Bulls ready to take another shot at doubters


May 15

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After more than 100 games back to preseason and more injuries and misfortune than worth recounting and just the appropriate bravado to face the defending champions Wednesday trailing 3-1 in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Bulls after all this time basically have come to symbolize Nate Robinson.

“My whole life people told me I wouldn’t be able to make it to the NBA. Look at me now,” said Robinson with his usual mixture of defiance and dare. “God has blessed each and every one of us individually and together as a team and I know we have what it takes. We’re going to give it our all; we’re not going to give up. We’re going got keep fighting. We’re warriors and we’re going to continue to do that.”

Robinson’s words tumbled out as he and teammates Wednesday prepared for what could be their last practice of the season, the morning shootaround at the AmericanAirlines Arena in downtown Miami across where the cruise ships depart.

Nate Robinson

It seemed a somewhat appropriate setting as most of the national media has departed to other series. The view is this one is over, especially after the Heat’s dominant Game 4 88-65 victory at the United Center during which Bulls players looked worn. That hopeful Bulls ship had sailed, as it were, the story went.

But this Bulls team, if hardly a betting favorite as much as a fan favorite, strikes this pose of temerity almost out of habit.

Luol Deng remained back in Chicago fighting the after effects of his virus and spinal tap procedure. Kirk Hinrich was with the team but likely not playing. Similarly with Derrick Rose. But Dwyane Wade, dealing with his own knee issues, was considered a game time decision after aggravating his condition in Game 4. The Heat rested Wade the last series when ahead 3-0, but they also know this isn’t the Bucks.

“This as we all know is a team that is very dangerous if given second life,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “We can expect their last breath effort from them and that usually has been the deciding factor in all these games (between the two teams). We have experience, but that does not guarantee anything.”

Added Chris Bosh, who has been a major element without Wade’s contribution: “We have to get off to a good start to put some doubt in their minds. We do not want to go back to Chicago.”

Yes, you do want to knock out these guys because they basically don’t know when they are beaten.

The whole season seemed like that once Derrick Rose was injured last spring and then amidst the uncertainty of his return. Then the revolving door of injuries and misfortune struck as it was almost like taking a number at the deli counter for who was going to be called next to come in.

“We have bounced back from a lot of adversity,” said Carlos Boozer, who has averaged 12.3 points on 38 percent shooting against Miami. “We’ve been the underdog all season with the injuries we’ve had and the players we’ve had out and we’ve always responded. And we’ll respond tonight.

“It would be nice to have our whole squad healthy in the playoffs to see what kind of damage we could do,” Boozer added. “But we’re not in that situation this time either. So we’re just dealing with it.”

It’s been the famed and favored bromide for Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau all season, from next man up to enough to do the job. Despite the doubts and snickers, it’s worked more than it hasn’t.

And now there may be just one.

The players seemed like they always have been Wednesday morning, ready for another day and another game. Which has served this group well. They celebrate the good times, though not too much, and they endure the bad times.

So Robinson sat there, his shoulder probably aching but refusing to acknowledge that, his chest not wrapped but having taken as much as most can handle, his confidence hardly betrayed by an historic zero for 12 shooting night in Game 4 and his resolve firm.

“When you have that belief and faith among each other you never know what we can do,” Robinson said. “Anything is possible. It’s a new day. Everybody goes through a situation like that in their life (referring to his Monday shooting). Ups and downs. It’s just God testing me. That’s all, and I’ll pass the test tonight. I continue to play hard no matter even if I go 0-12 tonight.

“Everybody is counting us out, including you all,” said the 5-something Robinson, who finds adversaries whether they are there or not. “So for us it’s going to be that much sweeter coming in getting a win tonight. Proving all you guys wrong.”

These Bulls, like Robinson, have lived and prospered on doubt and dismissal. They get to smirk in the face of a tornado another time. You never quite sense with them it will be the last.

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