Only one word comes to mind when trying to sum up this past season for the Chicago Bulls. That word would be, ‘fantastic’. The Bulls season was surrounded by the supposed return of the home-town hero Derrick Rose, and most fans and sports writers were begging for that day to come. Once they realized more and more that the day was no upon us, the Bulls still found a way to capture the attention of the whole basketball world. Taking the new-look Brooklyn Nets to seven games and winning game 7 on the road with their second biggest star in the hospital. And to top it all off, they stole game 1 in the conference semi-finals against the Miami Heat. The team showed nothing but heart to combat all of the odds that were stacked against them until they literally could not fight another ounce. The most intriguing question to the whole situation that everyone seemed to ask themselves was, “What if Derrick Rose came back and played this post-season?” I do not know how you could not think about it and say that without a question a Derrick Rose lead Bulls team takes Miami seven games and who knows what happens then. The only real answer is we will never know, until the upcoming season starts and the franchise player is back on the court and in uniform.
Key Additions: SG Mike Dunleavy (Free Agent); SF Tony Snell (NBA Draft, 20th Overall)
Key Losses: PG Nate Robinson (Free Agent); SG Marco Belinelli (Free Agent); SG Richard Hamiliton (Free Agent)
Player to Watch For: The player everyone will be watching for across the league will not be in South Beach but will be playing in Chicago. Derrick Rose has missed a full 82 game regular season and is looking to capitalize on the time off the court. I commend him for being patient and hopefully the time off will prove beneficial for the organization and the fan base. He will have the biggest stage to start his comeback campaign as the Bulls will travel to Miami to face the defending world champions on opening night and watch yet again, LeBron and company raise a banner. The same banner that Rose took his time to get right and focus on for this upcoming season. The same banner that if Rose were rushed back, could hamper his freakish abilities that made him one of the best players on the planet today. I believe the first sign we will know he is back is when he drives to the lane after crossing up the defender and making one of his patented acrobatic layups, and the crowd in the American Airlines Arena drop their heads with respect as they know that guy is back and the Chicago Bulls are coming.
Area of Focus: Honestly, the Bulls do not have a weak area or area that needs focus, and they are one of the few teams that have this luxury. Their only weakness is the only thing that can derail all teams: injuries. If this Chicago Bulls team can stay healthy, they can get back to the playoffs and making some serious noise. Coach Tom Thibodeau has this team disciplined and always giving maximum effort on both ends of the court. There is no reason why that would change this year, or any year he is on the bench.
Intriguing Question: What do the Bulls do with Luol Deng? I can not imagine what the Bulls will look like without the All-Star forward on the roster. It is a perfectly good question to start asking as the Bulls do not look likely to retain Deng’s services after this season. According to media reports, the Bulls have stalled on contract negoiations with Deng and with his status up in the air, Deng is not trying to focus on it during the season. The bigger issue is, if the Bulls let Deng go, then who takes his place? Do the Bulls draft a SF to step in right away and play? Do they pursue one of the big name free-agents-to-be during the off-season to pair with Derrick Rose? The front office needs to make the message clear to their star player. As stated earlier by Rose himself, he will not actively recruit other players to come play with him and that puts the onus on management to surround their franchise star with the talent to compete year after year. The major concern has to be if the Bulls do not sign Luol Deng to a new contract, what are they telling their players and fan base about the future? That question remains to be answered.
Season Prediction: 53-29 I just feel that the Bulls will always do what their calling is, play defense and follow the lead of Derrick Rose. Now they have a few additional weapons to play with, and Jimmy Butler proved he could be a starter in this league. They will most certainly miss the energy and scoring punch of Nate Robinson and the outside shooting of Marco Belinelli. It is good to have Kirk Hinrich as a solid backup to Rose and the rookie Tony Snell will have plenty of time to develop and polish his game before becoming a factor on this team. I think with Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng having something to prove this year and possibly auditioning for other teams come the next off-season, they just might have added fuel to getting the Bulls back to playoffs with a deep run. Do not be surprised if we see the Bulls vs. Heat conference finals match-up, it just happens to fit nicely together.
Make sure to grab your Bulls tickets for the 2013-14 season to see Rose back in action!