As Barack Obama crisscrosses the country on his reelection campaign, gone are the lofty appeals for hope and change he made famous in 2008. “I’m far more mindful of my own failings, knowing exactly what Lincoln meant when he said, ‘I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go,’” said Obama in his nomination speech in Charlotte. After four years in the White House, the president is hardened, and sober in his assessment of Washington.
On Monday, the Bulls hosted media day at the Berto Center. Tucked behind a Deerfield business park, the buoyant optimism of years past was replaced by words like “realistic” and phrases like “lowered expectations.”
GM Gar Forman: “Whatever our potential is, I hope we reach it.”
Tom Thibodeau: “Hopefully we’re playing our best basketball in the second half and we’ll take our shot at the end.”
After two seasons of championship aspirations and Derrick Rose asking aloud why he couldn’t be MVP, the Bulls, too, have been driven to their knees—by a knee, no less. This season will be a slog—exactly the kind of grinding, unglamorous campaign their No. 1 fan is running.
Rose will play at some point—the best guesses peg his return to around the NBA All-Star Game in February 2013—but the team he will return to is a shadow of the one that went 18-9 without him last season. Gone are the beloved names of his once famous supporting cast: Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer, C.J. Watson, and Kyle Korver. When Rose was asked which of the newcomers he was most impressed with, he paused and then answered “Belinelli,” as if he couldn’t remember anyone else (like Nazr, or Nate Robinson, or Jaric.)
Reliable stalwarts Luol Deng and Joakim Noah are back, but face injury questions; Deng still has that troublesome wrist (“If I wake up and need surgery tomorrow, I’ll let you know,” he told inquisitive reporters,) and Noah missed the Olympics due to an ankle injury.
One of the greatest reasons the Bulls of the past two seasons delighted Chicago is because of the joy they carried, much of it supplied by Rose. They were young and they were good before they were supposed to be. Obama knows something about that. He, like the Bulls, once seemed above the fray. Not anymore.
In 2012-13, we will encounter a Bulls team devoid of buzz. They will work hard, play harder, and we will root them on. But we will do it dutifully, not hopefully. At least not until we’ve seen Rose 2.0 and know he is every bit as wonderful as the original.
For Obama, the best news this summer has been his opponent. Unfortunately for the Bulls, the Miami Heat are no Mitt Romney.
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STORY ART: Main photo courtesy nathanmac87/cc.