Sometime in mid-June, the NBA will crown a champion for the 2014-15 season.
There will be a parade, followed by a visit to the White House.
None of the eight teams in the hunt for the NBA’s biggest prize has raised the trophy in the past 16 years. And most of the players weren’t even born the last time their franchises were crowned champions.
The Bulls were the last in 1998 when the incomparable Michael Jordan completed his remarkable run of six championships in an eight-year span in Chicago.
While Jordan was inexplicably away trying to do one of the hardest things in pro sports — hit a baseball — the Houston Rockets captured consecutive titles in 1994 and ’95. But in my estimation, the Bulls will finally step out of Jordan’s giant shadow and win a title.
But it won’t be easy.
Before they changed their names to the Wizards, the Washington Bullets won their only NBA championship in 1978. And the Golden State Warriors were last crowned NBA champions in 1975. The Hawks were still in St. Louis when they won their only NBA title in 1958 before making the move to Atlanta.
Chicago, Houston, Washington, Golden State and Atlanta are five of the eight finalists in the race for this year’s title. The other three teams — Cleveland, Memphis and the Los Angeles Clippers — have never won.
Of course, you can make a case for all eight teams. However, now that Derrick Rose is close to being back to the form that landed him the 2011 MVP award, the Bulls are now positioned to win in so many ways.
With Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson, Tony Snell, Mike Dunleavy, Aaron Brooks, Kirk Hinrich, rookie sensation Nikola Mirotic and the attack-minded Rose, the Bulls have the inside muscle and outside presence to beat any of the other seven teams. They also have a shrewd coach in Tom Thibodeau.
The Warriors have the strongest chance of blocking the Bulls. Armed with newly-minted MVP Stephen Curry and fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson, the Warriors are loaded with talent.
From Draymond Green to Andrew Bogut to Harrison Barnes to Andre Iguodala to Shaun Livingston to Marreese Speights to Leandro Barbosa to David Lee, the Warriors have few gaps. But the lack of a potent inside game could be their undoing — and that’s the Bulls’ strength.
The Cavs are hampered by the loss of Kevin Love, who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the first round against Boston. Also, the NBA has suspended Cavs guard J.R. Smith from the first two games of the Bulls-Cavs series for hitting Celtics forward Jae Crowder in the face.
Injuries to Patrick Beverley and Donatas Motiejunas could eventually catch up with the Rockets.
The amazing Wizards have talked — and played — a good game so far. But, try as he might, Paul Pierce can’t talk Washington into a title.
Atlanta has four All-Stars, and that’s not even enough to win the NBA’s top prize.
Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley Jr. (eye) will likely return to the lineup when their series with Golden State shifts to Memphis. But no one from the Western Conference will beat the Warriors, who are 42-2 at home this season, with 28 of those victories coming by 10 or more points.
Even though they are the second-most popular team in LA, the Clippers knocked off the reigning NBA champion San Antonio Spurs in seven games, capitalizing on the Spurs’ mental mistakes in Games 6 and 7.
And look for the Bulls to have their long-awaited parade. And a visit to the White House to see perhaps their biggest fan — President Barack Obama.
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760