weakness on the part of their opponent. They're going to attack it, as they should.
The Bulls should have sent a message to Miami – and also the rest of the NBA – that they're not going to be pushed around. No they don't have an “enforcer” like they did last year in the form of Kurt Thomas and Keith Bogans, but you don't need guys like that to deliver a hard foul. Not a cheap shot, mind you, but a deliberate, make no mistake about it, genuine, hard foul.
The kind that get's people's attention.
If a guy gets hit with a flagrant foul or even ejected, so be it. An early shower will have a long term effect on the psyche of an opponent and it'll make them think twice about delivering cheap shots such as the ones we all saw last night.
Do these Bulls play basketball the right way? Absolutely. Are they soft? Hardly.