Six seasons have passed since Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson, and head coach Tom Thibodeau were all members of the Chicago Bulls. But the same bond that fueled them then, fuels them now.
Since they departed from the Bulls, almost collectively, in 2015, neither of the three have seen much success.
But reunited under the roof of Madison Square Garden, they’ve rekindled the flame that sparked five straight playoff runs in Chicago just years ago.
Together, they make a return to the United Center on Thursday night, as the Bulls take on the New York Knicks in a matchup with Eastern Conference playoff implications.
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Getting the Band Back Together
In what has become almost a ritual, head coach Tom Thibodeau inherited a roster without either Derrick Rose or Taj Gibson, but now at the end of the season, has both in his locker room.
The three had previously shared a home with the Minnesota Timberwolves for one and a half seasons. Things didn’t go as smoothly as they have the last five months in New York.
Disbanded for a year and some change, Thibodeau got to work quickly on getting two of his favorite pupils all time back into the fold. The Knicks signed Gibson in January and traded for Rose in February.
With all both healthy and available, New York has gone 17-7. That kind of record is hard to argue when it comes to questioning what Gibson and Rose have left in the tank.
Ironically, one of the larger reasons Thibodeau has long trusted the two veterans is because of their contributions off the floor. He said as much when speaking with Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News recently:
(Gibson and Rose) are great guys, they’re team-first guys. And I thought that was important for us to get this thing off the ground. And based on the way Taj played last year here, I kept close tabs on him, and I knew in the locker room, I knew what he means to a team, he’s the ultimate teammate, as is Derrick. So if you want team-first guys, you want hard-playing guys, you go out and find them.
The New York Knicks are thriving this year, now 34-28, and the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.
And yes, as much as RJ Barrett has taken a leap in his second season, and Julius Randle has grown into an All-Star, Thibodeau’s Bulls’ favorites have played a large part in their surprising success.
Updated Bulls Playoff Odds
After their latest win over the Miami Heat, the Chicago Bulls improve to 26-35.
That makes them tied with the Toronto Raptors for the 11th seed in the Eastern Conference.
Five Thirty Eight has the Bulls’ playoff chances at six percent.
That’s good for the second-worst odds among teams with a greater than one percent chance.
The website’s forecast heavily favors Toronto to make the postseason, with a nine percent chance.
Elsewhere, Tankathon.com has Chicago’s remaining schedule as the fourth-toughest in the entire NBA.
So the odds are stacked against the Chicago Bulls, who’ve managed an above-.500 record without one of their two All-Stars.
11 games to go.