Are the Bulls better without Derrick Rose?
But they certainly are taking care of business without him.
Mind you, the Bulls are also minus Joakim Noah (ankle), Taj Gibson (ankle) and John Lucas III (groin).
Depth? Neil Funk and Stacey King named Mike James (9 points and 10 assists) player of the game…and James was playing in the D-League two weeks ago.
Said James: “When you play with a team that really wants to make the extra pass for the next player and there is not a lot of selfishness on the team, you just have to blend in. You can’t be the lone wolf and think it’s all about you.
“You can just feel the vibe and the love because everyone wants to win. It’s not just about individual stats. That’s a championship locker room, that’s a championship team.”
What a team. What a system.
Don’t get me wrong. Taking down the Cavaliers and Bobcats on back-to-back nights without a handful of key players won’t win the Bulls a championship in June. It doesn’t even guarantee they’ll finish this lockout-shortened regular season with the league’s best record.
But the Bulls have the best record in the league right now. They’re weathering the brutal scheduling and inevitable injuries of this abbreviated season better than anybody else. And whatever the end result may be, that’s got to make Chicago fans feel good.
Said Rip Hamilton: “When guys are hurt, they cheer for guys that are out on the floor. In the NBA, that’s hard to find.”
Yeah, well, teams that go to war together the way the Bulls do are darn hard to find.
Hamilton had a season-high 20 points on efficient 9-for-15 shooting. That was a pretty heartening sign, considering Rip was brought in to give the team a little extra scoring punch to support D-Rose.
Speaking of extra scoring punch, Carlos Boozer (23 points and 9 rebounds) has been bringing it in Rose’s absense. Booz has averaged 24 points on 57 percent shooting over the past three games.
Said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau: “Carlos has been playing at a very high level now for a number of games. He’s in rhythm, he’s walking into his shots, he’s got great balance.”
And let’s not forget the contributions of Luol Deng (22 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists), C.J. Watson (11 points and 9 assists), and Omer Asik (15 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocked shots).
It was Asik’s first career start. Not too shabby.
Said Boozer: “Look at Omer. At the last minute, [we] find out that Jo can’t go. Omer comes in and has 15 rebounds, plays like a man in there. Get him in that rookie/sophomore game by the way. Vote for Omer Asik.”
Give John Paxson and Gar Forman a lot of credit. They have done an amazing job managing this team. And it is excellently coached by Thibs.
There’s very little not to like about this Bulls squad.
I’ll admit, I’m still wary of the Miami Heat, even if they did lose to the Milwaukee Bucks today. When push comes to playoff shove, will the Bulls have the firepower to go toe-to-toe with a (presumably) healthy Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James? Will anybody?
Of course, just last June, the Dallas Mavericks showed that great team chemistry can trump that trio of superstars (well, if you want to call Bosh a superstar, which may be stretching things a bit).
If any team this season could replicate that achievement, it would be these Bulls.
In the short term, though, injuries are becoming more and more of a concern, depth or no. Rose is still day-to-day with his toe injury. Ditto for Gibson. Also ditto for Deng, who sprained his left wrist against the Bobcats. Noah thinks he’ll be ready to go against the New Jersey Nets on Monday, but man, the Bulls are getting more shorthanded by the day.
But what can they do? Play. Just play. It’s been working pretty well so far.