Despite all the injuries the Chicago Bulls have suffered so far this season, the Bulls continue to win games, and in impressive fashion. Their 18-5 record is good enough for the best in the Eastern Conference, even though they have gone through recent stretches without key players. All-Star point guard Derrick Rose, Richard Hamilton and, most recently, Luol Deng have all missed significant time due to injuries.
Rose’s injury has most fans concerned since a turf toe injury is one that is known to linger for months. The injury sidelined the reigning MVP for five games, yet during that stretch, the Bulls managed to go 4-1 while going undefeated at home.
C.J. Watson deserves a lot of credit for the tremendous job he did filling in for Rose. Although Watson had suffered an elbow injury a few games prior, he played through the pain in order to help the Bulls' already thin backcourt. In his four starts, Watson averaged 16.5 points and six assists per game, including a 23-point effort versus the Phoenix Suns.
Bulls fans were also relieved to see Carlos Boozer finally take initiative on the offensive end. In the five games Rose missed, Boozer averaged 21.5 points and 8.4 rebounds while shooting an efficient 52 percent from the floor. Fans are hoping to see this kind of production and effort on a more regular basis.
Hamilton is another key player the Bulls will need to monitor over the next few weeks. Hamilton’s groin injury has the 14-year veteran a game-time decision almost every night and has forced the shooting guard to miss 12 of the 23 games so far this season.
After re-aggravating his groin in Sunday’s 97-93 loss to the Miami Heat, it is very possible the Bulls will sit him for an extended period of time to let the groin fully heal.
Deng is the most recent Bull to fall victim to the shortened, injury-heavy season. Deng tore a ligament in his left wrist in fourth quarter of a 95-89 win versus the Charlotte Bobcats and the severity has yet to be determined. Although there has been talk about Deng possibly having surgery, reports have indicated that Deng will avoid surgery at all costs.
Deng’s wrist injury has a lot of fans concerned since the Bulls cannot afford to lose him for a long period time. He is arguably the best defensive player on the roster and the most consistent scoring option behind Rose. The Bulls also desperately need Deng to guard LeBron James come playoffs, especially after Ronnie Brewer’s defensive performance against James in last Sunday’s loss.
With both Deng and Hamilton currently sidelined with their respective injuries, other players have been called on to step up in their absence.
Joakim Noah has played much better as of late and seems to have finally found his stride. In Monday’s win versus the New Jersey Nets, Noah recorded his fifth straight double-double and has also shot 64 percent from the field during that stretch.
Rose also looks to be feeling healthy and back to full speed. Since his return, the reigning MVP is averaging 29.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game. It is clear that without Hamilton and Deng in the starting lineup, Rose will need to take an even greater offensive role, much like he did last season.
The shortened season has undoubtedly taken a toll on key players the Bulls simply cannot afford to be without come playoffs. Luckily for the Bulls, they have an extremely deep bench that has done a phenomenal job filling in when called on.
Their depth should help them not only cruise through the regular season, but should give other players the opportunity to fully heal. At full strength, there is no doubt the Bulls are one of the most dangerous teams in the league.