Oh the season. Oh the season! Election or NBA, both are upon us. We're getting into the spirit by bringing you our season previews (with a little help from the presidents). One per day for the next 30 days—which will bring us to the Day of Reckoning. So please join us on the campaign trail as we shake hands, kiss babies and sink jumpers.
"Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure." - Abraham Lincoln
"I feel incompetent to perform duties so important and responsible as those which have been so unexpectedly thrown upon me." - Andrew Johnson
I know it's kind of an insensitive thing to say, but I imagine the feeling of being in Ford's Theater on April 14, 1865, and watching President Abraham Lincoln get shot was not altogether dissimilar to the feeling of watching Derrick Rose go down with a torn ACL in Game 1 of the Bulls playoff series against the Sixers this past April. Obviously, the death of the leader of the free world is far more tragic than an athlete suffering an injury, but the absolute terror of watching the NBA's most exciting point guard writhing on the floor was one of the most jarring experiences of my adult life. No joke.
The man that took over after that fateful evening on the balcony was Andrew Johnson. Not Andrew Jackson, but Andrew Johnson. For someone who was thrown into such an insanely intense situation, you'd think we'd hear more about him. Maybe we don't because of the fact that—especially compared to Lincoln—he was sort of a douchebag royale. Over the course of the four years he was in office, Johnson continued to lean further to the right (did they say that back then?) on the issues of civil rights and holding Confederate leaders accountable. After everything Abe did, his successor went on to veto Congress' Civil Rights Bill, a move that almost got him impeached. Johnson was a complete letdown after the man who brought the country the Emancipation Proclamation.
This season's Bulls may look a lot like Andrew Johnson's presidency, minus all the racism. Last year, until the playoffs, the Bulls were the likeliest candidates to prevent the Heat from steamrolling their way to the Finals. This year, they will be playing the majority of the season, if not the whole thing, without their star point guard and without some of their strong bench players from last year (Ronnie Brewer, C.J. Watson, Omer Asik, Kyle Korver). They will likely take a large step backward from the glory days they saw in the not-too distant past.
Or, ya know what, they may just exceed all expectations and show a gutsiness and resolve that would be far more reminiscent of Lincoln. Luol Deng and Joakim Noah will need to play better than they ever have on the offensive end. Carlos Boozer will need to come close to averaging a double-double. Kirk Hinrich will need to remember he's a starting point guard and play like it. And role players like Nate Robinson, Marquis Teague, Taj Gibson and Marco Belinelli will need to provide a spark off the bench that can catch fire like last year's crew's did.
While all of those pieces aligning may sound like a stretch, keep in mind that Tom Thibodeau is still Chicago's coach, and I'm not sure I'd ever vote against one of that man's teams overachieving and making a run for the playoffs. If he can motivate this team to play for their fallen hero, to keep the spirit that he left them with last spring, they have a chance to become one of the best stories in the NBA this year. If that happens, and if Rose can get onto the court by the time the postseason rolls around, this is a team that could pull together at the right time and surprise a lot of people.
Thibodeau can unite his team like Lincoln united his country. Or, terrible circumstances can lead to a serious regression like our nation's most iconic president falling victim to a loony with a gun led to some major setbacks to the policies he fought hard to put forth.
These will be trying times for the Bulls, no doubt. But there is potential for them to make this season their Gettysburg Address, their declaration that they remain strong, united and free.
Rushed Pull-Up Jumpers
Pokemon who the team should adopt as its new mascot: Tauros
Headline we'll be most sick of reading: "Rose Can't Come Back Soon Enough"
Headline we're most looking forward to: "Thibodeau Challenges Spoelstra to Arm Wrestle for Coach of the Year Honors"
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you enter the pearly gates?: "I'll tell ya, Derrick, watching you go down was as bad for me as Lincoln getting shot."