I stayed off Twitter last night for the majority of the evening. Usually, I tweet during the day and spend time with my family at night and when the kids go to bed, I watch some NBA basketball. Last night, the crippling news of Derrick Rose‘s latest injury came down and I received it via text from my buddy. Here’s what it said: “It may be time to get rid of Rose my friend.”
It’s crazy how quickly things have spun out of control. We were all so hopeful for this latest comeback and he showed flashes. Before the All-Star break, he was starting to look more consistent and now…now this. Back to the operating table, back to rehabbing. One step closer to realizing that he’ll never be the same superstar that he was. And THIS season? A season where they seemingly put it together and had a championship core with Butler playing at a high level and Gasol dominating offensively. It’s crushing.
But while many are quick to write off the Chicago Bulls after D-Rose’s latest injury, I am not. Here’s a harsh truth: He hasn’t been their best player this season – Jimmy Butler has and Pau Gasol was a close second. Believe it or not, this all may actually work out. Here’s why:
First, Kirk Hinrich is moving into the starting lineup. That may not seem like a good thing and granted, he’s still washing up before our eyes, but hear me out. I tweeted this out the other night:
Really impressed with this Brooks/Snell/Mirotic/Taj/Noah lineup. A lot of chemistry, moving the ball quickly, & good on both ends #PHXvsCHI
— Chicago Bulls Charge (@thebullscharge) February 22, 2015
Now, with Kirk in the starting lineup? That bench group should get a chance to play together consistently and provide a nice balance of offense/defense that can help sustain leads created by the starting group.
As for the starting group, Kirk brings some things to the table that might be beneficial to the Bulls. First, he doesn’t force shots. He won’t be chucking up eleven threes some games. Second, he’s always been good at “hockey assists” and will keep the ball moving. Third, the starting group at times would wait for D-Rose to bail them out. Trust me – they aren’t going to expect Kirk to bail them out. With Rose off the court, the ball should spend more time in Butler and Gasol’s hands, which is a good thing. Also, Joakim Noah should get more touches and the option of playing “point center” again.
Second, the spacing shouldn’t change with the starting group because people didn’t really respect Rose’s shooting either and they likely won’t respect Kirk’s. The Bulls have a real opportunity here to create a “Popovich-ian” offense with quick ball movement, smart passing, and low turnovers. It’ll be interesting to see how the Bulls adjust.
Third, this gives Jimmy Butler another opportunity to continue growing. Jimmy has been the best player on the Chicago Bulls this year, but is he ready to be “the guy” on this team? We’re about to find out.
Fourth, the Bulls have excellent leadership in the locker room. Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Tom Thibodeau, Kirk Hinrich, Taj Gibson…these guys aren’t going to let the Bulls just crumble. They fought last year after Rose went down and Deng was traded and they will again. This group is tough.
Lastly, the Bulls have more talent this year than they’ve ever had in a year where Rose was injured. Also, the East is really five teams deep so the Bulls should finish somewhere in the top five in the conference. Per John Schuhmann, the Bulls have the third easiest remaining schedule in the Eastern Conference. They are currently a full game out of second place in the East and personally, I think they can maintain that. The Raptors and Wizards have struggled as of late, but the Cavs are surging and could easily take that spot.
I still think the Bulls have an Eastern Conference Finals run in them depending on the matchups. The Hawks and Wizards are terrible matchups for them, but the Bulls would likely be favored against Cleveland or Toronto for the same reason. The Bulls could literally make the Eastern Conference Finals or lose in the first round. Neither would surprise me.
Bulls fans, I know this is difficult to endure again, but there’s much more reason for optimism this time around. I saw someone tweet that the Bulls should’ve signed a second star for this reason. Their two best players are still on the court and unfortunately, we’re without a major weapon. The biggest hurdle for the Bulls is going to be getting over the pity party and getting to work to finish this season out strong. I think they have a nice veteran group that can do that. And I’m still optimistic on the rest of this season, but one thing is for sure: The idea that Derrick Rose is a franchise player is gone. Maybe not for his talent, but the reliability. It’s a shame and will fall into the history books of “What-Ifs” alongside Bernard King, Bill Walton, Penny Hardaway, Grant Hill, and many others. But for this season, all is not lost and there’s a lot of basketball to play. Here’s hoping the Bulls figure it out.