That’s pretty bad news for the short term, but Rose is still young and has a lot of good basketball years ahead him leaving the Bulls’ long-term vision pretty much in-tact.
Amid the cornucopia of concerns Chicago needs to address over the summer, what remains unclear is which team member will be designated as the leader pro team in Rose’s absence.
With the way the Bulls are structured, it would seem pretty hard for head coach Tom Thibodeau to simply pull a player to the side and say, “This is your team now. Everyone will look to you for direction on the court.”
Since his arrival in 2008, the Bulls’ support roster has pretty much been The Pips to Rose’s Gladys Knight, always contributing within their roles but never actually commanding the show.
The lack of an established lieutenant to automatically assume headship of the team poses a void that could serve as a detriment next year.
Even if the Bulls managed to land another star, he would still fail to qualify as a leader due to his unfamiliarity with the Bulls’ culture.
With that being said, the leader for Chicago must come out of the current crop.
The most obvious candidates are the starting veterans who have been under the Thibodeau system since day one: Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah.
These three players are firmly entrenched in Thibs’ scheme, culture and expectations, and though either one could take the initiative to be the anchor, only one of them is most fit for the job.
Boozer is probably the least qualified of the group. His on-court performance is too inconsistent, and the team really doesn’t look to him to do anything outside of hitting his open jumpers and grabbing rebounds.
One would be hard pressed to find an instance where Thibodeau decided to rise or fall with Boozer at the helm, and that occurrence is scarce for a reason.
Boozer may be respected and supported by his teammates, but he is hardly looked to for guidance when things get tough.
Deng seems to be the most logical answer as a bona fide second in command.
Statistically he is either second or third in the major categories and has had quite a few performances this past season where his effort was the difference between victory and defeat.
Couple Deng’s work ethic with the fact that everything he did for most of the season was with a torn ligament in his left wrist, and you have an apparent shoe-in for who gets to take the reins next season.
Still, Deng should give fans pause in the leadership category.
Deng doesn’t quite seem vocal and overt enough to be a true dependable leader; his game play and demeanor seems to be more of a “lead by example” type.
A true leader needs to be someone who will rally the troops with actions, words and whatever else it takes to get the most out of everyone, and this is what makes Joakim Noah the best fit for leading the Bulls next season.
Noah has to be the new general for a few reasons.
First, of the two more qualified players in Noah and Deng, Noah is the only one who stands to be with the team at the start of the year.
There is a chance that Deng could miss some time early next season due to the surgery he may need to repair his injured wrist.
The Bulls can’t wait around for someone to show up and lead the way; they need their guy as soon as the season begins and Noah is more than capable.
Second, Noah has always been the energy source for Chicago since he started logging significant playing time.
His heart and extra effort contribute those immeasurable intangibles that play an unsung role in a team’s success.
Noah has shown marked improvement every year he’s been in the league which speaks volumes of his commitment to both his personal and the team’s collective success.
That is not a slight to the likes of Boozer and Deng, but Noah stands out because each season he contributed in more ways than he had the previous year.
This tutelage will surely improve Noah’s offensive production, but there’s no doubt that Abdul-Jabbar will also part bits of wisdom that will prove even more beneficial to Noah than fine tuning his hook shot.
Noah is also the type of player that his teammates respond to. Whether cheering from the bench or shooting off the pistols in a game, the other guys thrive off Noah’s energy and use it to push themselves.
As a leader, Noah has it all: the drive, the energy, the vocalization and more importantly, the commitment.
He may not lead the team in scoring or make multiple appearances on anyone’s highlight reel, but he has the substance of a winner.