Chicago Bulls season preview: Roster analysis

The 2014-2015 NBA season is approaching fast and I for one, can’t wait for tip-off. The Chicago Bulls’ front office was busy this summer and made some great additions to the team.
Noah throwing it down
Eight players remain from last year’s roster and the multitudes of fresh faces are sure to bring some new approaches to the bulls. Returning this season are Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Kirk Hinrich, Nazr Mohammed, Toney Snell, and Mike Dunleavy.
New in town
The biggest acquisition for Chicago this offseason was former L.A. Laker, Pau Gasol. In addition to Gasol, the bulls finally brought Nikola Mirotic to the United States from Spain. The bulls drafted Mirotic in 2011 and have been waiting for him to develop further in the Euroleague before they finally signed him to a contract.
The bulls picked up two guys in the draft and both of them ended up making the team. There was no doubt in my mind that Doug McDermott would make the team but I was pleasantly surprised when Australian pow

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Chicago Bulls C Joakim Noah Gives Tony Snell Funniest Nickname Ever

Since the dawn of modern sports it seems nicknames have been synonymous with its athletes. Often times a player is better known by his or her given moniker than their own birth name.
Inevitably some are far more clever than others with the classic pairing of the first letter of a player’s first name with their last name such as D-Rose, D-Wade, or D-Will taking virtually no thought but being pretty much timeless whereas calling Kevin Durant the Slim Reaper is simply brilliant.
The first key to having a nickname is being given one, not choosing one. When it comes to giving nicknames it seems the Chicago Bulls’ Joakim Noah fancies himself an unofficial master.
Witness a good performance by Taj Gibson and don’t be surprised if you hear Noah shouting Tajy-woo! Apparently Kirk Hinrich has been forced to accept the fact he is known by his teammate as Kirky Werky.
He may not like hearing this, but I like Noah’s nickname giving ability to that of an embarrassing grandmother. However, that somehow makes them al

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Chicago Bulls Release Starting Lineup

The Chicago Bulls began their 2014-15 season the other day with their annual media day. While excitement is beginning to build, there is still a long way to go before the season starts. That didn’t stop head coach Tom Thibodeau from announcing the team’s starting lineup.
According to CBS Sports, Coach Thibs will have the following players on the court when the season beings October 29 in New York:
PG: Derrick Rose
SG: Jimmy Butler
SF: Mike Dunleavy
PF: Pau Gasol
C: Joakim Noah
Nothing too crazy here. Unfortunately the Doug McDermott fans will need to wait a bit before the rookie makes a potential appearance with the starting unit.

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Do Chicago Bulls Have More to Fear in East Than Just Cleveland Cavaliers?

Chicago Bulls fans are hungry. With LeBron James back on the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Miami Heat a shadow of their former selves, the Eastern Conference seems more open in 2014-15 than it has in years. The Bulls can see a clearer path to the top. They aren’t alone in their focus and thirst, however. The Eastern Conference has its crop of rising teams seeing the same opportunity as the Bulls.

Cleveland has a ton of new, moving parts. James’ dominant play is a certainty, and so is the talent of his two elite running mates—Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. But they’re led by David Blatt, a seemingly smart coach but a first-time NBA head man, and neither Love nor Irving has ever played a minute of playoff ball. However much of a dynasty the Cavs may become, it might not happen this year.

Enter Chicago. The Bulls have a ton of their own issues to sort out. Derrick Rose still hasn’t looked like a superstar for more than one game at a time since tearing his ACL in 2012. They’re thin at small forward, relying on an aged Mike Dunleavy Jr. and quick progress from either Tony Snell, Doug McDermott or both.

If the Cavaliers aren’t ready to take the conference right away, though, the Bulls are a compelling and even rational case to reach the NBA Finals. Coach Tom Thibodeau’s defensive system is the best in the league, and it will be a surprise to the world if the Bulls aren’t a steel wall yet again this year.

They won 48 games in 2013-14 largely on the strength of their principles and the relentless preparation and intensity of Thibodeau, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson.

If Rose is healthy and even a lukewarm approximation of his former self and if Pau Gasol, McDermott or Nikola Mirotic move the needle offensively, the Finals are a real, tangible goal. The same, however, can be said for some other overlooked teams in the East. The Washington Wizards—responsible for ending the Bulls’ 2014 playoff campaign—Toronto Raptors and Charlotte Hornets are all fearsome, ready rivals.

 

Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets’ philosophies are remarkably similar to those of the Bulls. Led by head coach Steve Clifford, a sort of student of Thibodeau’s, Charlotte’s defensive performance is also sure to frustrate the rest of basketball this year.

With another season playing under Clifford’s tenets and added firepower in Lance Stephenson, the Hornets are a scary competitor. Luckily Chicago has one of the deepest NBA frontcourts, which it’ll need to try and stop the Hornets’ post-scoring beast, Al Jefferson.

Between Cody Zeller, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kemba Walker—three young and still-improving players—the Hornets are bound to improve internally in 2014-15. And in Stephenson, they have arguably the best young 2-guard in the game.

Whether it’s this year or next, Charlotte is coming for the Eastern crown. The Bulls are a superior team for now (they’re deeper, more talented and more experienced), but even one injury to an integral player could tip the scales the Hornets’ way should the teams meet in the playoffs.

 

Washington Wizards

The Wizards’ men down low proved too challenging for the Bulls this past spring. Noah suddenly didn’t look anywhere close to deserving of his 2014 Defensive Player of the Year trophy up against Nene, a wide Brazilian center with a smooth jump shot, and Marcin Gortat, a bruising Polish big man whose dexterity in the lane has increased with every season. 

Taj Gibson played admirably in the series, but the Bulls mustered just one win before hanging up their shoes for the summer.

Between Nene, Gortat and the surging young backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal, Washington simply had more weapons than Chicago. And this summer, it brought in Paul Pierce—one of the deadliest playoff performers of his generation, who showed he still has it with the Brooklyn Nets in 2014-15.

The Wizards lost Trevor Ariza over the summer, although Pierce takes his place, instantly improving the Wizards’ crunch-time attack and half-court offense in general. But he’s a slower, less athletic defender.

If the Bulls have enough productivity from the small forward spot this year, they just might be able to exploit Pierce on that end. Given Wall’s terrific defensive performance in 2013-14, Rose is going to need the extra help if the Bulls want to avenge last year’s bitter playoff end.

 

Toronto Raptors

North of the border, the Raptors are building something special. Arguably the deepest team in the NBA, Toronto boasts a rotation that goes easily 10 deep. General manager Masai Ujiri has once again combed through the forgotten talent of the league (as he did with the Denver Nuggets) to put together a crew with great chemistry, stamina and scoring potential.

Led by Kyle Lowry and DeMar Derozan—fresh off a stint with Team USA—the Raptors also feature one of the best young bigs around in Jonas Valanciunas.

The Raptors are very young. The rigors of a seven-game series undid them against the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the postseason this past spring. Toronto regularly unwound late in games as Pierce, Joe Johnson and Company calmly took control.

If the Bulls meet the Raptors in the playoffs and they still fumble in the spotlight, Chicago should take care of them in short order. But the Raptors won’t stay young forever, and when they’re ready, they just might have enough tools to beat the Bulls.

Don’t forget about Toronto just because it isn’t on your TV as much this season. Along with the Wizards and Hornets, the Raptors are all more than capable of pulling off better seasons than the Bulls. Good as things look from Lake Michigan, as Chicago boasts its best roster on paper since Michael Jordan left town, it’s still far too early to declare the East a two-horse race. The Bulls need to keep their eyes open.

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Chicago Bulls Are Concerned About Derrick Rose’s FIBA Decline

After a great start to the FIBA World Championships this summer, Derrick Rose steadily declined. Reports are surfacing that the Bulls are worried.
Why Be Concerned?
Brian Windhorst, from ESPN, seems to think that “concerned” is the only word to use for the Chicago Bulls’ feelings on Rose thus far. Why? Let’s start with his 1/19 shooting from three-point range. Windhorst said he thinks the decline was because Rose showed up in better shape than most of the other NBA players due to his rehab training at the start, but then he slowly regressed. The numbers back that up.
Rose had 12 points in his first game with the USA, he only matched that one other time the rest of the tournament. His average FG% was only 25.4% and the only three-pointer he made was in his first game. It would appear that fatigue and strength throughout a full NBA season has the Bulls concerned.
What Does Rose Think?
Rose did a short interview with ESPN describing his feelings about the game and said he knows where he has to improve.

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Breaking Down Chicago Bulls’ Point Guard Position for 2014-15

The Chicago Bulls have depth at every position, especially the point guard spot. Perhaps one of the league’s five best players when healthy, Derrick Rose is back and ready to shine. Joining him is longtime Bull and fan favorite Kirk Hinrich as well as key newcomer Aaron Brooks.

Can D-Rose stay healthy for a full season? That’s the question every Chicago fan wants to know the answer to. The three-time All-Star sat out the entire 2012-13 campaign after tearing his ACL, and a right meniscus injury forced him to miss all but 10 games a season ago.

If Rose does manage to avoid the injury bug, the Bulls will have a legitimate chance of winning a title in 2015. But, of course, they’ll also need contributions from other players like Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson.

It’s time to break down Chicago’s point guard position. What happened last year, and what should we look for this season?

 

Last Season’s Performance

Bulls fans hoped Rose would make a triumphant return last season, but that obviously never materialized.

When he actually did play, he didn’t look much like his old self. The 2011 MVP averaged just 15.9 points and 4.3 assists while shooting a miserable 35.4 percent from the field. Those numbers are understandable, though, seeing that he hadn’t played for a year. It takes a while to shake off rust.

If the meniscus injury never occurred, Rose could’ve ended up having a great year. It appeared he was starting to turn the corner, scoring 19 points in three of his final four games. Too bad we were robbed of seeing him play for a whole season.    

With Rose on the shelf, Hinrich moved into the starting lineup as his replacement. This was nothing new for the veteran, who filled in for Rose the previous season as well.

Hinrich averaged 9.3 points and 3.9 assists on 39.3 percent shooting overall (35.1 percent from three-point land).

Offensively, he was simply brutal at times. His one-point, 0-of-10 shooting performance versus the Milwaukee Bucks is a perfect example. The sad part is that he logged nearly 40 minutes during that contest.

Yet Hinrich’s tough-nosed, gritty defense as well as his leadership skills made him a respectable starter.

Backing up “Captain Kirk” was D.J. Augustin, who the Bulls signed in December. The University of Texas product went from being cut by the Toronto Raptors to emerging as one of Chicago’s top players.

He contributed 14.9 points and five assists per game while shooting a nice 41.1 percent from long distance. That’s not bad at all for a guy who sat on the end of the Raptors’ bench earlier in the season. 

Augustin rejuvenated his career during his lone season as a Bull. In a way, he resembled a shorter version of Rose due to his scoring ability, quickness and clever ball-handling.   

While Noah was clearly the team’s MVP, Augustin had a lot to do with Chicago’s successful season.         

Overall Grade: B-

 

Offseason Movement

Augustin left Chicago during the summer, signing a two-year deal with the Detroit Pistons. That’s a shame because he and Rose could’ve formed quite a duo this year.    

The Bulls were able to re-sign Hinrich, though. It wasn’t a surprising move since he fits perfectly in coach Tom Thibodeau’s defensive system. This will be Hinrich’s 10th season with the club.

Free agent Brooks was signed to replace Augustin. Like Augustin, the fellow 6-footer is a solid scorer who doesn’t play elite defense.

Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley pointed out that the Bulls can hide his weaknesses: ”For Brooks, he’s headed to a team built to mask his weaknesses and maximize his strengths. Coach Tom Thibodeau may not seem like the best teacher for Brooks and his lightning-quick trigger, but history shows the defensive guru has enjoyed plenty of success with undersized scoring guards.”

This is true. Backup point guards like Nate Robinson and Augustin have flourished under Thibs in the past. Brooks may be the next guy to do so.

 

What to Expect

Rose will be the Bulls’ starting point guard in 2014-15. Well, he will be unless Hinrich or Brooks miraculously wins the job during training camp. And we know that’s not happening.

Can he return to the MVP player he was a few years back? If he can avoid the injured list, anything is possible.

Rose didn’t look very MVP-like at this summer’s FIBA World Cup. He struggled mightily when it came to shooting the ball. Yet Bulls vice president John Paxson doesn’t seem too worried, per Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.  

I know that everyone is paying attention to his numbers. I’m certainly not. I’ve liked the way he’s moved on the floor, his explosiveness. You see at times where he just turns on the jets and explodes. Those are the things I focus on.

Here’s Rose showcasing his explosiveness by dunking on Finland:

Look for him to have a healthy All-Star campaign.

Hinrich will head back to the bench and serve as Rose’s primary backup. He’ll likely see a little time at the shooting guard spot as well. Expect the usual Hinrich-type season, meaning he’ll remain a quality role player.

Brooks, an insurance policy for both Rose and Hinrich, is the team’s third-string point guard. We may see him on the floor with Rose at times in a “small-ball” lineup.

But he shouldn’t expect a lot of playing time since Thibodeau doesn’t normally use a deep rotation.

  

 All stats are from Basketball-Reference.com.

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Complete Chicago Bulls 2014 Training Camp Preview

The Chicago Bulls‘ training camp begins Tuesday, September 30. Their first preseason game is on Monday, October 6 at the United Center (full preseason schedule here) against the Washington Wizards—the team that ousted them from the first round of last year’s playoffs.

The 2014-15 NBA campaign is nearly here, and the Bulls have a lot to figure out between now, then and beyond. They’ve got a logjam in the frontcourt, new players young and old (say hello to Aaron Brooks, Pau Gasol, Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic) plus former MVP Derrick Rose looking to make a full return.

But there is a clear, if preliminary, depth chart in place. Let’s take a look at what the Bulls have, position by position, in preparation for the team’s most important season of the Tom Thibodeau era.

Begin Slideshow

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Bench Role Won’t Prevent Taj Gibson from Making Major Impact for Chicago Bulls

Taj Gibson doesn’t need a starting spot to play a starring role for the Chicago Bulls.

That was the case when the versatile big man helped the franchise survive another (largely) Derrick Rose-less campaign last season, and it hasn’t changed despite the massive influx of talent around him this year.

After posting career marks nearly across the board in 2013-14—including points (13.0), assists (1.1), field-goal attempts (10.9) and win shares (5.7)—Gibson appeared as if he may have grown out of his reserve part. There was even a report out that he felt the same way.

“Privately, Gibson isn’t too thrilled with the prospect of continuing to be a reserve, according to multiple people familiar with the situation,” reported Comcast SportsNet‘s Aggrey Sam, “but the upbeat, team-first player values winning and chemistry too much to make it an issue or distraction.” 

According to Gibson, though, he’s more than happy to reprise the sixth-man role that nearly netted him some individual hardware last season:

His sentiment isn‘t hard to follow.

Despite making only eight starts last season, Gibson was able to establish himself as a difference-making member of Chicago’s interior. A strong defender, underrated scorer and relentless rebounder, he became an indispensable piece of coach Tom Thibodeau‘s closing lineup.

Gibson’s insatiable energy is the first part of his game that catches the eye, but as Thibodeau told Bulls.com’s Sam Smith, the 29-year-old hits the hardwood with a well-rounded skill set:

Some people may view him as more a defensive player, but there’s so much more to him than that. If you look statistically at what he did in the fourth quarter, he was our most efficient player in the fourth quarter, shooting a very high percentage, second highest scorer, very good back to the basket, facing up from 17 feet, running the floor, second shots. He’s really become a complete player.

Defensively, Gibson is among the NBA‘s most intimidating interior presences.

He finished last season ranked 13th in total blocks (112), despite seeing only 28.7 minutes a night. And he contested even more shots than he sent away. Of the 75 players who faced at least five shots at the rim per game, he had the eighth-lowest field-goal percentage against on those attempts (44.9), via NBA.com’s SportVU player tracking data.

To put that second number in better perspective, Gibson’s opponents found less success at the rim against him than they did against Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah (47.2), blocks leader Serge Ibaka (45.0) and five-time All-Defensive team selection Dwight Howard (48.1).

Even with four-time All-Star Pau Gasol and decorated rookie Nikola Mirotic added to Chicago’s frontcourt equation, Gibson should not be hurting for playing time.

With the defensive-minded Thibodeau at the helm, Gibson’s commitment to that end of the floor will make him tough to sit. He held opposing 4s to a well-below-average 13.2 player efficiency rating last season, via 82games.com, a significantly lower number than power forwards produced against the 34-year-old Gasol (23.8).

As teams continue leaning heavily on pick-and-roll offense, Gibson’s gift for stifling that attack is invaluable. He held opposing screeners to a paltry 37.5 percent shooting, via Synergy Sports (subscription required), and yielded only a 37.7 percent conversion rate to spot-up shooters, a remarkable number considering the ground he must cover to rotate out to a gunner.

The Bulls should be a dramatically improved offensive club, between the additions of Gasol, Mirotic and fellow rookie Doug McDermott, along with the return of a hopefully healthy Rose. Still, it’s not as if this team will abandon its defensive identity. Not after three top-two finishes in defensive efficiency over the last four seasons.

If Thibodeau is thinking defense—and he always is—then he’ll be thinking about Gibson early and often.

Still, it wouldn’t be right to label Gibson as a defensive specialist. Not with the tremendous strides he’s made at the opposite side.

He has the athleticism to rent a room above the rim, but as Comcast SportsNet‘s Mark Strotman explained, Gibson saw rare simultaneous improvements in quantity and quality as a jump-shooter last season:

He attempted 384 shots between 10 feet and the 3-point line – per basketball-reference.com – which for this article we’ll assume were all jump shots. Those 384 attempts were more than his 2012 and 2013 attempts from the same area combined (357), which in most cases would mean a less efficient area of Gibson’s game (more attempts, percentages naturally go down).

Instead, Gibson was a lights-out jump shooter. He connected on 40.1 percent of his midrange jumpers, up nearly three percentage points from 2013 (37.5 percent on just 189 attempts) and 2012 (37.5 percent on 168 attempts). It was a career-high for Gibson, whose previous best mark was his rookie season (39.7 percent on 269 attempts).

Essentially, Gibson moved into Gasol’s territory as a mid-range shooter.

Gibson attempted 361 shots at a distance between 10 to 19 feet away from the basket, per NBA.com, and converted 39.9 percent of those looks. Gasol attempted 316 such shots and connected on 41.8 percent of them.

Gasol has the scoring edge over Gibson, but the gap between them is a lot closer than their points-per-game averages suggest (17.4 and 13.0, respectively).

This doesn’t mean that Gibson is on the same offensive plane as Gasol.

The latter’s ability to create offense for himself and his teammates is a weapon the former doesn’t have in his arsenal. The Bulls can—and should—tap into Gasol’s offensive production as much as they possibly can, particularly with Rose needing to shake off the rust left from two seasons essentially lost to serious knee injuries.

However, it would be foolish to think that Gasol’s arrival will bury Gibson on the bench. Thibodeau has major plans for each of his best three bigs.

“I know all three are going to have a significant role,” Thibodeau said during an appearance on 87.7 FM The Game’s Kap & Haugh Show, via Comcast SportsNet. “I have 96 minutes there and I look at all three of those guys as starters.”

Obviously all three can’t actually be starters, and it seems likely the less-heralded Gibson will back up his All-Star frontcourt mates.

Still, all three can make a major impact on this team. Gibson will fill the same energetic role he has for the last five seasons in the Windy City, locking down the defensive interior, freeing ball-handlers with solid screens and wreaking havoc on the offensive glass.

For a team that dominates defensively, plays with incredible passion and transforms the art of playing hard from an intangible pursuit into tangible production, Gibson is a pivotal piece of Chicago’s puzzle.

He doesn’t need a starting gig to validate his importance.

The secret is already out on how good Gibson can be, regardless of where he begins his night.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

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Derrick Rose Enters Next Season as Chicago Bulls’ Biggest Question Mark

The Chicago Bulls watched Derrick Rose play during the FIBA Basketball World Cup, but they still haven’t really seen him—not the way they need to.

So as training camp approaches and Rose tries to retake center stage, a Bulls team with title aspirations still has more questions than answers about its most important player.

 

Is He Healthy?

That depends on the definition of healthy.

Rose knocked out nine games in 16 days at the World Cup, a stretch of condensed action far more grueling than any he’ll face in the upcoming NBA season. That’s a positive sign on its face, as even the most optimistic of Rose’s supporters likely had doubts about his ability to simply stay on the floor.

At the same time, Rose wasn’t logging big chunks of high-intensity play. He averaged just 17.1 minutes per game, a great many of which occurred in low-leverage situations after the outcome was already decided.

And as good as the FIBA competition was, it still fell far short of what Rose will face with the Bulls this year.

The best thing you can say about how Rose fared in the World Cup is that he survived. Chicago will need him to do much more than that in 2013-14.

 

Can He Shoot?

Once upon a time, Rose could really shoot.

Per Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry, Rose’s 2009-10 season featured flat-out elite jump-shooting:

In that season, only three players attempted more midrange shots than Rose: Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Durant. But Rose outshot all of those hacks (jk, jk) in terms of field goal percentage in the midrange. Of the 25 NBA players who attempted at least 500 midrange shots that year, Rose ranked first in efficiency, knocking down 47 percent of his 794 midrange attempts.

In subsequent years, Rose phased out the mid-range shot and substituted triples. Per Basketball-Reference, only about 5 percent of Rose’s shots came from beyond the arc in his first two NBA seasons. Over the ensuing three campaigns, more than 25 percent of his field-goal tries were threes.

Analytically, threes are smarter shots to take. But Rose’s accuracy suffered immensely after the swap, and it hasn’t ever recovered.

Maybe the 2009-10 season was an outlier. Or perhaps Rose’s mechanics changed because of his increased three-point attempts. Whatever the case, D-Rose’s outside shot has been an issue throughout his lengthy rehab process.

All along the way, he’s claimed improvement. And even after struggling through a mighty slump in the World Cup, he confidently told reporters “I think I found it now, just changed one little thing” before the U.S. took on Slovenia on Sept. 9, per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

Rose would connect on six of his 10 shots in a blowout win over Slovenia, but he didn’t make a single one from outside the paint.

Whether Rose will truly rediscover his stroke for the Bulls this season—something he must do in order to keep defenders honest enough for him to get to the hole—remains a huge question. All we know for sure is this: Rose’s field-goal percentage has declined in each of the last four seasons he’s played, and he’s never shot better than 34 percent from long range.

The Bulls added shooting over the summer in the form of Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic, but they’ll still need Rose to be at least a marginal threat from outside the lane.

 

Can He Play Like He Used To?

Rose’s jumper won’t matter quite as much if he scores in transition and attacks the rim like he did three years ago.

The problem: Chicago still doesn’t know if he can do those things.

Deferential to a fault in the World Cup, Rose offered up only the briefest flashes of his old head-down, run-through-a-wall style. A little discretion is probably a good thing for a player coming off two seasons lost to injury, but even just one sustained stretch of vintage Rose would have eased the Bulls’ concerns about his physical health and mental state.

Still, the flashes were pretty cool.

Rose can’t be a facilitator who picks his spots if Chicago is going to make any real noise in the Eastern Conference. He has to be the primary weapon.

 

Can He Retake Control of the Bulls?

There’s a fascinating, under-discussed subplot to Rose’s impending return: The Bulls aren’t his team anymore.

Two years with Rose on the sideline created a leadership void in Chicago—one filled by a two-man committee of Tom Thibodeau and Joakim Noah. Thibs became the organization’s most iconic figure on the strength of his no-compromise approach and renowned defensive scheming. He got more out of the past two years’ Bulls teams than anybody had a right to.

Noah took over as Chicago’s heart—its emotional leader and most impactful on-court presence. He collected a Defensive Player of the Year award last season, an indication the NBA cognoscenti acknowledged his rise to prominence.

It would be a mistake to assume Rose will saunter back into Bulls primacy.

He’s been gone too long, surrounded by too many questions and never really had the outspoken, take-charge personality you normally associate with leaders. The Bulls should be somewhat concerned at the way Rose so willingly took on a secondary role in the World Cup, despite the urging of his coaches.

Per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski said:

He’s being very unselfish, trying to be a good teammate. It all comes from a good place. He knows the defensive ball pressure is there. He wants to distribute the ball. He’s in a lot of times when DeMarcus (Cousins) is in to try to get him the ball. We would like for him to look for his stuff as well.

That’s hardly a knock, but it’s cause for pause.

Because Rose is reserved by nature, he’ll find it hard to snatch back the reins he once held in Chicago. And if he plays in as subdued a fashion as he did in Spain, it may be impossible.

 

Will We Ever Be Satisfied?

There’s only one thing Rose can do to appease Bulls fans and the public at large: play exactly like the MVP he once was.

It’s amazing Rose is healthy after all he’s been through, and when he labels an underwhelming (but healthy) return to competitive basketball a success, maybe it’s a sign we should relax our own expectations.

Per Scoop Jackson of ESPN.com:

He gave himself an A, when asked how would he grade his overall performance during the FIBA Basketball World Cup. Despite the suspect assist-to-turnover ratio, the anemic outside shooting, the visible problems he had finishing, and the fact that once he lost his starting spot to Kyrie Irving he never got it back, Rose still personally won.

It’s not fair or realistic to always measure a player against the impossibly high standards he set in the past, especially when the circumstances that have befallen that player make a return to the pinnacle so unlikely. The Bulls may not take the same unrealistic approach to Rose’s return as most fans do, but the fact remains that—fair or not—Rose will have to be every bit as good as he once was in order to get the Bulls where they hope to go.

And Chicago simply can’t know if he’ll measure up until the season begins.

 

The Only Question That Matters

The biggest question of all is the only one with an answer.

If Rose isn’t his old MVP self, are the Bulls contenders?

No way.

Adding Pau Gasol and improving the team’s shooting on the wing makes Chicago better, but Rose’s ability to lead, to dominate, remains singularly important.

Can Jimmy Butler take the next step?

Will Noah remain healthy?

Is Taj Gibson going to be cool with coming off the bench again?

These are all pressing questions, but they impact the Bulls less than Rose, who is, at this point, nothing but a collection of questions himself.

The good news: Training camp is just a couple of weeks away.

The Bulls are about to get some answers.

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Chicago Bulls sign guard E’Twaun Moore

Chicago Bulls sign former Orlando Magic guard E’Twaun Moore

      
 

 

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