Derrick Rose, the face of the Chicago Bulls, is all alone on the court right now..
2012 was an "interesting" year for the Bulls.
There was a lockout followed by a high-speed free agency period that saw Richard "Rip" Hamilton of the Detroit Pistons shed the Red and Blue for the Red and Black, and then a 66-game regular season that saw the Bulls finish with the NBA's best record for the second straight season.
But during that second straight season, we rarely saw Derrick Rose, the reigning league MVP, in his MVP form.
We barely ever saw Rip Hamilton suit up as a Bull (although he wore some snappy suits on the bench).
We saw Kyle Korver looking competent on defense, and we saw C.J. Watson hit clutch threes during the regular season with relative ease.
All of those moments were fun times during an injury-plagued season for the Bulls in which the originally planned starting lineup rarely played together.
Then "The Tear" happened. No need to explain, since we all know what the tear was and who tore it.
With another injury to Joakim Noah, the mighty Bulls were ousted from the playoffs 4-2 by the Philadelphia 76ers, making all of those fun moments from the regular season seem like distant memories.
How can such a great season come crashing down to earth so easily?
One word: Injuries.
A torn ACL for Derrick Rose and an ankle-sprain, and possible foot fracture. for Joakim Noah are the lasting headlines of Chicago's 2012 playoff run.
And as of right now, there is no one else on the floor who can possibly take the reigns of this franchise with Derrick Rose likely out for 8-12 months.
Here are four reasons why the Bulls need to have a second scorer who can not only lead the Bulls during Rose's recovery, but can also share the floor with the MVP when he returns.
We have all grown too accustomed to that facial expression.
The first two pictures of this article should give you an idea of just how important Derrick Rose is to the Bulls right now.
The reigning MVP of the league had to miss 27 games due to turf toe, back spasms, a sore foot, and a sprained ankle during the lockout-shortened NBA regular season.
And while the Bulls went 18-9 without the MVP, each of those wins came with the Bulls knowing that Derrick would eventually be back healthy and ready to go.
That was before Derrick tore his ACL in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals with 1:10 remaining in the fourth quarter.
We have all witnessed this proud team turn into a shell of itself after watching Rose go down for longer than just a game or two.
It destroyed the Bulls' abilities to win.
The 18-9 regular season record was thrown out the window as soon as Lucas and Watson needed to play like MVP's as opposed to just needing to fill that point guard slot on the lineup card.
But Rose wasn't the only injured Bull this season.
As mentioned on the first slide, Rip Hamilton suited up mostly in suits, not his uniform this year. The Bulls' shooting guard played in 28 games this season.
During the final three games of the season, Rip averaged around 19 minutes per game. In his final three games, Derrick Rose averaged about 33 minutes per game.
In one of each Rose and Hamilton's final three games, one played while the other sat.
The Bulls couldn't even get these guys on the court together for three straight games.
Luol Deng had a rough year with his non-shooting wrist as well. He missed 12 games due to the wrist injury, and although he made his first All-Star Game appearance, Deng averaged 15.3 points per game this season, down from last year's 17.4 PPG during a full 82-game season.
C.J. Watson also missed time thanks to an elbow injury that forced him to wear a padded sleeve on his elbow for the remainder of the season.
The high volume of minutes is certainly a contributing factor to Rose's injury-ridden 2012. And we haven't even discussed last season's ankle injury that followed Derrick throughout the entire 2011 NBA Playoffs.
High volume of minutes, plus the high amount of shots he has to take, has worn on Derrick Rose. Now with the prospects of him being out for 8-12 months next year, the number one Bull is no longer a player but a question mark among a solid group of players who all have experienced health issues in the past two seasons (i.e. Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer).
Long story short, the entire starting line-up has missed extended amounts of time in their two seasons together.
Something has to change.
Carlos Boozer: The Million Dollar Scape Goat
I think I've beaten the dead horse enough concerning Rip Hamilton, for now.
But now to shift our focus to the starting power forward Carlos Boozer, the perennial dead horse for Chicago Bulls fans all over the Internet.
Boozer has been the target of unbelievable scrutiny from Bulls fans and reporters alike.
"Why the Bulls Should Trade Carlos Boozer."
"We need to amnesty Carlos Boozer."
"Carlos Boozer is soft as hell!!!!!!"
Those are tidbits of what you will see on a typical Facebook page (minus some of the "vulgar" dialogue).
But why go after a power forward who has averaged roughly 16.3 PPG and 9.1 TRB? This is the type of power forward the Bulls were looking forward to during the summer of 2010, right?
Well, we must all remember why Bulls fans and writers were so thrilled to see Boozer come to Chicago.
In other words, Boozer was a recruiting tactic to bring LeBron James to Chicago.
And while Chicago was shoring up a huge hole at power forward, they were also counting on a third scorer like James to come in to Chicago.
When James took his talents to South Beach, the Bulls went with their "Plan B," which effectively was the reason Chicago signed the likes of Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, C.J. Watson, Keith Bogans, Kurt Thomas, etc.
Instead of bringing in the true second option that Derrick Rose needed, Bulls management believed that a strong bench would compensate for the lack of scoring by making a more defensive oriented team under Tom Thibodeau.
The philosophy wasn't necessarily flawed.
The Bulls were ranked the No. 1 defense when holding teams under 85 points in 2010-11 en route to 62-20 record and the No. 1 overall seed in the NBA playoffs.
The problem with that Bulls team stemmed from the lack of a true starting scorer.
Kyle Korver, the team's three-point option off of the bench, averaged 8.3 PPG while shooting 43 percent from behind the arc. He sparked what came to be known as the "Bench Mob," the backups to the Chicago starters.
Luol Deng played a full 82 game season, a great surprise for a Bulls team used to having to play many games without Deng in the lineup. And while he averaged 17.4 PPG, Deng was not supposed to be the long-term second scoring option. He was (and still is) considered the best defender on the team, facing the other team's best scorer consistently.
However, Carlos Boozer wouldn't play for the Bulls until November 1st thanks to a broken hand before he was able to step onto the court in a Bulls uniform. Conversely, the Bulls were without Joakim Noah for 2 months thanks to a torn ligament in his right thumb that needed surgical repair.
Once Boozer and Noah got back on the floor, and Derrick Rose continued his MVP season, the Bulls became a force to be reckoned with.
But once the playoffs began that season, Korver began missing more three-point shots after the first round of the postseason. Though his percentage behind the arc rose by one point, Korver became more inconsistent as the postseason lagged on.
He seemed less clutch off of the bench than he did versus Indiana. Averaging roughly 6 PPG, his production slacked in the playoffs, forcing guys like Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose having to carry the team through the postseason.
Now back to the horse beating of Carlos Boozer, which most likely earned Carlos his reputation among Bulls fans as a "bumslayer," or in other words a player who can't play in big games but can play against bad teams like an MVP.
Not such an unfair assessment of Boozer since his PPG plummeted to 12.9 from that regular season's 17.5 PPG average he posted.
Fast-forward to 2011-12, and the Bulls experienced more injury problems. This time, they afflicted Rose, Deng, Watson, and as mentioned for the 15th million time Rip Hamilton.
The Bulls saw Boozer's PPG production fall to 15 PPG and 8.5 TRB, Korver shot 44 percent from behind the arc for the shortened season, and Korver averaged 8.1 PPG.
Boozer started all 66 games, but averaged fewer points than during his 59-game 2010-11 season.
When the playoffs started this year, Rose and Hamilton looked like a less flashy version of James and Wade.
But after the subsequent injuries to Rose and Noah, the end of the season came sooner rather than later for the top-seeded, 50-16 Chicago Bulls.
Boozer scored 13.5 PPG for the Bulls, while Deng scored 14.0 PPG, and Hamilton rose to the occasion by averaging 13.0 PPG.
These numbers wouldn't be enough to save Chicago, especially following a tumultuous conclusion to Game 6 that saw two terrible turnovers and 3 points from Carlos Boozer.
Three points. In an elimination game.
Not going to help a reputation already tarnished by his lack of "big games" during the regular season.
So what can be gleamed from all of these stats?
Boozer can't score in big games, especially elimination games as documented from his stellar five point performance in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals vs. Miami in 2011.
Korver is a solid scorer, off of the bench.
Rip Hamilton, well he was decent in the playoffs without Derrick Rose.
There's a reason I did not mention the "Bench Mob," seeing that the Bulls are a defensive oriented team.
The stats provided are just evidence of the lack of Chicago's true scoring nature after Derrick Rose and Luol Deng.
With Deng's injury history and Carlos Boozer having to play second option minutes while posting third option numbers, the Bulls lack a true second option even with a healthy squad of starters.
Needless to say, this factored greatly into the end of the Bulls' past two seasons. And the position that suffered from it most had to be shooting guard.
Rip Hamilton (left) and Keith Bogans (right), the past two starting shooting guards of the Chicago Bulls.
Rip Hamilton. Keith Bogans.
What do they both have in common besides both being shooting guards, strong college players, grizzled NBA veterans who've made at least one appearance to the NBA Finals?
Both players were the starting shooting guards of the Chicago Bulls, Bogans in '10-'11, and Hamilton the following season.
Bogans was released at the beginning of this shortened season to make room for Hamilton to be more specific.
But more importantly, the departure of Bogans and the arrival of Hamilton highlight the weakest aspect of the entire Bulls roster.
When Tom Thibodeau joined the Bulls in 2010, the team began to emphasize playing a gritty, defensive-minded style of basketball. So when the Bulls needed to decide who was going to be the starting two guard, Thibodeau went with the veteran Bogans out of Kentucky.
Bogans never posted strong offensive numbers for the Bulls. He averaged 4.4 PPG in his lone Bulls season.
But Bogans was the toughest defender on the court for Chicago. While Luol Deng would be handling the LeBron James and Paul Pierces' of the league, Bogans would get up in the faces of the starting 2 guards like Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen, etc.
Meanwhile, the Bulls would insert Kyle Korver to give the offense a boost from behind the arc, and then would follow Thibodeau-defensive-suit by inserting the lengthy Ronnie Brewer into the lineup.
The first half would end, and Bogans would come back out with the Bulls in the second half.
The premise of this rotation was to allow for Chicago's bigs in Boozer and Noah to rack up points in the paint while also allowing Derrick Rose to run the offense and create havoc with his drive to the lane, passing to open teammates, etc.
And for the most part, the system worked. I mean, how can you argue with the results when your team goes 62-20, wins the top overall seed in the conference over the Big 3 in Miami, while not only winning the top seed but sweeping the Heat 3-0 during the regular season?
Fast forward to the Eastern Conference Finals, and all of a sudden when the Heat began to trap Derrick Rose, Keith Bogans would be wide open.
And while Bogans could hit shots from behind the arc when left wide open, he only shot 38 percent from three-point range.
Rotating in Kyle Korver could only do so much damage against a Heat team led by mainly Wade, James, and playoff surprise Udonis Haslem, who had spent most of the season battling a rash of torn ligaments in his left foot that required surgery.
Now we move to the very long off-season during the NBA Lockout of 2011.
After Rip Hamilton was waived from the Detroit Pistons, he quickly signed with the Chicago Bulls, bringing what was supposed to be a strong two guard to the Bulls who could take the pressure off of the MVP of the league.
The Bulls released Bogans, giving Chicago a more "well-rounded" offense on paper.
The problem with paper though is that paper can't hold up on its own without some help.
In the case of the Chicago Bulls, when you can't even get Derrick Rose and Rip Hamilton on the court for more than two games in a row, well....you get knocked out in the first round by the Philadelphia 76ers.
To clarify, that was not a shot at the Sixers. The team played with unbelievable passion against the clearly better Chicago team.
When the chips were down, Philly picked them up and ran away with them.
But the fact that such a team who came into the playoffs on a lousy stretch of games could beat a much beleguered yet still stronger Chicago Bulls team proves that there is an issue with the roster.
And no not all of the issues lie at the shooting guard position, but the shooting guard position did not help ease the pressure on the 2012 Chicago Bulls when Rose and Noah were lost for the series.
One last clarification before I move on to the next point.
Rip Hamilton is one of the best catch-and-shoot players in the NBA. He is a grizzled old vet who can still ball with the best of them.
But when you can only play in 28 games out of a 66 game season as highlighted in the second slide of this article, you can't truly contribute to this team.
You can't drive the lane, you can't make that extra pass to the open low-post scorer, you can't take the last shot to avoid a shot-clock violation, and you can't play grinding defense on the opposing two guard if you aren't on the floor.
Plain and simple, Keith Bogans and Rip Hamilton did not contribute enough to the Chicago Bulls in these past two seasons.
Whether it was due to ineffectiveness or injury is irrelevant.
Derrick Rose, the leading scorer, essentially played 5 on 4 offense for a team that with a full, effective roster could arguably be contending for a second straight NBA title.
Jordan and Pippen Celebrating 'ship number five in 1997
Michael Jordan is one of the greatest basketball players to ever walk the earth.
However, being the best was not enough for him to win six Bulls' championships on his own.
He had Scottie Pippen by his side all six times the Bulls won the title.
It's easy to forget that during his early years in the NBA, His Airness was considered a bust.
No, you read that correctly.
Back before the commercials, before the rings, before Space Jam, Michael Jordan was considered a "ball hog" who was never going to win an NBA title being a one-man show.
But after his circus of a Rookie of the Year season of 1984-85, Jordan broke his foot the following season.
The team struggled to get into the playoffs, and Jordan would eventually have to go undercover as the Lord Himself just to get his team to be respectable against the juggernaut Boston Celtics.
That all seemed to change when the Bulls acquired the draft rights to a young small forward drafted out of the University of Central Arkansas by the Seattle SuperSonics as the 5th overall pick in the 1987 NBA Draft in exchange for center Olden Polynice, the 8th overall pick out of Virginia.
Scottie did not immediately start for the Bulls, but eventually would take the starting job and as they say, the rest is history.
Now here we are in 2012. The Bulls won't have the eighth overall pick in this years draft. Unfortunately, we don't have a Scottie Pippen being resurrected as a shooting guard with a great shot, quick finish to the rack, or legendary defensive skills coming our way in the draft.
On paper, that is.
Put it this way. The Bulls are going to be without their "Michael" for a very long time, most likely until January.
And they will need someone to "fill" his role as he recovers during the time he does miss.
All I know from the evidence found in the past (which John Paxson had a strong role in for those who don't remember) is that in order for a great player and a great team to move forward, you need to have more than just one great player on your roster.
That does not mean, "hey let's trade Noah, Gibson, and Deng for Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu!"
That means that Derrick Rose needs his own Scottie Pippen. He needs that second guy who can help lead the team when recovering from this recent injury, but also when he's having an off night and the Bulls need someone to step up to an MVP level for at least 20 minutes.
And with that, here are some ideas...
Austin Rivers (center) fights to the rim during the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
Cue up "Wouldn't It Be Nice" by the Beach Boys in your head while looking at the picture of Austin Rivers and try not to smile.
It's pretty much impossible not to at least smirk.
A quick finisher at the rim with a desire to have the ball when the clock winds down, Rivers would make one interesting back-court with a healthy Derrick Rose.
But before we all salivate too much, remember that Rivers is slated to be a mid-first round pick. Chicago holds the 29th pick overall in Round 1, meaning the Bulls would more than likely have to shed a Taj Gibson, an Omer Asik, or even a Luol Deng just to get to that mid-round area.
It's not impossible, but it's more than likely improbable.
Both are strong shooters who can create their own shots.
But neither one of them have been tested in the NBA. This does not mean that the Bulls won't draft a shooting guard with the first pick. The question is will they be drafting a future starter with that pick or using that pick as leverage to deal for a proven starter and scorer.
For now that leaves the more likely option of free agency for the Bulls to find a possible starter or even a new backup shooting guard if they decide to part ways with Ronnie Brewer.
Shooting guard options include unrestricted free agents Ray Allen, Jason Terry, Nick Young, C.J. Miles, Randy Foye, Leandro Barbosa, Marco Belinelli, Shannon Brown, Willie Green, and for the sake of argument Eddie House.
Signing Ray Allen would give Bulls (and Celtics) fans cardiac arrest. Bringing in a sure fire Hall of Fame basketball player would create a dangerous team, especially if you can have Rip Hamilton coming off of the bench, or even Ray Allen doing the same. Meanwhile, you would have Kyle Korver cutting down on his threes by taking smarter shots when on the court, and you'd have a young shooting guard learning from two of the best guards to play the position.
What's not to love?
Well, the fact that Ray Allen may still try to remain a Celtic if they indeed cannot surpass the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
But consider the talks of GM Danny Ainge breaking up the Big 3 in Boston when the C's were struggling to stay afloat.
If the Celtics end up playing their swan song in Game's 3 and 4 at home, the possibility of a Big 3 demolition will vault back into the conversation.
Whether this will happen or not remains to be seen. But adding Ray Allen would only help Chicago granted as long as he could stay healthy and either him or Rip would be willing to sacrifice time on the floor to win a title.
Jason Terry is another interesting possibility especially following a dismal title defense with the Mavericks this past year.
Personally, the thought of having Terry come off of the bench as the sixth man, thus giving Korver more opportunities for smarter shots later in the game with Terry on the bench, is a fun thought to think.
But again, would he or Rip be willing to sacrifice minutes to play on a championship team?
It's easy to say, "well yes of course they will since their 100 years old each."
Just because a player is old doesn't mean he doesn't have an ounce of pride left.
So far, these options are more along the lines of how I feel Gar Forman and John Paxson will be leaning toward. I truly do not expect that they are lying about keeping Carlos Boozer around for next season, nor do I see them taking a hefty risk to go after an Austin Rivers in the draft.
But would trading a Taj Gibson, an Omer Asik, or even a Luol Deng be better for the Bulls in the long run?
This is definitely a question a GM has to ask himself, regardless of how much said players have contributed in the past.
Not only do they have to think about filling that void at shooting guard, they have to find a serviceable replacement for Derrick Rose as he continues to rehabilitate his repaired knee.
Could Chicago land Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, or even Chauncey Billups to bring in strong veteran grit to a team in desperate need of a stronger championship pedigree than those of Tom Thibodeau and Brian Scalabrine?
Or will they opt to go for more hungry veterans like Andre Miller or Baron Davis?
The safe bet would be for Chicago to keep current backup point guards C.J. Watson and John Lucas III.
But in a season where your star player will be fighting back from a tough ACL injury, can you settle for safe bets?
Personally, I say no.
Professionally, I say maybe, maybe not.
The fate of the Bulls lies in the hands of Forman and Paxson now.
No matter what they decide, the Bulls need a leader on the court when Derrick Rose comes back.