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Bulls Fri Nov 08 2013

The Anatomy Of A Quote; The Beginning Of A Rivalry

Bulls_200.png"We want to step away from that shadow as the 'little brothers' of this division. Their success is the Michael Jordan era. This is a new age, this is a new team. It's ours till they take it." - Paul George to after defeating the Chicago Bulls 97-80 on Wednesday night.

Paul George had the right to spit some fire after he and the Indiana Pacers spit a ton of game all over the Chicago Bulls to move to 5-0 on the season.

The quote matched the Pacers' confidence on the court, but the Central Division has been the Pacers' for exactly one season. That came in a year when the Bulls were playing without Derrick Rose. In the two years prior, the Bulls held the league's best regular season record.

Though the Bulls have established a new identity in the post-Jordan era, the franchise will always be synonymous with no. 23 -- his legacy casts a shadow as big as all the banners hanging in the United Center rafters.

The one part of George's quote that stuck with me was, "This is a new age, this is a new team." Even though we've only seen a small sampling, the Pacers have collectively made the incremental improvements necessary to be considered among the league's serious contenders for an NBA title.

In other words, Indiana's stock is rising fast. George is inching closer to becoming one of the game's elite, Roy Hibbert's low post defense against the Bulls was something to marvel, Lance Stephenson's energetic play is at a whole new level and the off-season acquisition of Luis Scola gives them a key big body off the bench. Let's not forget about Danny Granger, who sat out most of last season with a left knee injury and will miss the first three weeks of this season, averaged 18.7 points and five rebounds during in the last full season he played.

Make no mistake, the Pacers' victory over the Bulls was an early season statement game. Perhaps their play and George's subsequent quote was sparked by something Derrick Rose said about Indiana during the pre-season.

"People say that it's a rivalry, but I don't really see it," said Rose on October 19. "If anything, by probably in a year or two, it could become a rival. But right now, people say it's a rival. I just don't see it right now."

Rose's rivalry timeline should be sped up to about now. The barbs are being traded and the intensity level is there -- at least on the Pacers side.

"They wanted it more than us," said Joakim Noah to "They got to every loose ball, every rebound. We've got to get our edge back."

As previously mentioned in this space, I'm not going to beat up on the Bulls four games into the season while Rose tries to get back to his old self and he gels with the rest of the team.

However, it is time to recognize the Pacers as a rival. Otherwise, an early season comment from a confident Indiana player might turn out to be prophetic.

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