The Chicago Bulls went one more game without Derrick Rose last night. It turned into a blowout victory for the Portland Trailblazers. For me—a Bulls fan—and Sean, who was rooting for the other side, this felt like an all-around loss. For some reason, we still couldn’t help but exchange emails about it.
Sean Highkin (@shighkinNBA): So, the Blazers are about to play the Bulls. Just like every other Bulls game over the last month and a half, the will-he-or-won’t-he Derrick Rose return rumors reached a fever pitch before the media availability for this game before it was announced that the former MVP is out once again. It looks like Taj Gibson is playing, which is a solid consolation prize. He missed about a month with a sprained knee, and the Bulls have slipped from contending to home-court advantage to sixth place in the east.
Rose’s return tonight would have made plenty of sense—the game comes after two days off for the Bulls, and Tom Thibodeau could bring him off the bench (lol, as if) against a lottery team with one of the worst non-starting units in NBA history. But had he decided to come back against the Blazers, I would have probably had to block double-digit people on Twitter for making knee curse jokes. Oddly, a torn ACL is one of the few knee injuries no Blazers star has suffered in the past half-decade, although my history with rooting for players with bad knees has made me watch Rose’s return even more closely I would have anyway. As something of a self-hating Bulls fan, where is your mind at right now with the Rose circus?
Seerat Sohi (@DamianTrillard): Don’t ask me. Seriously. Just don’t do it. Kidding. I’m a masochist. How could I help but obsess over his return date? Look, Rose will be back when Rose is ready to be back. Just today he expressed that he was still feeling soreness after activity. Is it the kind of thing where game action will be a remedy? I don’t know. I’m not a doctor, and unlike a lot of other Bulls fans, I won’t pretend to be one. All I know is that Rose is a grown man and that he knows his body better than anyone else. As of today, he’s given fans no reason not to trust him. In fact, he’s done the opposite. For the kind of reputation Rose has around this league, you’d think people—Bulls fans, especially—would cut him some slack.
Deviating from the norm, this Bulls game should actually be fun. The Blazers are one of the more entertaining lottery teams this year, at least when the starters are playing. And Taj is back, so I’ve got a reason to pay attention again.
Sean: Oh, hey, Kirk Hinrich is back in the lineup tonight! I kind of forgot he was a thing in light of the play of former Eastern Conference Player of the Week Nate Robinson in his absence.
Seerat: Hinrich’s return is bigger deal than most people would think it is. He manages to normalize the team. Nate Robinson, as you might imagine, doesn’t. While his eccentric scoring can provide a nominal boost for a team desperate for offense, he manages to make the Bulls uncomplicated, ineffective offense he manages to make it complicated and even more ineffective.
Sean: So Carlos Boozer just got whistled for a flagrant foul on J.J. Hickson. It was probably a necessary call, as he got him on the side of the neck, but it looked to me like Boozer was making a play for the ball. I wouldn’t have called it a flagrant.
This reminds me: Contracts aside, who’s the worse combination defender and empty-stats-accumulator, Boozer or Hickson?
Seerat: Hickson. I think we’ve had this argument before, and you were forced to concede that Boozer was a worse defender thanks to Twitter rallying by my side. And we all know that Twitter’s opinion is the end-all, be-all of basketball knowledge. Anyway, Boozer may be worse on the defensive end — an impressive achievement — but he provides enough steady offense that he isn’t as much of a black hole as Hickson.
Sean: As we speak, though, the Blazers are running their typical interior defensive scheme, the stand-around-and-let-opposing-bigs-score-at-will. At least LaMarcus Aldridge is off to a great start. He usually plays well in Chicago, because the Bulls traded him on draft day in 2006. Not because he’s been on fire the past couple weeks. Purely because of draft day. #narrativez
Seerat: What? The Bulls… did that? I mean, noooo… they couldn’t have. *holds back tears*
Hold on, hold on. Trading LMA for Tyrus Thomas got us Rose. Trading LMA for Tyrus Thomas got us Rose. Trading LMA for Tyrus Thomas got us Rose. Trading LMA for Tyrus Thomas got us Rose. Trading LMA for Tyrus Thomas got us Rose. Trading LMA for Tyrus Thomas got us Rose. Trading LMA for Tyrus Thomas got us Rose. Trading LMA for Tyrus Thomas got us Rose. Trading LMA for Tyrus Thomas got u
Sean: So, Jimmy Butler did this…
Seerat: If you wanted to get really Butterfly Effect about this, the Bulls probably couldn’t have drafted Butler if they kept Aldridge, either, so there’s that. And is it just me, or is Hinrich actually doing a decent job on Lillard? This is not rhetorical. I think it really is just me.
Sean: Lillard just hit basically a 35-footer, so…
Seerat: Alright, fine. But Nate Robinson just turned the ball over and… wait, I forgot what my point was. Is it next week/April/November or whenever Derrick Rose is returning yet?
Sean: I’m not sure which feed you’re watching, but Mike and Mike are currently arguing that Rose having not come back yet makes him look bad. Because, you know, it’s not like they’ve seen what happened when Brandon Roy tried to come back from a knee surgery before he was ready. And now I’m thinking about Brandon Roy and I’m going to go drink battery acid. You may or may not want to join me.
Seerat: Ummm, I’ll just sip on this water beside me. You might want to see someone about that. I have the Stacey King feed, thank goodness. Wait, what? I don’t think I’ve ever uttered those words before. I don’t think ANYONE has ever uttered those words before. I guess this is what happens when Taj Gibson finally returns and you remember what it’s like to have a serviceable big man coming off the bench.
Sean: I’ll ignore the Stacey King thing. This is suddenly a 17-point game. One of the funniest things I’ve seen all year just happened: Eric Maynor (who I’m still adjusting to, because a serviceable backup point guard is as rare for the Blazers this season as a serviceable backup big is to the Bulls) just threw a lob intended for Hickson that went in on its own accord, and it looked exactly like Joakim Noah’s jump-shooting form.
Noah’s shot has always fascinated me. It’s like Kevin Martin’s shot, except he’s a center. You could run out a Maynor-Martin-Shawn Marion-Marcus Camby-Noah lineup and not have a conventional shooting form among them. Anyone I’m missing?
Seerat: I think that about covers it. OH AND NATE ROBINSON, WITH NO REGARD FOR CLOCK MANAGEMENT. He just scored the ball in four seconds, leaving about 12 seconds still left on the clock. Hurray, point guard! And what I mean by that is “hurry, Rose.” Just kidding. No. I mean, I don’t know anymore. I just never want to watch Nate play basketball ever again.
Sean: But he’s a former Eastern Conference Player of the Week, Seerat. How many Eastern Conference Player of the Week awards have you won?
Seerat: Kirk Hinrich is 0-3, 0-2 from the beyond the arc and has 2 turnovers. I want him to finish this game.
Sean: How the mighty have fallen. Didn’t you become a Bulls fan because of him?
Seerat: What? Oh, what’s that? Looks like the snow needs to be shovelled. See you after the break!
Sean: I don’t know what snow is. I think they closed the schools for a week once when I was in high school because there was a patch of black ice somewhere in downtown Portland.
Seerat: Actually, while we’re on the subject of players that we adore, how much money should the the Blazers throw at Hickson this summer? I mean, he’s already grabbed 11 rebounds.
Sean: I think Hickson might be my least favorite Blazer ever, aside from Raymond Felton. Not only because of his defense and shameless stat-padding, but because I have to hear constantly about his double-doubles as a signifier of his actual on-court value. He’s fine as a Reggie Evans-type 15-minutes-a-night hustle-and-energy guy (did I use enough buzzwords in that sentence?).
With that said, I’m already shopping for a jersey of the $7.5 million trade exception they’ll get this summer in a sign-and-trade with whichever GM decides to give him a four-year, $30 million contract this summer. Do the Nets have cap space?
Sean: OK, I have to ask. Do you think the Bulls are tanking on purpose to pressure Rose into coming back and saving the season? This is a 22-point game and it’s annoying me because the Blazers have a lottery protect they’re supposed to not lose to Charlotte.
Seerat: No. This is a Tom Thibodeau team. If they were going to tank, they would have done it in November. They should have, by the way. In reality, they just suck sometimes. Not sure which one I’d rather have.
Sean: That’s a tough one. The Blazers by all accounts aren’t actively tanking, they just suck most of the time. But I guess they caught the Bulls on an off-night with Lillard and Aldridge on fire and OMG MEYERS LEONARD WHAT
Seerat: Ugh. Getting a block on one end and a dunk on the other is totally a Bulls thing. Or it was, at least. And no other team ever did it. I’m going to jump off a cliff soon. By the way, would you say Meyers Leonard is your Jimmy Butler?
Sean:I would say that #TrillBarton is my Jimmy Butler, except Butler seems to know how to play basketball as of now. But I actually think Leonard’s ceiling is a lot higher than most people did when he was drafted. He’s athletic, mobile for a big man (which stems from having used to be a guard before a growth spurt in high school), is a good rebounder, and a solid midrange shooter. He’s inconsistent as hell on the defensive end, but he has the raw tools to be a good defender. I think he’ll put it together by the end of his rookie deal. Plus, his dunks and more importantly, his post-dunk celebrations, give him off-the-charts “White JaVale” potential, so you know I’m all about it.
Seerat: RT @DamianTrillard #TeamWhitePierre
Seerat: The Bulls just grabbed four offensive rebounds in one possession. They’re down 24 and there’s two minutes left in the third quarter. Last year, this is when the comeback-you-knew-was-coming happened. This year, I am sad.
Sean: The fourth quarter is about to start, and the Blazers lead by 27. I’m setting the over-under at the 2:30 mark as to when Thibodeau will pull Deng and Noah.
Seerat: Heading into the fourth quarter, the Bulls are down 27. Over/under on how many minutes Luol Deng, Marquis Teague and Malcolm Thomas (recent D-League pick up) play?
We just basically sent each other the same email. Love/hate you, Thibs.
Sean: Since this game is no longer interesting (barring a potential NateRob/Belinelli-led comeback, because why not?), I want to ask you something about Bulls fandom. I get that Rose is injured and the front office is cheap, but Bulls fans seem to be among the most self-hating on Twitter, right up there with Cavs and Bobcats fans. The team is still pretty good, no?
Seerat: I talked about this at length with Caleb Nordgren over at Pippen Ain’t Easy the other day. Here’s the thing. It’s a steep fall from being a 60 win team with an all-but-guaranteed Eastern Conference finals berth every single year to… well, this. I get that, and it sucks At the same time, if Rose comes back, they’re in the mix. And the “mix” is somewhere that at least two-third’s of NBA teams don’t get to be. That’s how I feel about it, at least.
Sean: Yeah. On the flip side, I’ve always sort of admired the continued optimism of most Blazers fans, especially this season. They keep winning games they’re not supposed to win (like beating Miami, Memphis, and the Knicks back when the Knicks were sort of good), and I keep reminding people that they have four and a half good basketball players (the half is being generous to Hickson), but now we’re at the point where they’re five games under .500 and the telecast is pushing a “Playoff Push Ticket Pack” featuring games against the Lakers and Thunder in April.
On another note, Hickson has 21 rebounds. New career high. Think I can bump that trade exception up to $8 or 8.5 million?
Seerat: Let’s reword that question… “Will the Blazers offer JJ Hickson a 4-year/$40 million contract?” The answer is yes, by the way. Oh, look. Marquis Teague finally got a chance to play and is doing objectively good things. Go figure.
Sean: I’m not saying correlation equals causation, but the Bulls cut the lead back down to 10 as soon as Terry Stotts put in Nolan Smith.
Seerat: … At which point Tom Thibodeau decided to start fouling with 33 seconds left in the game. It ain’t over till it’s over… except for when it’s over.
Sean: I know this was a blowout and Deng played pretty terribly, but this still feels like a typo:
Seerat: Does this mean I can chalk up tonights game as an anomaly?
Sean: I hope not, because Meyers Leonard looked legitimately good in stretches. But at least Taj is back. It gets better.
Seerat: IT’S GETTING BETTER ALLL THE TIME…
On that note, considering how I just typed out Beatles lyrics, it may be time to call it quits.