HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — It feels a bit foolish to question the championship credentials of the team that boasts the best record in the league for the second straight season, the reigning Coach of the Year and the league’s reigning MVP.
But how can we ignore the obvious?
As good as the Bulls have been without Derrick Rose in the lineup (16-7 and counting after last night’s revenge beating of the Knicks). The Bulls are good enough to sit atop the heap of contenders during the regular season, but is anyone in Chicago sleeping well at night wondering if they can do the same in the playoffs?
As good as Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and the rest of the Bulls have been under coach Tom Thibodeau‘s leadership this season without Rose, it has to be tough for Bulls fans to get overly excited about their championship prospects without Rose as close to 100 percent as possible.
You know there are plenty of folks dealing with restless nights thinking about their beloved Bulls struggling through this postseason without Rose fully healthy. The Bulls couldn’t get past the Heat last year with Rose at full strength. So there can’t be any comfort in the prospect of taking on the Heat (or Celtics) this time around with a diminished Rose.
Jon Greenberg of ESPNChicago.com knows exactly what we’re talking about here at the hideout when we ask the question:
The Bulls managed another win without Rose, but it’s clear he needs some playing time before the playoffs begin. With a deep bench, a healthy Hamilton and Thibodeau pulling the strings, the top-seeded Bulls should be peaking.
Chicago has become kind of a fantasy camp for basketball purists around the league. Everyone plays defense, even Carlos Boozer tries. The superstar is a no-nonsense guy and the coach runs the show.
But once the playoffs begin, reality encroaches as well. And no matter how good (Omer) Asik is at guarding the rim, the Bulls don’t make it out of the Eastern Conference playoffs without Rose. Maybe not out of the first round.
Eight games left. It’s getting serious.
The Bulls have shown themselves to be legitimate with and without Rose, which is perhaps their most compelling quality. But that doesn’t mean you’d be willing to ride with the Bulls in the postseason without a guarantee that Rose will at least be at his healthy best from start to finish.