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How good can Bulls be until Derrick Rose returns?

Sep 4, 2012, 1:27 PM EST

Taj Gibson, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, AP

For the past two regular seasons, the Chicago Bulls were the best team in the East. They were the top seed.

But they played much of the season in their top gear — especially on defense — which overwhelmed opponents but left questions about whether they could step it up in the playoffs. We’ll never know what might have happened if they faced the Heat in the conference finals last year because Derrick Rose’s ACL gave out on a jump stop.

In the off-season the Bulls started making moves to suggest they were looking at adding a star in two summers rather than just trying to win with what they have. The bench got shorter — C.J. Watson turned into Kirk Hinrich, Kyle Korver became Marco Belinelli, Omer Asik became Nazr Mohammed, Ronnie Brewer downgraded into Vladimir Radmanovic.

Now they have to start the season with that bench and without Rose — and likely go until around the All Star break in late February to get him back. So how good are the Bulls next season?

Taj Gibson told ESPNChicago.com he thinks the Bulls will still be competitive (hat tip to SLAM).

“We still did good even when we didn’t have Derrick (last season),” said Gibson, who threw out a ceremonial first pitch before the Chicago White Sox’s game on Monday. “We beat the Heat without Derrick.

“Our mindset hasn’t changed. It’s about staying focused and taking one game at a time. We understand it’s going to be up and down at the beginning of the season. We can’t look forward to the end. We got to look forward to one game at a time and playing to our strengths and just listening to coach (Tom Thibodeau). I know it’s going to be a long season, but I’m really optimistic about what’s going to happen.”

That’s a good attitude. The Bulls were 18-9 in the regular season without Rose and were able to continue to overwhelm opponents, but when it got to the Sixers in the first round of the playoffs the Bulls went 0-4 on games he did not play.

Come the regular season the Bulls are not going to keep winning two-thirds of their games without Rose. But with their defense and athletes they are not a below .500 team either. The issue is that when Rose comes back he will have to round into shape for a while. The Bulls could end up being that six or seven seed that nobody wants to face because they are getting healthy.

But they are not the best team in the East any more. Not sure that they ever really were.

  1. itsthemelman82 - Sep 4, 2012 at 7:03 PM

    1. Vlad Rad didn’t become Ronnie Brewer, Jimmy Butler will more than likely take those mins.

    2. “But they are not the best team in the East any more. Not sure that they ever really were”… If they weren’t the team to beat, why did you and other so called experts have them as the only team not named the Heat to have a shot of winning the east the past 2 seasons? Furthermore, why would they be a “6 or 7 seed that nobody wants to face” when Rose comes back if they aren’t serious contenders???

    Stop trying to paint a picture of doom & gloom, this Bulls fan isn’t buying it

    • 420hippy - Sep 4, 2012 at 8:24 PM

      itsthemelman u read my mind.. what i wanted to write haha

    • somekat - Sep 4, 2012 at 8:31 PM

      “other than”, would imply they weren’t the team to beat, seems pretty simple. He didn’t say “they aren’t serious contenders”, he said “they aren’t the best team in the east”. They aren’t. They weren’t with Rose, they certainly aren’t with him set to miss at least half the season. With Rose, they are still below the Heat, and probably just a step above Philly. Without Rose, they are the 5-6th team in the East. Getting Rose back towards the end of the year would make them a better team than their seeding will suggest. That is the definition of “a 6 o r7 seed nobod wants to face because they are getting healthy”

      Get upset about nothing much? (and I’m far from a Kurt defender)

    • donrwells3 - Sep 6, 2012 at 7:00 PM

      Let’s go BULLS BABY!!!

      We still have a squad!! And the master comes back at a perfect time for a playoff run!

  2. eventhorizon04 - Sep 5, 2012 at 1:18 AM

    I’m not a Bulls fan, but I’m not NEARLY as down on the Bulls as a lot of “experts” are. Sure – their established bench is gone, but some of the replacements can be argued as upgrades or at least equals to members of their previous bench.

    Still, there’s a LOT working against the Bulls.
    1. Derrick Rose is likely out until late in the season.
    2. I know the Bulls did okay without Rose for much of last season by relying on their bench, but the new bench won’t have as much chemistry with each other or experience in Thibodeau’s defensive system as the old guys did – at least at first.
    3. Omer Asik was an excellent backup defensive center. No way was he worth what Houston offered, but at the same time, he’s an enormous upgrade over Nazr Mohammed, particularly at rebounding. Joaqim Noah might have to be less aggressive on defense now that his backup isn’t nearly as talented.
    4. Luol Deng has a wrist injury that he refuses to treat with surgery. I watched him during the Olympics, and he didn’t look great.
    5. Rose was gone for plenty of games last year, and Boozer failed to step up and shoulder more of the scoring burden. The Carlos Boozer in Utah who could score 20+ points per night seems to be gone now.
    6. While it’s fair to debate how much weaker the Bulls are this year than they were last year, the Celtics, Knicks, Nets, 76’ers, and the Heat all improved during the offseason and will enter the season much healthier than the Bulls.

    The Bulls still have an *elite* coach in the NBA in Tom Thibodeau who kept them playing great basketball even after Rose went down, but there’s a lot working against them. I’m predicting a 4th-6th seed for them.

  3. deiong - Sep 5, 2012 at 11:29 AM

    to be fair the reffing was completely one sided in the sixers series. had it been fair the bulls would have won, but they wouldnt have made it out the next round.

    but sad that they didnt try a little harder in the offseason to get someone on teh verge of greatness.. guess the biggest issue is boozers big contract is hurting them more then not right now. maybe he should renegotiate it down a little to add some depth to get a winning team. but he’s closing to the end of his carrer. why not cash out while its there…… hes still plenty good, just not worth that big a contract…

  4. mcjon22 - Sep 5, 2012 at 11:48 AM

    ” but when it got to the Sixers in the first round of the playoffs the Bulls went 0-4 on games he did not play.”

    Um, he was injured in game 1 and the series went 6 games. Simple math buddy. Kurt, you’re God awful bro. Your middle and high school teachers owe you a deep and sincere apology

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