Last year after the Chicago Bulls were eliminated by the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, I wrote this ridiculously long ode to their storybook season. Yes it ended in disappointment, but the journey to get to the Eastern Conference Finals was some of the most fun I’ve ever had as a Bulls fan. I could not help but ramble on about Derrick Rose’s MVP season and the deep playoff run that ensued. Safe to say, I will not be doing the same thing for the Bulls’ 2011-12 campaign.
Honestly, I’m trying to forget about this season as quickly as possible. It started with so much hope and promise, but it quickly turned into a war of attrition as injury after injury piled up. Thanks to this season, I never want to hear the phrases “game-time decision” and “more than enough to win” ever again. Of course, we’ll probably hear that plenty next year as Rose and Luol Deng battle their way back from injuries. I guess at this point all we can do is laugh at Tom Thibodeau’s gamesmanship.
Despite injuries to Rose (FIVE of ‘em), Rip Hamilton, Luol Deng, C.J. Watson and Taj Gibson, the Bulls were able to win 50 games and earn the top overall seed for the second straight year. We can thank “Thibs Ball” for this, although some may now question whether that will only lead to regular season success. But that’s a whole other discussion.
With the Bulls getting healthy heading into this postseason, we seemed destined for another clash between them and the Heat. I still questioned whether the Bulls could get past the Heat, but I figured a healthy Chicago squad would give Miami all they could handle.
Then Rose’s knee exploded and it was all over.
It was rather apparent that the Bulls were seriously affected by the Rose injury considering how awful they looked for the remainder of their 4-2 first round series loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. Losing Joakim Noah to a severe ankle sprain compounded the problem, but it was still disappointing to see the Bulls bow out to a Sixers team that is simply not very good. I’m not going to say the Bulls sans Rose and Noah were a better team than the Sixers, but Chicago certainly had their chances in the series. Alas, it was not meant to be.
And now it’s time to stop lamenting what could have been and look to the future.
That future is somewhat murky, as the Rose/Deng injuries plus the sticky cap situation loom over the entire team. There’s very little money to play with, so barring an unlikely major trade, there’s slim chance of acquiring another star. Some people will want the disappointing Carlos Boozer amnestied to free up space, but even if that happens, there still would not be much money to use on a free agent market that is not all that inspiring. And with so many question marks surrounding the Rose injury, I’m not even sure if it’s worth making such drastic changes in a year where a title may be unrealistic to begin with.
Also, the Bulls have some tough decisions to make regarding some of their own role players. Will they match whatever offer Omer Asik receives? Do they try and extend Taj Gibson? Do they exercise the team options on C.J. Watson, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer? I’m sure the Bulls would like to keep these guys around, but it would not be surprising to see a completely different “Bench Mob” next year.
This will be quite an interesting offseason for the Bulls, although I’m not really expecting much to happen. Ultimately, there will probably be a few new faces on the roster next season, but the core will remain the same. The hope will be that the team can tread water with Rose and Deng out, and then perhaps they can make a run when those two guys come back healthy. This team at full strength is still very good, so we may just have to hope they catch lighting in a bottle.
Like Kevin Garnett, anything is possible.
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