Chicago Bulls: The Quest To Finish Above .500
Let's say this Chicago Bulls' team stays the way it is, even though they need to get rid of at least one of their big contracts to be a player in 2010. The Bulls are going to need a lot to go right in order to achieve anything other than an eighth seed.
First and foremost, the Bulls are going to need Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose to stay healthy. The game against the Orland Magic before the All-Star break was a glimpse into a Noah and Rose-less Bulls' team.
It was not pretty.
Noah will not be traveling to New York to face the Knicks Wednesday either, which means he will be missing his sixth straight game due to plantar fasciitis, something most people can't pronounce nor identify.
The Bulls started off the final 31 games on the right foot (pun not intended for Noah) Tuesday, beating a bad Knicks team 118-85 by shooting 60 percent from the field (the starters were 36-for-53) and moving back to .500. However, the Bulls are still not hitting anything from outside the three-point line, nor is the team getting to the free-throw line.
The Bulls only shot 13 free throws and were 5-for-13 from three-point range.
You cannot win without an outside threat and trips to the free-throw line. The Bulls cannot bank on shooting 60 percent every game, nor can Rose be the only guy getting to the basket.
The Bulls, however, did what they had to do against a bad team without Noah in the lineup. Luckily for the Bulls and Noah, February finishes off nicely because the Bulls only face one team out of six with a winning record.
This could give Noah a rest before going into a hellish March schedule. The Bulls play 15 games in March, 12 of which are against teams .500 or above, including games against Atlanta, Utah, Orlando, Cleveland, Phoenix, and two against Dallas.
The Bulls close the season with eight games in April against Eastern Conference teams, including two against Charlotte and one against Milwaukee and Toronto, all of which may occupy the same area of the standings as the Bulls.
The Bulls need to take care of February as Noah sits out with an injury and the schedule is at its easiest.
The Bulls will obviously need to remain healthy and allow Rose to take over games without being passive themselves, but they will also need John Salmons to step up whether or not Kirk Hinrich is traded. If Hinrich is not traded, then both of them will need to remember how to shoot a basketball again.
Brad Miller cannot remain the Bulls' best outside option, especially since there is a good chance he will be traded along with Hinrich.
The Bulls will also need Luol Deng to continue playing well, as he has silently not self-destructed this year.
Rose can completely take over games, seen in the 29 points he had after three quarters against the Knicks, but to completely bank on a second-year player to score 30 points a game is not fair to him.
Rose needs to have someone to pass the ball to besides a big man for a dunk underneath, especially since the main big man, Noah, is currently hurt. Someone needs to be a shooter.
The Bulls not only need a good finish to the season in order to garner a better playoff seed, but they need to show that this team and organization are on the rise so that members of the 2010 free agent class see Chicago as a viable option.
In Other News: Rumors have begun floating regarding the trading of Tyrus Thomas and Brad Miller for Tracy McGrady. The Houston Rockets are deciding between the Bulls and the New York Knicks on where to send McGrady.
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