HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Chicago Bulls are going to be a very interesting team to watch next season. They’ve had the league’s best record each of the last two seasons, but will be missing Derrick Rose for most of this season. (K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune recently wrote that the 2010-11 MVP is “out until likely March.”)
The good news is that Luol Deng may not need surgery on his wrist and that the Bulls went 18-9 last season without Rose. So Joakim Noah has every right to believe in his team, as he made clear to ESPN Radio on Thursday.
“Right now, people are sleeping on us, and we’re all right with that. We know at the end of the day, come playoff time, we’ll be ready to go.”
“We’ve gone through a little bit of adversity, but I think we’re a team full of fighters. That’s what I love about Chicago, about the Bulls.”
But the 2012-13 Bulls aren’t the same as the 2011-12 Bulls that withstood Rose’s absence so well. Our Fran Blinebury already detailed how the supporting cast will be different (and cheaper).
This is a team, with or without Rose, that has won with defense over the last two years. Ronnie Brewer and Omer Asik were two of its best defenders, with the Bulls allowing just 88 points per 100 possessions (which is ridiculously good) in 1,118 minutes with the pair on the floor over the last two seasons. For one reason or another, Marco Belinelli and Nazr Mohammed don’t quite measure up to that Brewer-Asik combo.
Still, Noah is confident. And the NBA’s schedule-makers and TV executives seem to believe in the Bulls too, putting them on national TV 26 times next season, including a Christmas game against the new-look Rockets.
We know Rose won’t be back by then, but appropriately, most of Chicago’s national TV games come in February, March and April. And as Bulls.com’s Sam Smith writes, the Rose watch will be in full force by then…
How about Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on January 21st at home against the Lakers? Nah, too early.
What about the Heat’s first trip into the United Center right after the All-Star break February 21? Probably still too soon.
OK, what about Derrick Rose playing his first game of the 2012-13 season at home Saturday, March 2 against the Brooklyn Nets and C.J. Watson, who now thinks Deron Williams is the league’s best point guard?
That’s going to be the question every week for the Bulls once the midway point of the 2012-13 season passes. When will Derrick Rose return from ACL knee surgery, and how often?