We're in the final two months of the NBA season, a pivotal point for many teams in the NBA. At this point, some teams will begin to make the final few roster additions to hopefully contend for a title while others will realize the season is lost and start tanking for picks.
The following is a roundtable with Victor You, Peter Owen, Hunter Field, and me (Avi Saini) about the Chicago Bulls' performance as of late, if we believe they should continue to contend or not, and if and when Derrick Rose comes back this season.
1. Prior to Noah's explosion the past couple of games, the Bulls had lost 8 of their last 12 games. Do you think they've overachieved to this point in the season or are underperforming now?
Victor You: If you asked me before the season my answer to this question would have easily been no. After seeing what this team has been capable of under Thibodeau so far this season, it's clear they haven't been playing up to their potential lately. Now whether that's an actual lack of effort or a matter of fatigue is another issue.
Peter Owen: It seems pretty clear that the Bulls are simply performing to a level greater than the sum of their parts. This is not a slight against the players, the coaching staff or the organization. It is just a fact. No team can lose its MVP and only truly elite player and creator and expect to continue to rack up wins at the same rate. The Bulls coped exceptionally well in the first half of the season when legs were fresh and health was not a concern. Then Hinrich got hurt. Deng got hurt. Boozer got hurt. Hinrich got hurt (again). Noah got hurt. Gibson got hurt. Hincrich got hurt (yes, again). The Bulls are fatigued, out of ideas, banged up, any cliche in the book, they are pretty much it.Hunter Field: The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. This recent stretch has been a tough one with both Miami and OKC, and injuries and the grind of an 82 game season has caught up to them. Not to mention the workload Thibs demands from his players. Deng and Noah constantly play over 40 minutes a night, and during this stretch Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Kirk Hinrich have all missed games.
Hunter Field: The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. This recent stretch has been a tough one with both Miami and OKC, and injuries and the grind of an 82 game season has caught up to them. Not to mention the workload Thibs demands from his players. Deng and Noah constantly play over 40 minutes a night, and during this stretch Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Kirk Hinrich have all missed games.
Avi Saini: Overachieved to this point in the season. This Bulls team just has not been good and has benefited greatly from playing in a weak division/conference. Sure the players are being overused and sure there are injuries, but even when healthy this Bulls team has only managed one win against playoff teams from the West and has struggled against most playoff teams in the East (except New York).
*2. Do you think the Bulls should keep fighting for a title this season and what should they do to keep hopes alive or tank and try to get talent via the draft?
Victor: There's really nothing to tank for this season and it's far too late for that. The Bulls can still get healthy by playoff time and if they can sign one more big man as insurance along with the return of Derrick Rose, they can still make a lot of noise come playoff time. They've spent more than half the season chasing a deep playoff run so there's really no point to give up on it now when there's still enough time to get the entire team healthy. However it's going to be on Thibodeau to better manage minutes down the stretch.
Peter: I can't advocate tanking. I understand the idea and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth to expect fans to fork out their hard-earned money in an uncertain economy to watch a team intentionally lose. That doesn't sit well with me. I expect the Bulls to continue to compete every night and under Thibodeau I don't think they know any other way. A fourth big on the roster is an absolute must once the March 3rd buyouts occur on Sunday. Expect the Bulls to take a look at whomever gets cut to shore up an abysmal frontcourt rotation (after Noah, Booz and Taj). The Bulls will still make the playoffs because it is the Eastern Conference and you can get into the eighth seed despite losing more than winning. They'll face the Heat, win a game at home and head off for a summer of recovery.
*Hunter: You'd think they have to sign another big after Gibson went down thinning an already depleted frontline. There in 6th place in the east and 4 games ahead of the 8th place Bucks. They have a tough March scheduled, but things get much easier in April. They shouldn't have much problem making the playoffs, and I don't think it's on anyone's mind within the organization to tank. I expect things to remain mostly the same, and for them to limp into the playoffs. Then, who knows, maybe Rose and Gibson comeback and they can put a run together in the playoffs.
Avi: First things first, there is no way the Bulls will tank… not under Thibodeau. At this point, they've already done the only thing they can, sign another big man to play off the bench to spell Noah and Boozer and help Gibson. But I personally advocate tanking this season. It's probably a little late now, but I'd rather see Chicago throw away a season in which they have no title hopes, with or without Rose, and get a pick to add some talent to the team. The draft may be weak, but any sort of talent is greater than not getting any talent at all, which is what will likely happen with a pick in the 20s. And who's to say Chicago doesn't get a high pick in the draft either? Remember, it's a lottery system that gave the Bulls Derrick Rose when they only had a 1.7% chance. The balls could always bounce Chicago's way and land the Bulls someone like Shabazz Mohammed.
*Editor's Note- Answers were submitted prior to the Bulls signing Lou Amundson on Saturday. I didn't want to give anyone more of a workload so I used the answers submitted several days ago.
3. Do you expect Rose back at all this season?
Victor: Yes. We can't possibly expect Rose to really sit out all season can we? I just don't think he's wired that way. I see being back within the next two weeks with the way these videos that keep slowly showing up displaying Rose's returning athleticism. Rose has kept himself in the shadows and out of the public eye throughout the year but has been slowly making appearances as the year has gone on. He most certainly looks like he's itching to get back out on the court and I see no reason, barring some kind of medical setback, that he won't be back soon.
Peter: Rose is a professional athlete and competitor. He wants to be back on the court regardless of what any relative thinks otherwise. I will stake my reputation and declare that Rose will indeed play this season, however it will be very late in the season and he may well be shut down if the team makes the playoffs. Besides, does anyone seriously think even a 100% healthy Rose could take this team in its current state of disrepair past the Heat?
Hunter: I think Rose will be back. He's a competitor and wants to play this season, if for nothing else, to have confidence going into next year. His knee seems to be healed, now he just has to get over the mental block.
Avi: Yes. Like everyone else has said, Rose is a competitor and wants to play so I'm pretty sure he will come back. When he comes back though becomes a different issue. Rose says he wants to feel 100%. For him to say something like that means that he's not feeling confident about his knee yet and that there may be some other lingering issues. Just the other day I tweeted out that a source told me Rose visited doctors consulting them about pain he's been experiencing in his ankle. At this point, the date Rose returns remains anyone's guess, but I'm pretty sure he'll come back for at least one game this season.
4. Do you think the Bulls should bring Rose back this season?
Victor: Yes. They've spent half a season selling the promise of his return, and they better not back out unless he's not medically cleared to come back. If Rose is medically cleared, there should be no reason why he doesn't play. The Bulls will still be in the playoff hunt, although likely won't have the crutch of home court advantage like they enjoyed the last few years. I like the idea of the Bulls going into the playoffs as underdogs as opposed to being in the top 4 actually though. There will be a lot less pressure on both the Bulls and Rose and they could definitely still make a deep run considering how successful they've been on the road this season.
Peter: I'm going to go ahead and contradict myself here (because I can!). Rose will play this season, but the wisest choice would be to keep him out as long as possible and if that means the entire season, so be it. If he does come back, he will play at his limit and that could be completely fine. Or it could end in a major setback and we have to play the waiting game into the start of the 2013-14 season. Keeping him out as long as possible eliminates the chance that he comes back 'early' and experiences any issues. However, as I said above – Rose returning late in the season and playing around 15-20 minutes per game and sitting in the playoffs would not be totally wrong provided both he and the medical staff are certain he is ready to grace the Madhouse court again.
Hunter: As long has he's healthy and cleared by doctors, why not? A year and a half is a long time to go without playing basketball, so as long as he's healthy it's probably detrimental to keep him out.
Avi: Though I expect Rose to come back this season, I really don't think he should. The Bulls are not a title team even with him. In my mind, it makes no sense to bring him back to try to fight for a title. Letting someone rest up something like they're knee longer than they need to is also much better than bringing someone back to quickly. That being said if Rose does come back this season, I think he should only play a few limited games towards the end of the season to get some actual game experience under his belt and then get shut down for the playoffs.
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