Derrick Rose, John Salmons, Kirk Hirich, Jannero Pargo and (rarely) Lindsey Hunter in the backcourt. Luol Deng (assuming he’s healthy), Tyrus Thomas, James Johnson and Taj Gibson at the forward positions. Joakim Noah and Brad Miller playing center. Aaron Gray and Jerome James watching silently from the end of the bench.
Barring the inexplicable and unforseen, those are your 2009-10 Chicago Bulls.
According to Bulls GM Gar Forman: “The roster (is set) as of now. We talk to a lot of teams to see if we can make ourselves better. Outside of a major type trade, I really don’t see us doing anything. We would anticipate we will carry 13 players.?We have a qualifying offer out to Aaron Gray and all indications are that he will sign it and return.? I like our roster. We like our young core and where we’re at. We feel pretty good going into the season.”
In other words, don’t expect Carlos Boozer or David Lee to come walking through that door anytime soon. Bulls management has assembled what it feels is a solid core group of players and manipulated the salary situation so that the team will be $12 million or more under the cap going into next summer. They feel their job is done…for now.
The players just have to play. Rose has to improve — and there’s every indication that he has improved and will continue to do so. Deng must not only be healthy, but he’ll also need to return to his 2006-07 “almost an All-Star” form. Thomas has to play like it’s a contract year (and it is). Salmons needs to prove he can play shooting guard full-time (and stay on fire from downtown). Noah and Miller has to rebound and bang bodies (and an occasional inside score wouldn’t hurt). Hinrich and Pargo must provide scoring and steady play off the bench. The rookies need to contribute when called upon. Gray and James have to work on waving towels and handing out Gatorade.
On paper, these Bulls look like a solid 40-win team, unless one or more key players get hurt or the team mysteriously takes a step backward (ala the 2007-08 season). That won’t necessarily thrill a fan base that wants at least a small glimmer of hope for banner number seven…but it’s what we’ve got.