There is no timetable in place for Derrick Rose’s much anticipated return and one of the questions that seems most prevalent on Bulls fan’s minds, is when Rose does return, who will be his “sidekick”? One of Bulls Coach Tom Thibedeau’s most popular quotables is, “We have more than enough to win,” but how true are those words now?
With a team that is in dire need of a spark, it seems reasonable that even when Derrick Rose does return, the Bulls will still be one “piece” away. Indeed, the Bulls have reached a tipping point, and the time has come for an honest look at the Bulls chances of being a serious title contender in the short-term. It simply does not seem likely that a team made up of mostly serviceable role players can compete with the league’s brass come playoff time.
However, if, and when Derrick Rose does return, I will not make the mistake of doubting him. The Bulls very well may find themselves competing in the conference finals two months from now, if Rose, who has spent the last ten months rehabbing a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee, can return at a high level. But allow me to remind you, in the Eastern Conference, the road to the finals goes through South Beach.
Enter the Bulls front office. Has the tandem of Gar-Pax done enough to prevent Rose from virtually going 1-on-3 against the Miami Heat, if the two teams meet for a chance to go to the NBA finals? For now, lets say the answer is no. Seeing as that without Rose, the closest thing the Bulls have to a player that can create their own shot is Nate Robinson. Enough said. And yes, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng are both deserving All-Stars, but Noah is not a real scoring threat and Deng cannot dribble the basketball well enough to create for himself. Simply.
Let us take a brief look back at the summer of 2010. Yes, the summer Lebron James announced he was taking his talents to South Beach, and along with him, most of the leagues chances at an NBA Championship for the next 3-5 years. It was at this moment where things became clearer. With Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, and Lebron James all off the board to Miami, the Bulls countered those moves by signing Carlos Boozer to the tune of $80 million (panic much?) and filled the rest of the roster with specialist, in hopes to compete with the newly formed super team in Miami. It didn’t work. The Bulls were beaten in the conference finals in five games by, guess who? The Miami Heat. What would the Bulls do for an encore? The next off-season they would add aging shooting guard, Rip Hamilton, with hopes that he would be the missing piece to relieve Rose of some of his super-hero like responsibilities. In the end, it was injuries that robbed Gar-Pax of a chance to see if their philosophy of Rose and “friends” versus Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat, would triumph.
This brings us to the current state of the Chicago Bulls. Finances have been exhausted. Not to mention that in a season where their championship chances are slim, the Bulls are primed to pay a luxury tax for the first time in team history this season. It’s obvious now. The Bulls front office has their sights on the 2014 NBA season. Why? Because right now, the Bulls are handcuffed by the hard cap and 2014 is the next chance they have to get their heads above water, financially. 2014 is when Luol Deng’s contract comes off the books, Nikola Mirotic could possibly be signed, and Carlos Boozer becomes a serious amnesty candidate.
As a result, freeing up enough cap space to possibly add a big name free agent to pair with Rose. But Gar-Pax already struck out once on free agency glory, why try it again? Because, it is likely the only way the Bulls will be able to form a team strong enough to get past the greater teams of the league. In 2014, will a core of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Nikola Mirotic (if he breaks free of his European contract), Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler be enough to convince the likes of Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Rudy Gay, all who will be free agents in 2014, that a championship is in reach in Chicago?
Will Kevin Love force a trade if the Timberwolves cannot develop to become a consistent winning organization? Both are questions the Bulls front office will have to ask themselves. Because, one thing’s for sure, the fate of the Bulls not only rests on the shoulders of Derrick Rose. Gar/Pax will have to help him shoulder the load and use creative and proactive tactics on the quest for a No. 2 option for Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls.
Terrence Tomlin is a native Chicagoan and creator of bulldozedcity.com, a website dedicated to the loyal fans of the Chicago sports triangle: The Bulls, The Bears. and The White Sox, with an occasional sprinkle of Cubs insight. Through his writing, Terrence Tomlin plans to bridge the gap between the average fan and sports insider.