The Chicago Bulls certainly had a season to remember in 2013-14. It was a season that began with high expectations and hope, then turned into heartbreak, and came full circle as the team more than over-achieved to make the post-season. All this despite having a squad that was certainly less than stellar. Through it all, the fans were left with many memorable happenings. Here are my most memorable moments in the Chicago Bulls 2013/14 season, good or bad.
Derrick Rose Game Winner Against the Knicks
The return of Derrick Rose began against the defending NBA champions Miami Heat in the season opener but it was Rose’s second game of the season that was the most dramatic of his very short season. Rose hadn’t played particularly well in the game, having shot just 6 of 22 prior to what was a game winning floater in the dying seconds of the game.
With 10.8 seconds left on the clock, the Bulls had possession of the ball with the Knicks leading the game 81-80. Deng passes to Jimmy Butler on the in bound, Butler then passes to Rose, who dribbles right, towards the baseline and launches a high-arcing floater over both Raymond Felton and the 7 foot 1 inch Tyson Chandler, who came across on help defense. The United Center explodes in a throng of cheers and Rose is officially back. What a moment, unfortunately, it was to be the only highlight of Derrick’s season.
Season Ending Injury to Derrick Rose
The 2013-14 season began with renewed hope for Bulls fans. After what felt like an eternity since their star point guard and former MVP Derrick Rose tore his ACL, the Chicago native was back in his beloved Bulls uniform with an impressive pre-season under his belt and it’s fair to say expectations were high.
Rose began the regular season a little rusty but that wasn’t too surprising to most after spending so many months on the bench after the ACL tear, subsequent surgery and rehab but what was wasn’t expected was that just ten games into the season he would suffer another season ending knee injury, this time to his other knee and a meniscus tear.
The injury was enough to bring grown men close to tears, such was the importance of Rose to the Bulls long-term plans and the timing of it was heartbreaking considering all the young man had gone through to make it back.
DJ Augustin Emerges
With the injury to Derrick Rose, the Bulls point guard stocks were severely under done. Enter D.J Augustin.
Augustin was released by the Raptors on November 9th, 2013 after falling out of favor in Toronto. Augustin, a former lottery pick was picked up by the Bulls not long after to fill a much needed gap.
He immediately set about becoming a vital cog in the Bulls system bringing much needed scoring to the offensively challenged squad without Rose. Augustin was a big reason the Bulls won 48 games this season and his 14.9 points per game led the team, with the exclusion of Rose and Deng, and his 41.1% shooting from behind the arc was imperative to a team who struggled to score all season.
Augustin certainly resurrected his NBA career this season in Chicago.
Luol Deng Traded
Luol Deng had been a Chicago Bulls stalwart over his nine and a half seasons in the Windy City. It all came to an end in January as the Bulls traded Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Andrew Bynum, who they immediately waived, and three future draft picks.
The Man from Sudan left the Bulls as the team’s fourth all-time scorer, fourth all-time in minutes played and fifth in steals to name but a few of his contributions over the years.
Deng was due for a contract extension in the off-season and rather than contend with what would have been a plethora of teams offering him lucrative contracts, Chicago took the future draft picks and financial benefits by letting Deng go. Such is the business of basketball but it’s safe to say Deng is sorely missed by all Bulls fans.
Noah Takes the Reins
With Derrick Rose lost for another season and Luol Deng traded, the Bulls season wasn’t looking too promising to most onlookers, but one man who never let such matters sway his enthusiasm and drive was Joakim Noah.
The Bulls big man had a more than memorable 2013-14 season which was capped off with a Defensive Player of the Year award but it was more than just his defense that amazed this season.
Noah showed why he is one of the premier big men in the N.B.A this year, his combination of defensive prowess, passing ability and downright willingness to do whatever it takes to win saw him gain many more admirers.
His numbers were at career high levels for points, rebounds and assists per game, he recorded four triple-doubles, which more than shows how versatile a big man he has become; Noah became the first center since David Robinson in 1993-94 to lead his team in assists per game at 5.4.
Taj Gibson’s Rise
Taj Gibson came of age this season. The 6’9 power forward put up career best numbers off the bench, which saw him in the running for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award. Whilst he didn’t win the award, being pipped by LA Clippers Jamal Crawford, Gibson showed just why the Bulls have shown so much faith in him thus far.
He averaged 13 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game while playing just over 28 minutes per contest.
The numbers however don’t always tell the full story, as Gibson does more than just that which shows up on the score sheet. His heart and hustle are a huge factor in the Bulls success and his defensive capabilities are one reason why he’s Coach Tom Thibodeau’s go to guy in the back end of games.
After losing Derrick Rose to a season ending injury and trading Luol Deng to the Cavaliers there was a general consensus amongst Bulls fans that it was best if the team looked toward the lottery next season with what was expected to be a losing record.
The front office was obviously keen on this idea too but the coach and players most definitely were not. The team pulled together despite the lack of talent on the roster and ended up winning an impressive 48 games.
Thibodeau’s system had a lot to do with the success this season, the players that adhere to his system best are the ones who get the most court time and it shows on the defensive end why Thibs is such a sought after coach in this league.
The true definition of over achievement was the Bulls team this season.
Such was the enormity of Joakim Noah’s season that I felt it prudent to put him on this list twice. Noah had four very impressive triple-doubles this season, only Indiana’s Lance Stephenson had more with five.
The first occurred on February 11 as Noah registered 19 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists. The second and third of the season occurred just three days apart on March 2nd and March 5th as Noah put up 13 points, 12 rebounds, 14 assists and 10 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists respectively.
It’s not every day you see a big man dishing dimes the way Noah can and adding to the proof of how good a passer he is, he had another four games, separate of his triple-doubles, where he registered double digits in assists.
Dunleavy Scores 35 in Playoff Win
Mike Dunleavy can shoot; we all know it, just like every single NBA coach and player does. He will get his fair share of looks in a game and will connect at a great percentage but he’s never been a guy who’s known for dropping 30 in a playoff game.
In game three of this year’s NBA playoff series against the Washington Wizards, Dunleavy did just that, 35 to be exact. In a performance that will go down in Bulls folklore, Dunleavy shot 12-19 from the field and an amazing 8-10 from downtown. He added five rebounds and three assists in the must win game for Chicago.
Mark that performance along side some of the great games in Bulls history. It might only be for this one game but Dunleavy’s name is alongside names such as Jordan and Pippen after that.