Ask Aggrey: What can be expected of Rose's return?


Ask Aggrey: What can be expected of Rose's return?

Each Monday throughout the season, Bulls insider Aggrey Sam will open up his mailbag and answer your Bulls and NBA-related questions. Do you want to get your questions answered by Aggrey? Click here to find out how and to submit your questions.

Long time, no see, right? It's already more than a month into the NBA season and here's my first mailbag in seemingly forever.

Well, I'm back and thanks to anybody who stuck with me during the hiatus, as well as any newcomers. In a way, I'm glad my first mailbag is taking place now, since the early-season gloom-and-doom following some rough moments -- such as the three-game losing streak on the Circus Trip and the infamous loss to Milwaukee, in which the Bulls surrendered a 27-point lead -- are over.

I think (hope) people can see what type of season this is going to be, one in which the Bulls don't necessarily have the star power to beat all of the elite teams on any given night, but are still capable, as evidenced by Saturday's home win over the Knicks.

There will be some disappointing losses, too, without the services of Derrick Rose to bail them out early in the campaign -- and even upon his eventual return, it's unlikely that he'll be the same player we last saw right away -- but in general, the Bulls should be a winning team, a bit over .500, a likely playoff team and have a real chance to maintain their stranglehold on an awful Central Division.

Anyway, with no further ado, here's the mailbag:

1. When Rip Hamilton returns, will Tom Thibodeau continue to give him the same number of minutes?

Rip's injury was a fluke thing, as he doesn't have a history with that particular ailment, but when Thibs limited his minutes at the start of the season, it was a bit of foreshadowing. Because Marco Belinelli has been playing so well in his absence, I could see Rip's minutes staying around 25 a night, fluctuating depending on matchups, his performance, whether Jimmy Butler is needed for a defensive upgrade or if Marco comes out hot off the bench. It's a tricky thing, as Rip had been playing well before he got hurt and in addition to his scoring, the mere threat of him on the court, as well as his playmaking, is something opposing teams game plan for. But I know Thibs was concerned about overusing him into the season and this injury just proved his point.

2. What's your prediction on when Rose returns and what kind of production can we expect from him when he's back?

I hate to make predictions when it comes to any injury, simply because nobody but the player knows how his body is feeling and the a combination of the player, the coaching staff and the organization as a whole -- as well as the player's camp -- will make the final decision when it comes to long-term injuries.

When it comes to Derrick, I've heard a few different scenarios and while the consensus view is that he'll return after the All-Star break, I've been told everything from he'll miss the entire season to he'll play the final 30 games, which seems highly optimistic. I'll go with March, which seems safe enough, as he'll have time to get off some of the rust prior to the postseason but I wouldn't be surprised if he's deemed physically able to play before that and with a nod to caution, he has extended practice time to prepare. As far as production, I believe his minutes will be limited so the gaudy stats won't really be there, but I do think he'll have stretches of games that will induce flashbacks, as well as some ugly moments due to timing. Assuming he plays 20 or so minutes a night, I'll go with 12 points and four assists a game.

3. Will the Bulls use their exception to sign a 14th player to help with minutes while Hamilton is out?

For now, the answer is no. I'm sure if there's a player that the Bulls feel would help the team, regardless of Rip's health, they would look into that. But right now with the way Marco is playing and Butler's progress in his second season, the Bulls will wait. If further injuries occur or a player at another position gets hurt, that may be another story. But at the moment the list of available players isn't exactly filled with amazing talents.

I was asked via Twitter about Chicago native Quentin Richardson and the name of another Windy City product, erstwhile Bulls guard Jannero Pargo, has come up. If and when the Bulls do add another player, expect those two to be seriously considered. However, unless they make a trade and need depth at another position or, as I mentioned an injury occurs, I think the Bulls will stand pat at the moment.

4. How should minutes between Belinelli and Butler shake out?

Marco has played big minutes in his first three games as Rip's replacement in the starting lineup and as long as he keeps shooting the ball the way he's been, I don't see that changing.

Aside from his play justifying his playing time, it also has the added benefit of boosting Marco's confidence and not having to alter the rotation -- something Thibs is big on. Also, Marco's ability to stretch the floor gives the starting unit more balance than Jimmy offers, even if he's a better defender. At the same time, it will be hard for Marco to keep up his numbers as teams watch more tape on him and make adjustments, and after Jimmy's start to the season, it's not like he's in the doghouse, so I suspect that he'll end up seeing the court a bit more, especially in blowout situations to rest Lu or when teams go small, as the Knicks did Saturday.

I'd guess the minutes will end up being distributed a bit more evenly, with Marco playing maybe a little under 30 a night, Jimmy playing 15 or so at shooting guard and then spelling Lu during the rare times he's off the court, as well as playing alongside him occasionally in small-ball lineups, though Taj can also be on the court for those situations, given his mobility.

5. Which player has been the most unexpected surprise OR disappointment in how their game has changed with Rose out?

Since the Bulls have a fairly experienced roster with holdovers who have played extensively without Derrick, I can't say anybody's early season performance has shocked me either way. If anything, Taj has struggled a bit, but I'd attribute that more to the rest of the "Bench Mob," particularly Omer Asik, leaving than Derrick's absence. I'd be curious to see how Jimmy would play with Derrick, as he didn't get much playing time as a rookie behind Ronnie Brewer and his ability to score in transition would seem well-suited to complement Derrick's game.

READ: Knicks' Brewer has fond memories of time in Chicago

Lu and Jo, especially the latter, have really stepped up their games offensively and been much more assertive, which is necessary without Derrick to manufacture points, whether scoring them himself or creating easy opportunities for others. To be honest, and I know this going back a bit, since they last played together in the 2009-10 season, I think Kirk could benefit most from Derrick's eventual return, as he'll have less ball-handling responsibilities when the two of them are playing in the backcourt together and will be able to go up against second-unit players.

Morning Update: Cubs tie up World Series with Game 2 win; Bulls begin season against Celtics

Morning Update: Cubs tie up World Series with Game 2 win; Bulls begin season against Celtics

Here are some of the top headlines happening in the Chicago sports world today...

Cubs roll over Indians to even up World Series

Could Kyle Schwarber force the World Series issue and start for Cubs in Wrigley outfield?​

Jake Arrieta brings his A-game as Cubs even up World Series

5 Things to Watch: Bulls open season against Celtics

Willson Contreras apologizes to Cubs fans on Twitter and again makes his presence felt in World Series

Bears running back by committee still a work in progress as ground game languishes

Blackhawks still trying to solve penalty kill issues

Cubs: Even Kyle Schwarber's teammates can't believe what they're seeing in World Series

Rookie Denzel Valentine believes he'll play in Bulls' season opener

Cubs Talk Podcast: Kyle Schwarber's impact on offense

Cubs offense settling into World Series groove

Cubs offense settling into World Series groove

CLEVELAND - It doesn't take long for the 2016 Cubs to rebound.

Their American League-style lineup is just simply too talented to keep down for an extended period of time, especially with Kyle Schwarber now added back into the fold.

They Cubs hitters are so confident, they even left Progressive Field feeling good about themselves despite being shut out in Game 1 of the World Series.

The Cubs got on the board early Wednesday night, plating a run on the third batter of the game as Anthony Rizzo doubled home Kris Bryant.

"Take the momentum away. Take the crowd out of it," Bryant said. "It's nice to score first. Especially when you're the visiting team, to get out there and score within the first three batters is huge."

The early lead helped the lineup settle in and keep their foot on the gas for a 5-1 victory to take the series back to Wrigley Field tied one game apiece.

"Especially with a young lineup, I think when you see a few guys go up there and take some good quality at-bats, one happens after the other and the other guys seem to do the same thing," Ben Zobrist said. "It takes a lot of pressure off. When you see other guys having good, quality at-bats, you don't feel like you have to take pitches and you can be aggressive early on. 

"Oftentimes when you're aggressive in the zone is when you take the tough ones. We did a good job tonight laying off some good pitches. When they made mistakes in the zone, we really hit the ball hard. Even though we scored five runs, obviously we had a lot of baserunners on and we could've scored a lot more."

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

Zobrist has a point.

The night after leaving nine runners on base and going 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, the Cubs left 13 runners on base and tallied just three hits in 12 tries with runners in scoring position.

Between nine hits and eight walks, there were Cubs on base all game. Indians pitchers didn't retire Cubs hitters in order in an inning until the seventh.

The Cubs also forced the Indians to throw 196 pitches in nine innings and worked starter Trevor Bauer to 51 pitches through the first two frames.

"That was good for us," Bryant said. "We saw a lot of their bullpen, so we have a lot of information to learn from and hopefully use in the next game."

Anthony Rizzo summed up the lineup's mentality simply:

"Grind out at-bats, work the pitcher's pitch count up and get the next guy up," he said.

That "pass the baton" mentality is what drives this offense and after a brief lull in that regard in Los Angeles when they were shut out in back-to-back games in the NLCS, the Cubs leave Cleveland feeling pretty good.

"When we're able to [get pitch counts up], you can kinda feel it - our offense really feeds off of that," Zobrist said. "We believe that we're going to break through eventually."