After the Chicago Bulls lost to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals over a year ago, the future was bright. Derrick Rose was healthy and the reigning MVP, with a deep, young and talented squad around him. The NBA Finals and NBA titles were just around the corner for a very promising team.
Fast forward to July 2012, and those hopes and dreams are delayed for yet another year, maybe two. The Chicago Bulls had a very good regular season in 2011-2012, doing it without their best player for almost half the season, as Rose missed 27 games due to various injuries on almost every limb and organ in and on his body.
Still, the Bulls finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference, knowing, through stats and by simply knowing, that with Rose back and healthy for the postseason, they’re the favorites to win the East and the title. At least that’s what many in Chicago and around the NBA thought. At the end of Game 1 in the series between the Bulls and the 76ers, it fell apart. Rose tore his ACL. It wasn’t just a severe blow for what remained of the playoffs, as the Bulls got knocked out by the Sixers.
Rose is now projected to miss most of the 2012-2013 season as well. Early estimations said December-November, meaning Rose will miss one month of basketball. Now, we’ve got contrasting versions. Rose himself thinks his rehabilitation is going great, meaning he’ll be back sooner than most thought. The pessimistic, and maybe realistic predictions say he’ll be back after the trade deadline.
So the Bulls, without Rose, might need to write off another season as coulda, shoulda. Without Luol Deng to start the season as well, it’s hard seeing the Chicago Bulls, deep (not so deep anymore) and fantastic defensively as they might be, playing a major part in the power struggles in the East. At the moment, it looks like an easy road for the Miami Heat to the number one spot, with the rest of the teams fighting for spots 2-7.
So from being the most promising team in the NBA, the Bulls are on hold. They’d love to get rid of Carlos Boozer, but no one will take up that contract. Kyle Korver was traded to the Atlanta Hawks, Omer Asik left to the Houston Rockets and C.J. Watson, who filled in rather well for Rose during the regular season is gone as well. The Bulls seems like they’re giving up on next season, unless they have something quite unique lined up which no one can see at the moment.
They are getting close to Marco Belinelli and have already signed Kirk Hinrich, who never wanted to leave the Bulls in the first place a couple of years ago. Still, the overall feeling is that this is a transition year, hopefully turning out better than what it currently looks like.
It all comes down sometimes to one bad step, one bad call. Thibodeau took tons of criticism, in-house as well, for the way he handled Rose’s return. Was there anything he could have done differently? I’m not sure, but at the end of the day, you judge players, coaches and GMs by results, and not the road they took to get there.
The great window of opportunity for constant contention for the Eastern title and NBA dominance that seemed like such a sure thing 13 months ago and before Rose went down in the playoffs a few months ago doesn’t look so big and promising right now. Everything seems to reside on the recovery speed of a 23 year old point guard, the youngest MVP in NBA history and someone who might have had his best season way way too soon.