Every so often the proverbial title window will open ever so slightly, propelling a team to make a run for the championship. For the Chicago Bulls, we saw this opening occur during the 2010 free agency period when the Bulls managed to bring many great pieces together. Unfortunately title windows are extremely fragile and the slightest disturbance can cause one to shut for years to come. Somewhere between trying to compete for the title, injuries and financial constrictions (and decisions) caused enough havoc to slam the window shut.
If the Bulls’ front office hasn’t come to that conclusion yet (as suggested by them not wanting to trade Luol Deng), I’m confident at some point before the trade deadline they will (hopefully). The team currently sits as the 10th seed in the Eastern Conference and has come off of some terrible losses to some of the worst teams the league has to offer. What concerns me more is Derrick Rose’s supposed reluctance to see the team rebuild and his failure to see that this nucleus’s title window has shut.
Upon being drafted by the Bulls, Rose was hailed as the the savior of Chicago basketball- the man who would once again lead the Chicago Bulls to glory. It’s a task that Rose was willing to take on and one that he still desperately wants to fulfill. Given that the Bulls can hang with any team and are viewed as a “title contender” when they’re healthy, it’s understandable why he’d want to keep the core together and compete for a title right now. Factor in Rose’s loyalty to his teammates and it’s even more understandable.
But Rose’s fear is incredibly shortsighted. In order to “compete” next season when he returns, Rose is willing to sacrifice future competitiveness of the team in two or three years for a shot next season. Normally I wouldn’t have a problem with this. Title windows remain open for a short time and when a team has an opportunity to compete they have to go for it. Unfortunately for Chicago and there’s nothing to suggest this Bulls team can realistically win a title. Yes, the team made the conference finals and lost a fairly close series to the Heat (the 4-1 overall is deceptive), but the Bulls had what was considered the best bench in the league and their health. Now they have neither. The “Bench Mob” has long been disbanded and the only person to avoid serious and/or recurring injuries is Carlos Boozer (somewhat ironically after his injury riddled years in Utah).
To invest years of money in a core that can’t manage to stay on the floor long enough to play is a ludicrous idea when it involves sacrificing the future of the team. I get it- no competitor wants to be part of a rebuild. However, if Chicago is willing to part with the guy(s) Rose is fearful of losing from the team they have the opportunity to get future assets as well as one or more good players in this year’s draft. Couple those draft picks with pieces in place (Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic) and it doesn’t seem as if a rebuild would take very long to accomplish.
Perhaps the most disconcerting thing about Rose potentially not wanting to be part of a rebuild is the influence it could have on how management handles the team moving forward. Generally front office personnel work to put together a title contending team as well as keep their star player(s) happy. Often times this entails that management bend to the will of what the superstar wants. It’s a common practice: the Cavaliers put together players Lebron James wanted; Otis Smith and the Orlando Magic made moves to get the kind of guys Dwight Howard wanted; the Lakers repeatedly make moves to keep Kobe Bryant happy.
Though Rose has suffered two major knee injuries, he remains the star of the team and has strong influence both on and off the court. If the rumors are true and Rose doesn’t want to be part of a rebuild (which, one could reasonably assume, means he would be unhappy if one were initiated), you have to wonder how much Gar Forman and John Paxson would listen to the murmurs. As it is management has already irked Rose by dismissing former assistant coach Ron Adams. Would they be willing to further alienate him by going against his wishes to continue competing in the short term? Because Chicago hasn’t had to deal with a star player in over a decade the answers remain unclear. But looking at how the league generally handles big time player, there should be serious concern that the front office will sacrifice the future for a faux-contending team just to keep Rose happy.
Just to clarify, none of this is to criticize Rose or condemn him for his loyalty and desire to win a title (unlike some other writers who shall not be named). I understand his concern to keep his teammates… his friends… around and win a title as soon as possible. He wants to fulfill his desire to be Chicago’s savior. But assuming Rose did say he doesn’t want the team to rebuild (remember it is nothing more than a rumor at this time) there are concerns with his short term thinking, especially if impacts how the front office handles roster moves going forward. It’ll be interesting to see when the Bulls come to a decision about the roster and what exactly that decision will be. But for now, we’re forced to wait and hope the front office makes the moves that’ll lead to a Larry O’Brien trophy coming back to Chicago.