No Title Coming, But Bulls Series Means Business

The Bulls won't win a title this year, but this series means more

Does anyone still remember the first two-thirds of the Bulls' 2008-09 season? Do we remember how inept the team looked? How frustratingly mediocre everyone was? How Derrick Rose's obvious if unrefined talent seemed to be going by the wayside, mired by a clueless coach and a team of saggy veterans with no chance of a title?

Back then, it seemed the Bulls needed to either make a big trade for a proven star, or tank the season and get back in the lottery. There was no hope for this current group, especially with Vinny Del Negro at the helm.

Fast-forward to last night. The Bulls' future looks a bit brighter, doesn't it?

It's important to remember that no matter what happens on Saturday night -- whether the Bulls finish off this legendary playoff series with a road win or whether the Celtics finally close the door -- the Bulls aren't winning a title in 2008-09. No one's beating the Cavaliers in the East. Not going to happen. But no one thought that anyway, so whatever. The real story here is the progress this team has made from the beginning of the season to now. Imagine playing this Celtics team then. Imagine how lopsided things could have been. And look at the Bulls now.

Trade acquisitions Brad Miller and John Salmons have a lot to do with it. Some additional Derrick Rose maturity helps, too. Tyrus Thomas' sudden improvement has done wonders. And it doesn't hurt that the team has sort of figured itself out; they know where to play and when, know their roles and how they fit with each other, know how to play to each others' strengths.

There are still plenty of steps to take before the team gets anywhere near a championship level. It's hard to see Del Negro being the coach that takes them there. But for now, Bulls fans can enter Saturday's game with the solace that no matter what happens, this team has grown. The Bulls' future looks more exciting than ever.

Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger who sometimes starts fights with Celtics fans but feels bad later. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, Follow him on Twitter.

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