By Wesley Kaminsky
In the wake of Dwight Howard going to the Lakers, Andrew Bynum going to the Sixers, and Joe Johnson going to the Nets, the 2012-2013 Chicago Bulls lie somewhere in the desert.
This is the team that had the best record in the NBA over the past two seasons and lost their superstar Derrick Rose to a torn ACL in the first round of the playoffs last season.
This is the team that was the biggest threat to Miami in the Eastern Conference before that injury.
Yeah, that team. Remember them? It seems like a lifetime ago in which they were championship contenders.
Granted, this isn’t the same Bulls team that it was the past two seasons. After it was announced that Rose tore his ACL and would miss eight to twelve months, Bulls management had a decision to make. Rose won’t be back until possibly March, and a championship is probably out of the question.
With virtually all of the Bulls’ money tied into Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, and Joakim Noah, they weren’t going to be able to afford a star this year. They made a splash, though, but not in the way Bulls fans would have hoped.
The “Bench Mob,” which had become a staple of this Chicago Bulls team over the last two seasons, is gone. Taj Gibson is the lone survivor.
C.J. Watson and John Lucas III have been replaced with Kirk Hinrich for two years, $6 million, and Nate Robinson for one year, $1.4 million. Omer Asik, the raw, but promising center, has been replaced by veteran Nazr Mohammed for one year, $1.3 million. As much as the Bulls wanted to bring Asik back, they simply couldn’t match Houston’s offer sheet of three years, $25.12 million. Not for a back-up center.
Kyle Korver, the Bulls’ sharp-shooter, has gone to Atlanta. Enter Marco Belinelli, a similar player, but for just $1.9 million and one year. To make up for Korver’s three-point range, the Bulls also brought in veteran forward Vladmir Radmonovic for a great price.
Ronnie Brewer, the versatile swingman, was replaced by second-year forward Jimmy Butler, who showed major strides in summer league this year. Add him in with rookie Marquis Teague, and you have the revamped Bulls “Bench Mob.”
With this new core, nobody really knows what to expect out of the Bulls, so they’re writing them off. If you take away the playoff series against the Sixers, the Bulls were 18-9 without Derrick Rose last season. I realize it only matters what you do in the playoffs, but that has got to count for something. The Bulls were also without Joakim Noah for most of that series also, in case you forgot.
Will this new Bulls core be able to develop the same type of chemistry that the previous Bulls teams had?
Sure, they lost two of their defensive aces in Brewer and Asik, but Taj Gibson is still there, who is probably the best defender the Bulls have on their team. The Bulls need energy off the bench, and they still have that.
In addition to Gibson, Nate Robinson has proven in the past that he can be effective. There has never been a question as to whether or not he will bring energy. It will be there. He also has history with Tom Thibodeau in Boston, and that helps. While Nazr Mohammad doesn’t bring the same type of defense that Omer Asik does, he will bring stability off the bench. A 14-year veteran, Nazr knows a few things about the NBA.
Until Rose returns, Hinrich will start for the Bulls, where he spent the first seven years of his career. Joining Hinrich will be Richard Hamilton, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, and Joakim Noah—no different than last year. That starting lineup doesn’t really sound all that bad, if you ask me. For all of Boozer’s criticism, he can score; the Bulls will be counting on him to do so. Luol Deng, who’s been battling torn ligaments in his left wrist, doesn’t think he’ll need surgery, which comes as a huge relief for Bulls fans.
With the Bulls being unsuccessful in trying to trade Richard Hamilton, it would be a luxury if he could stay on the court this year. He missed 38 games in his first season in Chicago. If Rose had been healthy last season, I still think Hamilton would have been very effective in the playoffs. We’ll never know though.
As for Joakim Noah, you know what you’re getting with him. He took the Olympics off to get his left ankle to 100 percent and should be fine for the regular season. Where the Bulls will miss Asik most is if Noah gets hurt and is forced to miss time.
If you look at this roster, there is no reason why the Bulls can’t hold it down until Rose gets back. Scoring may be a problem, but I trust that Tom Thibodeau will have this team ready.
Would it surprise me if this Bulls team struggles this season? No, not at all.
Would it surprise me if they are better than we thought? Also no.
Jerry Reinsdorf has already said that he isn’t going to let Rose come back until he’s 100, percent, and that’s fair. I don’t think Rose will miss the entire season as some people are saying. If he returns in late February or early March, who’s to say the Bulls can’t make some noise in the playoffs?
The Bulls play the Heat on February 21 at the United Center. Just saying.
I’m excited for this Bulls season, just as I am for every single one. I’m just here to remind you that the Bulls will still be playing in 2012-2013. With or without Rose, this team will compete.
Last thing—can the Bulls sign Tom Thibodeau to an extension already? Okay, I’m done.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.