Training camp is underway and there are already observations to be made in Chicago.
Chicago has tallied the best regular season record the past couple years, but with Rose sidelined and a handful of newcomers, there are many lingering concerns for the new-look Bulls.
While the Bulls held up admirably when Rose was injured last season (18-9 record), they undoubtedly missed his presence in the opening round of the playoffs after he tore his ACL in Game 1. It's easy to wonder if such struggles will continue into this season, especially with the array of roster changes.
Here we delve into five things we've learned about the Bulls through one week of training camp, and all of these things hold major weight towards the upcoming season.
Rose may not return until March (if at all this season), but the now 24-year-old superstar is still commanding the majority of the attention in training camp.
The above Adidas commercial (which will give you chills if you're a Bulls fan), The Return of D Rose web series (see episode 1 here) from Adidas, documenting Rose's return and the constant press centering on his progress have amplified how he is still the center of attention.
It doesn't matter if he misses this whole season, because when NBA analysts and fans think of the Chicago Bulls, the chief focus will continue to zero in on D-Rose.
What can be gleaned from this is that, without Rose, the Bulls are overlooked. Despite their impressive record sans him last season, the general consensus is that they're not a threat unless Rose is in the lineup.
Quite frankly, that consensus is likely true, and so the attention on Rose is warranted, even if he doesn't play until well into 2013.
We honestly need to know about his progression to gauge whether the Bulls will be legitimate contenders come playoff time.
It will truly be an exciting day when Rose returns to the floor.
His excitement and humility were missed in last year's playoffs, and those assets will be treasured when #thereturn finally takes place.
Richard Hamilton endured an injury-plagued first season in Chicago, and as a result he was never really able to gel with the Bulls' starting lineup.
That should change this season.
Hamilton has already indicated that participating in a full training camp will be highly valuable this year, as last year's camp was rushed due to the lockout.
He will now receive more ample time to develop chemistry with Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, and this comfort level should raise his value.
Further, Hamilton also added going to a physical therapist to his offseason routine, something he hopes will help his body hold up better during the season.
Overall, Hamilton enters training camp focused and healthy, and through the initial days of camp, Rip has already perceived that his body feels completely opposite of what it felt like last season.
This is a reason for intrigue for Bulls fans.
Hamilton's current status is giving us every reason to believe he will show his worth in 2012-13.
Don't expect Rip to return to his 27-year-old self that used to notch around 20 points per game, but do expect him to play efficient basketball while becoming a focal point of the offense (especially with Rose out).
Newcomer Nate Robinson has had an up and down past couple seasons, but he has shown his offensive potency throughout his career.
What's more, he's fiery and brings plenty of energy, and he personally recognizes this as one of his strengths.
According to ESPN's Jesse Rogers, Robinson stated last week, “I’m the guy that gets everybody involved and hyped up. I just try to be the best teammate I can and push these guys to the limit.”
Last season, while Rose was sidelined, John Lucas III was an offensive spark plug off the bench for Chicago, and he actually surprised many with his hustle and production.
Robinson will play a similar role, but he is arguably much more skilled than Lucas III. Nate Rob can score in bunches from the outside and can even attack the lane effectively.
Through the opening week of camp, it's clear the Bulls are expecting Robinson to be a crucial addition to the "Bench Mob."
Coach Tom Thibodeau emphasized Robinson's energy by stating, according to ESPN's Nick Friedell, “He is loud and I prefer the loud to be on defense. But he’s sort of an X factor and I like that."
Robinson will be an X-factor for the Bulls, and the initial thoughts out of training camp indicate that this is the expectation.
He has the potential to become an incredibly valuable weapon off the bench, and he should receive quality minutes as long as Rose is in street clothes.
Defensive-minded wing Ronnie Brewer is now with the New York Knicks, leaving an opening in the rotation in the backcourt.
Second year guard/forward Jimmy Butler is expected to fill this void, and the hopes are that he becomes more versatile than Brewer.
Thibodeau, according to ESPN's Jesse Rogers, expressed last week how Butler's versatility could be a pivotal asset for the Bulls:
“He’s a young player that is still developing. I like his versatility. He can play the three, the four and in some cases, the two. That’s a big plus. … He has to prove that he’s durable.”
Butler impressed in the summer league, averaging 20.6 points per game, and should see considerable minutes off the bench from the outset.
He appears to be gaining confidence and Thibodeau has already mentioned how many positions Butler can play. This clearly points to a crucial role for Butler, and don't be surprised if he logs major minutes during games in which he establishes a rhythm.
Tom Thibodeau (who recently netted a contract extension) has already raised the eyebrows of the Bulls' new additions.
Kirk Hinrich, who returns to Chicago after two seasons away, specifically noted his respect for Thibs. According to the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson, Hinrich stated:
"After being in so many different situations for different coaches, you appreciate preparation as you go along. As a younger player, you might not. You might think it's harder work or whatever. But it's nice to be in a situation where you know you're going to be prepared every day."
Veteran Nazh Mohammed also made compelling observations:
"I appreciate what he brings. Coach (Rick) Pitino told me before I got here he's a worker. He's one of the coaches who lives in the gym, a basketball junkie. He's here early, stays late. (Pitino) told me to be prepared for (Thibodeau's) attention to detail. So I knew coming in that's what it was going to be like."
Thibodeau's intensity as a coach has been at the core of Chicago's success the past couple seasons, and the newcomers are witnessing this dedication and understanding how it drives the Bulls.
Their sentiments reveal that they're buying into Thibodeau's philosophy and should effectively embrace their role in his system.
It may take some time for the new roster pieces to mesh, but it isn't taking them long to realize what Thibodeau demands. His expectations are high, particularly on the defensive end, and training camp is giving them the distinct opportunity to gain respect for their new coach.