As we rapidly approach the All-Star Break, and return of the Chicagoan messiah, the Bulls are standing firmly in third place in the Eastern Conference at 28-17 behind the New York Knicks and who else but the Miami Heat.
Especially of late, the Bulls have looked great. Winning eight of the last ten games the Bulls grind it out style of play seems to work for them.
With the Thibodeau coached Bulls, you know what you’re going to get: defensive intensity, rebounding, and guys who want to win. And they have been getting that from everyone, even Carlos Boozer. This is the exact type of game Thibs wants to play and it looks great.
Most importantly, guys are stepping up. Kirk Hinrich has been shooting the ball well, Nate Robinson has been explosive off the bench, Boozer is playing great offensively and at the very least trying on the defensive end. Taj Gibson struggled early this season, but is easing into his game and provides a huge boost off the bench. Joakim and Luol’s performance has been good enough to get the nod for the All-Star game. Marco Bellinelli was hot when Rip Hamilton went down but the two are back to splitting time at the 2 guard spot. And saving the best for last…JIMMY BUCKETS. The dude is playing with so much confidence offensively. His athleticism allows him to cover 4 positions and he is finally coming into his own.
So all of this is without Derrick Rose, who by the way is now taking full contact in practice. He’s almost ready! Management has been very particular about divulging any information regarding a return date, but everyone is anxious for him to be back to his old MVP self.
So what happens when he gets back? Well first, for all of you worrywarts, no one will allow him to step foot on the court, game day if he is not 110% ready to go. Secondly, he will be monitored under a microscope for at the very least the rest of 2013. He will likely start off playing 15-20 minutes a game and gradually work his way back up to 30-35. And lets not get ahead of ourselves, it will take a while, probably to the end of the season.
But when he does return, we’re one of the deepest teams in the league. I imagine Rip will continue to start at the 2 guard spot, but now Kirk is the first guard off the bench, but you also have Nate, Marco and Jimmy in the backcourt to share time with Luol, Rip and D Rose. That’s a solid seven-man rotation to go along with the frontcourt trio of Jo, Carlos and Taj.
Come playoff time, a team that can go 10 deep is a dangerous one. There are so many combinations that could work well together, and with Jimmy stepping up, look for the Bulls to push Luol to the 4 to play small ball with the Heat or Knicks who like to play LeBron and Melo in a 4 guard rotation.
This year we have Kirk and Nate who can handle the ball and relieve some of the pressure from Derrick. And lets not forget about Marco Bellinelli. He has a poor-man’s James Harden swagger about him. He can step into shots from about anywhere as well as handle the ball and attack the basket.
So even if D Rose never gets back to 100% himself this season, the Bulls still have guys that can score and more importantly, win games. No longer can defenses just swarm Rose to stop the Bulls. Come playoff time, don’t sleep on Chicago, we’re in the hunt.