Well, Derrick Rose returned to a performance that could have served him well at the high-visibility all-star game. Despite a bruised hip, Rose made his first nine shots and poured in 29 points on 14 of 18 shooting, leading the Bulls to a 118-85 win against the Knicks. Clearly, the panacea for Rose, as it is for most teams, was to play the the Knicks, who have lost 7 of their last 8 games, and whom the Bulls have the good fortune of playing again tonight on the back side of a home-and-home set.
Furthering the everyone-is-better-against-the-Knicks theme, Luol Deng was the second leading scorer for the bulls, pouring in 18 on 8 of 12 shooting.
Another symptom of playing a horrible team two nights in a row is that trade talks become even more fascinating by comparison. The latest news, not-so-ironically, is that the Bulls are also battling the New York Knicks off the court to land one of the most coveted things any team can acquire this year – a big expiring contract. And Tracy McGrady has one. These days, that’s about the only coveted thing he has.
While the Knicks supposedly look to deal rookie Jordan Hill, Larry Hughes, and Jared Jefferies, the Bulls reportedly are offering Tyrus Thomas, Brad Miller, and either John Salmons or Kirk Hinrich.
It appears the Bulls have the edge over the Knicks, mainly because Jefferies’ contract (he is due 6 million next year, plus an additional 2 if he is traded), is not attractive to the Rockets.
Let’s face it, any move that makes the Bulls more financially prepared to pick-up a Dwayne Wade or Chris Bosh is a good one. As long as there is a legit possibility of acquiring one of them (even the typically directionless Knicks are wary of parting with young talent on the possibility of landing a big name), and as long as the team that remains contains a strong supporting cast.
Consider Luol Deng to be a second key (the first, of course, being Rose) to what kind of team could lure a superstar to the Chicago. Still only 24 years old this April, Deng needs to stay healthy and maintain his solid status an 18 ppg scorer throughout the rest of the season. If he can live up to that “great third starter” status on a Rose /(Wade/Bosh)/Deng-led team, then maybe one of the two guys in parentheses will actually realize the potential that those of us who follow the team with regularity see.
What does McGrady have to say about all this? “I’m ready to play for whoever,” McGrady said in an e-mail last night. Ah, there’s the kind of dedication that has teams fighting over the most valuable thing he can offer – the right to fire him at the end of the year.