julius randle knicks
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The Knicks face the Bulls twice in the Windy City this week, and yet nobody seems excited.

It isn’t shocking that what was once a blood rivalry petered out quickly. The Knicks have struggled to field a consistently competitive team in the post-Patrick Ewing era. Similarly, the Bulls haven’t been to the Finals since Jordan’s iconic shot in 1998 and saw hopes of rebirth die with Derrick Rose’s knees in 2012.

Keep in mind, much of this is media-driven. It doesn’t matter that New York and Chicago are two significant sports markets. If neither the Knicks (14-13) nor Bulls (11-15) are dominating the game, the rivalry doesn’t mean much — .500 or worse teams don’t make for good TV matchups.

Except despite their records, the Knicks and Bulls have plenty of fuel for a rivalry now. Forget that Chicago is called the Second City or any city-based storylines. There’s plenty of basketball reasons for both teams to be bitter rivals once again.

Let’s start with the coaching. Chicago has former college legend Billy Donovan, who won two national titles at Florida. However, before he was a Gators icon, Donovan was a Knicks assistant in the ’80s and grew up on Long Island.

On the New York side, contrastingly, is Tom Thibodeau, who grew up a Knicks fan in Connecticut. Like Donovan, he is also a former Knicks assistant coach. However, Thibodeau also coached the Bulls from 2010-15 and guided the team to its greatest run of success since the Jordan years.

What’s more is that despite their respective records, today’s Knicks and Bulls are actually two young and exciting teams. Chicago’s struggles are largely from star point guard Lonzo Ball being out recovering from knee surgery, and the Knicks are on a four-game winning streak after refocusing on defense.

Again, the Knicks and Bulls are exciting yet imperfect. Zach LaVine isn’t Jordan, yet is a remarkable dunker who can shoulder the scoring load in an instant. 33-year-old veteran DeMar DeRozan isn’t Scottie Pippen, but is still deadly enough in the midrange that he puts up a 23-year-old’s numbers. Patrick Williams is also a phenomenal young talent and Nikola Vucevic is a do-it-all center.

On the Knicks’ end, Mitchell Robinson is an elite rim protector despite not having Ewing’s scoring prowess. Similarly, Julius Randle is a better scorer and lesser defender than Charles Oakley. Yet, he moves with Oakley’s reckless abandon when focused and at his best. RJ Barrett, Quentin Grimes, and Jalen Brunson each take turns being John Starks.

Their respective records don’t show it, but Knicks-Bulls is ready to be another top rivalry right now. There’s enough in each team’s recent history to build a storyline and enough parallels to be drawn to the glory years. This is an opportunity the league should jump on now. It’s a potential gold mine, particularly if both New York and Chicago keep improving this season.

After all, it sure beats watching the Warriors, Celtics, or Lakers on national TV for the umpteenth time.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.