Originally Published on 5/13/2011
This morning, I arrived at the office and tried to do exactly what Carlos Boozer does everyday when he goes to work. First, I began the day by providing my management with an artificial sense of hope that my performance would be amongst the top 2 in the company. Then, I began exhibiting a strong sense of enthusiasm by talking a lot, socializing with outsiders, and praising my workmates in front of others as if I were setting a leadership example.By mid-day, when I ran into more sophisticated competition that took me out my comfort zone, I began failing – repeatedly – and did the only thing I knew how: I screamed loudly to give everyone the impression that I was working harder than I actually was, and once management caught on to my game, I took a backseat watched as my less talented, but more passionate and harder working coworker, finished the presentation that I had originally started. Finally, at the end of the day, I approached management and requested a portion of my 16 million dollar annual paycheck.
It didn’t work for me and it shouldn’t work for Carlos Boozer. Most importantly, it won’t work for the Chicago Bulls.
As a Bulls fan, watching Derrick Rose battle defenses over the past few years is eerily similar to watching Michael Jordan’s pre-1991 playoff runs in which he single handedly willed his inferior Chicago Bulls teams until he was ousted by better teams with better defenses, better chemistry, and in most instances, better talent. No one man can win a championship, and it wasn’t until after the All-Star break in 1991 that Scottie Pippen began exhibiting the characteristics of a true and consistent #2. The rest as they say, is history.
Unfortunately for Derrick Rose, it appears that he will not be afforded that same luxury anytime soon. Since he entered the NBA in 2008, Rose has been burdened with serving as both the #1 and the #2 for a Bulls team that has lacked that second star to help compliment him as Alpha Dog. Carlos Boozer was certainly expected to serve this role when he was signed in 2010, but has historically demonstrated a proclivity to disappear during the playoffs while Luol Deng, although much improved, has yet to even crack the All-Star team.
This poses a major problem for the Bulls’ championship aspirations since throughout the history of the NBA, only 7 teams in 65 years have ever won a championship without having at least 2 superstars. By superstar, I am referring to a player who:
a.) Can serve as a secondary Alpha Dog while the primary Alpha Dog is on the bench.
b.) Has the ability to serve as an Alpha Dog on a playoff contender, though perhaps not a championship contender.
The following are the exceptions to the rule:
- 1975 Golden State Warriors – Hall of Famer Rick Barry was the Alpha Dog, and Jamaal Wilkes was the #2.
- 1977 Portland Trailblazers – Hall of Famer Bill Walton was the Alpha Dog, and Maurice Lucas was the #2.
- 1979 Seattle Supersonics – Complete and utter anomaly #1. No Alpha dog, a Hall of Famer in Dennis Johnson, and a team that relied more on balance from complimentary players such as Gus Williams, Jack Sikma and “Downtown” Freddie Brown.
- 1994 Houston Rockets – Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon was the Alpha Dog, and Otis Thorpe was the #2.
- 2003 San Antonio Spurs – Hall of Famer Tim Duncan was the Alpha Dog with a very young Tony Parker as the #2. David Robinson was in his final year, averaging only 8.5 points and and 7.9 rebounds while Ginobili was a bench player.
- 2004 Detroit Pistons – Complete and utter anomaly #2. No Alpha Dog, one All-Star in Ben Wallace, and yet another team that relied on great defense and strong chemistry from complimentary players.
- 2011 Dallas Mavericks – Future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowtizki was the Alpha Dog while Jason Terry was the #2.
Can the Bulls buck the trend and become one of the rare exceptions to the rule? Possible, but doubtful.
Believe me Bulls fans, I hope I am wrong. During the 2011 postseason, we saw evidence of teams taking the ball out of Rose’s hands and forcing other players on the Bulls to beat them. Once the Bulls faced more more stalwart defenses such as the Miami Heat, they encountered more sophisticated zones and traps that put increased pressure on the supporting cast to deliver; something they struggled to do with consistency throughout the playoffs.
The Bulls desperately need a second superstar, and will have to wait until they have more cap flexibility to make changes. Until then, we will continue to watch Derrick Rose go 1-on-5 unless the Bulls can put together one of those improbable runs, that only 7 other teams have been able to accomplish.