The Chicago Bulls have been riddled with injuries over the last few years, causing their playoff runs to be cut short.
Last season, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich missed significant time due to injury. Heading into the 2013-14 campaign, everyone is expected to be healthy and ready for the start of training camp.
Rose is the clear big story, but Noah and Deng are the Bulls' second- and third-best players. And while Hinrich will revert to a backup role, his production will still be key throughout the season, especially on the defensive end.
As training camp gets closer, let's take a look at where each injured Bull stands.
The biggest story for the Bulls will be Rose's performance from training camp up to the postseason. Luckily for Bulls fans, his return will be a real thing this time around—and with a date too.
Bulls general manager Gar Forman also spoke to the Chicago Sun-Times and said they're looking to have him back by the start of training camp.
Rose is said to have an improved offensive game which includes "increased range and a left-handed floater."
Expectations for the former MVP—and the team as a whole—are at an all-time high, and whether or not they'll be met will depend on the level of play Rose displays throughout the season.
After complications with a spinal tap procedure ended Deng's postseason, his recovery seems to be going well.
Gar Forman said Deng had regained the weight he lost during his illness and that he "felt good." This is great news for the nine-year vet as he heads into a contract year.
With reports (via the Chicago Tribune) of an extension being held off until next summer, Deng could potentially be auditioning for a new contract, and it's not far-fetched to think that his health will play a role in that decision.
If Deng is unable to remain healthy, the Bulls could look to shop him during the summer via a sign-and-trade.
Still, the Bulls forward should be ready come training camp.
Noah has been dealing with plantar fasciitis for some years now, and the only way to recuperate from that kind of injury while avoiding surgery is simply to rest.
Back in late June, Noah spoke with ESPN New York about his injury, saying he felt better and that he'd be ready for the start of the season.
Now that he's had a full summer to nurse his foot back to full health, Noah is expected to be there come training camp and shouldn't miss any time going forward. According to Forman, he's been "in and out of the Berto Center all summer." (via Bulls.com)
Tom Thibodeau has also made it a case to lower Noah's minutes (via ESPN Chicago). This will hopefully prevent another plantar fasciitis appearance and lead to Noah's healthiest season since 2011-12 when he missed only two regular season games.
Coming off his best season in 2012-13—being a first-time All-Star and a finalist for the league's Defensive Player of the Year Award—there's no question Noah will remain one of the Bulls' best players if he can stay healthy.
Given his previous injury history, though, we'll have to wait and see.
Captain Kirk appears to be healthy after tearing his calf during the playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets. In an interview with K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, Hinrich said he was ready for the 2013-14 season.
"If I wasn’t healthy I wouldn’t be out here," he said. "I’m feeling much better and feel like I’ve had a good offseason. I had time to take care of my body, heal up and start preparing for next year."
Hinrich missed 22 games throughout the regular season and missed the final eight games of the playoffs. His health has been a concern over the last few years, but now that he'll be returning to a backup role, the chances for him playing out most of the season could be higher.
Expected to be Rose's primary backup as well as an off-guard on several occasions, Hinrich's role and expectations are going to be one of the keys as the Bulls strive for a championship.
The Bulls appear to be heading into training camp with a full, healthy cast. All Chicago can do is hope it stays that way.