Night in New York was a reminder of opportunity lost for Bulls

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The game Thursday in New York wasn’t just another stumble for the undermanned Bulls. It was another reminder of how quickly windows can close in the NBA, of how fragile a roster can be.

That’s what flashed in Taj Gibson’s mind when he saw old teammates and close friends Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose wearing Knicks blue and white.

Gibson was asked about one Bulls team that included Noah and Rose — the 2010-11 edition, which Gibson thought had it all. That team was supposed to dismantle the Heat’s “Big Three” and start a new dynasty in Chicago.

MVP Rose, Noah, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, the “Bench Mob’’ led by Gibson and coach Tom Thibodeau.

“I guess we were snake-bitten,” Gibson said.

They had very few flaws.

Well, except one. Make that three. Beating LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

But even after losing to them in five games in the Eastern Conference finals, many thought it would be a long-running feud and the Heat eventually would wilt. That never happened.

Rose’s knees betrayed him, the “Bench Mob’’ was broken up for financial reasons, Deng was traded, Boozer was let go and Noah’s injury problems started.

“Then you gotta look at it: We are going against LeBron James, trying to challenge for a championship,” Gibson said. “It’s rough. You’re going against D-Wade. I’m looking at him every day now out of the corner of my eyes.

“Every day I’m looking at him like we really had a beef. We really wanted to beat those guys. And Thibs implanted that in our head, that we had to hate them. It was a great time in my life. I would never change that because it taught me a lot about the game, and I appreciate it.”

Coincidentally, one of the people he hated became his teammate this season. Wade watched as the “Big Three” was dismantled after four consecutive trips to the Finals and two championships.

“Me and Taj have talked about that from the standpoint of Thibs making them hate us,’’ Wade said. “They were a good team. A team that we knew we had to bring it against. It was unfortunate that we didn’t get to go against them more. Unfortunate for them, for sure. There’s a lot of teams like that in the league saying what if.

“But, hey, I was on the other side, so I didn’t like Taj, neither,” Wade said laughing. “We didn’t have to have a coach that had us hating like that. I just didn’t like him.”

That relationship is obviously patched up now. Plus, there are new rivalries Gibson has to deal with, specifically Noah and Rose, who have beaten the Bulls twice this season.

Noah has been especially dominant against his former team, scoring in double digits in both games. It’s no big deal, but Noah has hit double digits only four other times this season.

“Derrick has been playing this way consistently all year,’’ Wade said. “Now Jo has had two big games versus us. I can’t say he’s had two big games versus other teams, so he definitely has raised his level of play against us.

“That’s what players are supposed to do. They’re supposed to get a little get-back anyway they can, and that’s their way. So they’re 2-0 against us. For them personally, that feels good.”

The Bulls and Knicks play once more this season. April 4 at the Garden. Stay tuned.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.


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