If you up and remove any team’s star player, you’re going to be left with a much different looking team. Such is the case with the current Chicago Bulls. The focus of this season for the Bulls is to be good enough to survive until Derrick Rose returns. Combining what Rose will undeniably bring to the court with the legend-like campaign Adidas is putting out with their “#thereturn” slogan, you’d swear it was the equivalent of Michael Jordan coming out of retirement back in the mid 90s. I don’t doubt the Bulls can be good enough to survive in the East until Rose’s return, mainly because I can’t imagine the Bulls falling out of contention for the top eight seeds before Rose’s presumed return in February. Even if Rose’s return doesn’t end up being the season changer Bulls fans are hoping for, it’s going to perpetually keep the Bulls in playoff talks.
While the Bulls’ current 5-5 record –not too much to worry about at this point– is indicative of how they’ve been playing, there are overarching concerns with the Bulls’ play that they will need to correct –with or without Rose on the court.
When you look at the Bulls’ last two games (both losses), knowing how this team operates (defense), you would almost know they lost just by looking at the opponents’ point totals –101 and 102 respectively. It doesn’t mean that the Bulls are incapable of scoring 100-plus points on a given night, it’s an illustration that the Bulls aren’t playing defense, not Tom Thibodeau-caliber defense anyway. If the Bulls are going to operate successfully without Rose, that oft-talked about defense has to be present. If it isn’t, you’ll see the Bulls meander into the depths of .500 (or worse) basketball. They just don’t have the firepower to make up for it.
Generally speaking, I think the Bulls are better than a .500 team, but again, that presumes they play the level of defense they are capable of playing. To this point, they haven’t been. Even when Rose comes back, the Bulls will still need to play high quality defense. It has been apparent in both of the last two seasons that the Bulls don’t have the offensive capabilities to beat the top teams in a shootout. While I think the Bulls’ are slightly better offensively (on paper) than they were the last two years, without Rose, that “slight” improvement is moot. If a slightly worse defense follows the slight offensive improvement, it won’t matter what they do in the regular season because they’ll get beat again come playoff time.
Brian is a lifelong Chicago Bulls fan, having lived in Illinois his entire life and having followed the NBA throughout.
Bulls Lose to Portland