Basketball season is underway and the Chicago Bulls are off to a fast 3-1 start heading into their Nov. 8 matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Bulls were a heavy favorite for a championship last year, but were unfortunately knocked out in the first round of playoffs. Since then, the Bulls have revamped their line-up and changed some things around, almost certainly NOT for the better.
During the offseason the Bulls made multiple personnel changes through various trades, cuts and acquisitions. These changes focused around the Bulls top-quality bench players. The Bulls opted not to retain point guard C.J. Watson, who is now on the Brooklyn Nets, shooting guard Kyle Korver, who was traded to the Atlanta Hawks, Ronnie Brewer, who is now on the New York Knicks and center Omer Asik, who went to the Houston Rockets after the Bulls didn’t match their astounding contract offer.
Why all the changes? These were players who managed to win even when stars Derrick Rose and Luol Deng missed a combined 39 games last season. To be fair, Asik’s contract would have been a steal for the first two years, and then death to the Bulls salary cap in the third, so it was a no-brainer to let him go. Watson, Korver, and Brewer, however, were all released for cheaper, and distinctly less skillful, options in Kirk Hinrich, Vladimir Radmonovic, and Marco Belinelli. How much cheaper? These changes saved the Chicago front office a couple hundred-thousand dollars per player. In the grand scheme of the NBA, this is absurd. Their contracts weren’t costing millions like Asik’s would have, but rather just a few thousand.
Among the other changes to the roster were the loss of John Lucas III and Brian Scalabrine, and the acquisition of Nazr Mohammed, Nate Robinson and rookie Marquis Teague.
There are still some familiar faces on the hardwood of the United Center. Starters Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Richard Hamilton are all returning for the Bulls this season, as is back-up power forward Taj Gibson, who thankfully had his contract extended and second-year small forward Jimmy Butler.
The face that is painfully missing from the court is that of the Windy City Assassin, Derrick Rose. After suffering a torn ACL in the playoffs last season, Rose is expected to be out for the greater portion of the 2012-13 season, which means Hinrich will be getting the start for the majority of games. Experienced or not, Hinrich simply does not have the ability to lead the Bulls to a championship like Rose does. Until Rose is back on the court and healthy, the Bulls will struggle to reach their optimal performance level.
Fans would be wary to expect another championship run in the upcoming years, but with head coach Tom Thibodeau at the helm and D-Rose working harder than he ever has before, there is always hope.