All right Chicago Bulls fans. Time to come back down to Earth.
Carlos Boozer is out for eight weeks with a broken hand. Hey, it could be worse, right? At least half of that time will be preseason action, so really he's only looking at missing the month of November.
However, for the Bulls in particular, November is the most important month of the season.
This is a team that's practically built from scratch. The Bulls have a new head coach and only a few returning players. Preseason might not mean much to, say, the Orlando Magic or Los Angeles Lakers, but for the Bulls it's everything.
Of course, that also holds true for the start of the regular season.
Chicago's first game is at Oklahoma City, a team many project will be a title contender this season. The Bulls need Boozer in the lineup to be even close to considered a better team than the Thunder. I'd expect the Thunder to take down the Bulls, and even if Chicago wins, no one will chalk it up to the Bulls being a superior team.
Then the Circus Trip begins. And if Boozer is out, no Bulls fan is going to be smiling.
Prior to Boozer's injury, I would have been happy with a 4-3 record to close out November. Now, I'd be happy with 2-5. Seriously.
In October and November, the Bulls play 15 games. On paper, Chicago can still have a winning record in those two months. An 8-7 record is certainly not unrealistic.
Yet if everything was based on paper and statistics, there would be no games. And the truth is, this new group of guys needs time to gel. And a broken hand by the number two option on the team is not the best way to facilitate that.
In the short-term, it's actually not all doom-and-gloom. Taj Gibson might be the best backup power forward in the NBA, and his experience playing with Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah in the starting lineup should make for an easy fix.
No, the first few weeks of the season are not the main problem. The Bulls will be worse off but not depleted.
I'm worried about the long-term. I'm worried about the months after Boozer is back. I'm worried about the playoffs.
Gibson is good, but can he do what Boozer was supposed to do? Can he learn the pick-and-roll game which was supposed to take Rose's game to another level? If not, what then?
The rotation and depth, which was supposed to be one of Chicago's prime assets, is now completely thrown off. Omer Asik is going to have to play more, as is Kurt Thomas. I can see the Bulls going small a bit more now with Deng stepping in at the power forward position at times.
The Bulls will have to improvise in the preseason and regular season, because they have to play with Boozer's return in mind. Essentially, the Bulls now cannot really play "their game" until Boozer returns in December.
Chicago will be a full month behind Miami's integration process, New York's integration progress and even Boston's integration process.
Deep down, I've always thought the Bulls would definitely take the Central Division and earn the three seed behind Miami and Orlando.
This single hand injury throws all that into question.
Maybe suggesting the entire season is in jeopardy is a little extreme. Maybe.
Now I see the Bulls and Bucks duking it out all season long for the Central crown, with the victor earning the fourth seed in the East and the loser getting the fifth or sixth seed.
And as for that NBA Championship this season?
The Bulls will need more than just a helping hand to reach that point.
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