Considering the Bulls are entering 2016 with a 20-12 record and remain only 2.5 games behind the division leading Cavaliers, fans in the Windy City should have something to look forward to in the second half of the season. The team, for all it’s up and down stumbles so far, is not out of it by any means, and even though the Eastern Conference is better than it has been the past few years, the Bulls should be able to get in the top seedings when the season ends.
Their roster is pretty well rounded, the scoring from their starters and reserves seems relatively spread out. Jimmy Butler leads the team in scoring, with Paul Gasol, Nikola Mirotic, Doug McDermott, Taj Gibson, and Derrick Rose contributing to the team. Even Joakim Noah, who has definitely missed a step or two, has provided some solid performances. They don’t have the best roster in the NBA, but there are teams that are much worse, and less experienced than this bunch.
In Chicago – Is the Bloom Off of Derrick Rose?
As we reach the halfway point of the season, the issue once again, is the health of Derrick Rose. Since he was drafted number one in 2008, out of the University of Memphis, after one year of playing under then coach John Calipari, Rose has shown signs of being the elite player that Calipari and others around the league came to expect. Unfortunately, he has all too often been plagued by one injury after another – some that just crop up from one game to another.
In 620 games, to date, Rose has played in 367 contests, which is a little over half of the games that the Bulls have been in since his signing. In fact, since the 2011-12 season, Rose has played in just 127 games out of 363 scheduled. Not a very good statistic, and one that should have Bull fans scratching their heads about. This year started out promising with Rose basically stating that he felt as healthy and ready as when he first came into the NBA. He has only missed five games all year, but he has sat out the last few, and now it seems that it’s déjà vu all over again.
Chicago fans, a very smart and savvy bunch, haven’t seen a championship since those glory days of the 90’s, where they won 6 rings in a matter of 8 years. Not a bad run, but they had Jordan, Pippen, Armstrong, and Grant, not to mention a coach by the name of Phil Jackson. These Bulls are not those teams, but they are competitive, and seem to be getting closer to bringing the team back to the respectability it had over 16 years ago.
The problem may be with Rose, and the future of him playing for the Bulls, and how that will or will not translate into a championship run. Unlike LeBron, Duncan, or Curry, Rose doesn’t have much of a playoff pedigree to put up against those players for their team, much less having a ring to show off for the fans that pay good money every game to watch him play.
Despite the issues surrounding him at the University of Memphis, and the NCAA forcing them to vacate their record 38-victory season and their Final Four run, the Bulls nevertheless, had no qualms about taking Rose with the first pick in the 2008 draft. In fact, they believed that his one year in Memphis was enough to put them over the top, or at least be able to assemble a winning team around him going forward. This has not been the case, despite all the prognosticators who have felt that every year was ‘the year’, that Rose was going to break out of his injury hex. The fans have been patient, as has ownership, and they continue to sellout the United Center on a nightly basis, but at what point does this franchise start to question the direction the team, and more pointedly, Rose is headed?
Let’s face facts. The team, in its overall makeup, is not getting any younger, despite the efforts of Butler and Gasol, but how long can that last? There was talk last year of trying to pry Carmelo Anthony away from the Knicks, but that seemed fleeting, and who knows if that duo of Anthony and Rose would have ever succeeded. Look at the Knicks from since Anthony has come from Denver, and even with this year’s better lineup of actual NBA players – it doesn’t appear that he has the leadership qualities to take a team to the next level. With Rose always injured, that experiment probably would have failed miserably.
Chicago fans have been through some tough years since those championship heydays, but for a franchise that was used to winning, it’s been a long journey of one season after another. Besides the Blackhawks, Chicago fans know what losing is like – Cubs, White Sox, and Bears. Every other franchise has had its moments when things go right – some come out on top – some never are able to grasp the brass ring, so most of you who read this, and aren’t Bulls fans, won’t cry a river of tears for the team that owned professional basketball at the end of the last century.
The Bulls pay Derrick Rose a great deal of money to play the game of basketball – something that, when healthy – he can be one of the best in the league. At some point, the ongoing battles he has sitting the bench, and folks waiting for the next shoe to drop, may wear thin, and then what? The Chicago Bulls sit right now in a pretty good spot in the East for a playoff run. If Rose is hurt, and can’t live up to even normal expectations, they may have an early exit once the season ends. If that ends up happening, what will those faithful Bull fans in Chicago think, or expect the ownership to do? Good questions that may have to be answered sooner rather than later.