What We Still Don't Know About the Chicago Bulls

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What We Still Don't Know About the Chicago Bulls
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bulls are one of the strongest defensive teams in the NBA. They are also a hardworking group. Led by head coach Tom Thibodeau, the Bulls are always in a game. There are 19 games remaining on the schedule. We don’t know some things about them.

The season started with a big question mark.

How would they fare without an injured Derrick Rose?

Despite a recent slide where they lost six of their last 10 contests, the Bulls have 35 wins. This has happened with Rose still on the mend. His injury is not the only thing the Bulls have had to overcome. Kirk Hinrich has missed 20 games, Richard Hamilton was saddled in 19 games and Taj Gibson has sat out the last seven.

To say that the injury bug has treated the Bulls unkindly is an understatement. It is possible the injuries will turn into a blessing in disguise.

As of now, we do not know just how good they can be.

If Derrick Rose returns, the team will receive a much-needed confidence boost.

Rose is a difference-maker on the basketball court. He will be worth a few some wins, even if he only plays 15 minutes a game. His presence should open up scoring opportunities for his teammates, partially solving their scoring woes.

His well-chronicled rehab has taken center stage as of late. A recent report from Melissa Isaacson of ESPNChicago.com states that Rose is cleared to play. The fact that he is not in the lineup is making bigger headlines.

His team could use him, but Rose insists that no one is pressuring him to return immediately. He broke his media silence to address his bid for a comeback (via K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune):

I'm just coming back when I feel normal. If that's in a couple of days, that's great. If it's not, I'm fine.

I haven't had any pressure from the organization. No one has to push me to play. My teammates have been doing great, playing hard for me. They're out there fighting so that's a good sign. And we're winning games. So I'm not worried about anything right now.

I don't have a (return) date, to tell you the truth. I'm just taking my time. I'm getting stronger every day. I did every workout possible. The workouts are getting a lot easier. I'm moving in the right direction.

When I'm out there not thinking and just reacting, that's how I know I'll be ready.

The Bulls haven’t had a full complement of players on their roster, and Rose makes them whole.

As much as the Bulls need Rose to make his 2012-13 debut, they could use the services of Hamilton and Hinrich.

A day before the game against the Sacramento Kings, Thibodeau spoke with reporters about the statuses of his injured players (via Aggrey Sam, CSNChicago.com):

Still day-to-day, a little bit better. They did more yesterday, so we’ll see where they are. They did some shooting yesterday, so that’s a good sign. Taj did a little bit of running. We’ll see how they feel.

Hinrich stabilizes a unit that is missing a floor general. Even if Rose sits out the entire season, Hinrich is better served as the starting point guard over the energetic Nate Robinson. Few teams benefit from having their first-string floor leader average 7.4 points and 5.4 assists a game. Hinrich, regardless of his subpar statistics helps the Bulls in so many ways.

As the point of attack on the defensive end, he sets the tone, allowing his cohorts to position themselves for creating turnovers. At 6’3”, he can harass the opposing team’s guards with his size while disallowing them to utilize their post games.  

Hamilton was struggling before experiencing back spasms that have shut him down for seven consecutive contests. Before the injury, he only reached double digits in scoring in four out his last 15 games. Being out, Hamilton has had time to rest up before the playoffs begin. He has to get healthy and remain that way. Hamilton at full strength gives the Bulls a veteran who has won a title. If Hamilton can make shots, the team will be better for it.

If the Bulls can get all of their players back, the sky is the limit. They should be able to be competitive in the playoffs with Hamilton, Hinrich and Rose all healthy and in the fold. Once that happens, there is no telling how good the Bulls can be.

That is what we still don’t know.

Follow @ernestshepard

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