This just in! If you have to have reconstructive surgery on your good knee you won’t be able to play basketball very well for a while. Derrick Rose and the city of Chicago are finding this out first hand. Adrian Peterson was the exception, not the rule…the freakishly fast healing exception. I shudder to think what talk radio would be saying if Rose didn’t hit that game winning shot against the Knicks last week.
Rose’s rust is actually a good thing, because it is creating low expectations for the Bulls this season. After the opening night slaughter to the Miami Heat, low expectations is just what the doctor ordered for this team. The Chicago Bulls of 2013-14 have everything needed to win an NBA championship, IF they stay health and their starting five plays up to their potential. The injury bug biting is out of the organizations circle of influence. Playing up to potential, well that is the dictionary example of something within the circle of influence. What does that mean for the Chicago Bulls?
Let’s start with Luol Deng since believe it or not, he is who will determine whether the Bulls win a title this year or not. How him? Why him? Because he is supposed to be Scottie Pippen to MJ, he is supposed to be Manu Ginobli to Tim Duncan, he is supposed to be Moses Malone to Dr J, he is supposed to be Kevin McHale to Larry Bird. I mean, he’s paid like he is the number two guy. In an era barely a decade ago, he is getting paid number one guy money.
Deng’s salary makes his a poster child of disappointment. His character, poise, integrity, kindness, humble attitude make him a poster child of how a professional athlete should act. The “nice guys finish last” paradigm first Luol Deng like a glove. He is too soft to be successful the way the Bulls need and have needed him to be successful. He doesn’t have the guts to charge the lane when we need him to, he doesn’t have the heart to make the big shot when D Rose is triple teamed at the end of the game. If he made 1/3 of his salary, Deng would be a Chicago hero due to his attitude and defensive effort, but he doesn’t make Andres Nocioni money.
Can I write a book about how awesome Joakim Noah is?! I just might. But for now all you need to know about Noah is he has been dubbed “The Heart and Soul of the Chicago Bulls”. If he can stay healthy, there’s no punditry needed. He isn’t paid to make jumpers, he earns his check and then some every second he spends in the paint on both sides of the floor.
Jimmy Butler seems to be getting saddled with the expectations Chicago used to have for Luol Deng. Butler is young and will still go through growing pains. Thibs will whip him into shape defensively, no doubt about that. The question is, can the young fella play up to his potential consistently when the lights are brightest during the three month NBA postseason. That war of attrition can make cowards of the bravest regular season heroes.
Lastly we come to the new Reverend Run himself D Rose. Mr. Adidas has earned a grace period of sucking it up and being off his game. The yellow streak that was popping out of the back of all of his clothes last season is faded and forgotten…for now. Championship or bust is the expectation around the city whether the team, organization, or press want to admit it or not. Expectations come with the salary and endorsements, much like Luol Deng the fact that Rose is a soft spoken humble fella will buy him plenty of good will but only so much patience in a major market like Chicago.
If the Bulls maintain the status quo on defense, Rose returns to form, Noah does his thing, Butler plays slightly beyond his years, and Deng earns his money in the playoffs there is no one in either conference that the Bulls can’t beat in a seven game serious. The question is which will be more fragile come playoff time, D Rose’s knee or Luol Deng’s will to win?