Monday's Mailbag: Breaking down the Bulls

Monday's Mailbag: Breaking down the Bulls
January 22, 2013, 12:55 am
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What's just a day off work for some and a moment of historic importance for many others is a smorgasbord of basketball on all levels, as professional, college and high school (such as Chicago's Simeon Career Academy, which beat perennial national power Oak Hill Academy of Virginia in an afternoon game taking place in Springfield, Mass., the home of the Basketball Hall of Fame) games being played and televised all over the nation for fans, hopefully with a reprieve from their jobs, to enjoy. In the NBA, the Bulls host the Lakers in the league's nightcap affair Monday on the league's Martin Luther King Day slate of games, after playing the matinee game in Memphis -- where Derrick Rose attended college--the last few seasons.
In many ways, the two teams are having opposite seasons, as the Lakers were thought to be a title contender after acquiring Dwight Howard and Steve Nash in the offseason, while the Bulls were considered an afterthought by many, given Derrick's absence.
Instead, the Bulls are in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference, while the dysfunctional Lakers, struggling with injuries and on their third coach of the season, are currently out of the Western Conference playoff picture.
Regardless of what happens this season, it just goes to show that preseason predictions, supposed mindset into the psyche of locker rooms and advanced statistics can't account for what occurs on the court, as the games still have to be played. Sure, the Lakers could go on a run and get back into postseason contention and the schizophrenic Bulls could potentially take a nosedive, especially if Luol Deng misses extended time with his recent hamstring injury.
But those scenarios are unlikely. Either way, whether you've been using the day to think about Dr. King's legacy or simply choose to spend the day watching hoops, it's a time that can be used for reflection.
On to the mailbag:
Do the Bulls regret drafting Marquis Teague, or is it still too early to tell?
Terry, it's way to early to tell. First of all, let's remember that Marquis is only 19, the team's third-string point guard -- fourth on the depth chart upon Derrick's return -- and has had limited opportunities to play. The Bulls knew all of that coming into the season and when he's seen action, I'd say that he's acquitted himself fairly well for a rookie who doesn't get a lot of reps besides individual drills. Playing for Thibs, Marquis isn't allowed to make mistakes and when he's received extended minutes, he's shown flashes of his potential, especially considering that he's held his own against the likes of Boston's Rajon Rondo, Brooklyn's Deron Williams and Philadelphia's Jrue Holiday, all top-tier point guards.
At this point, I think the Bulls are at least satisfied with what they've seen, particularly when one considers that many, including myself, thought he could be relegated to the D-League after his mediocre summer-league showing. Looking ahead, the Bulls could potentially have a top-tier backup point guard and with his speed on the floor, the possibility of having him on the court with Derrick simultaneously is very intriguing, a la Chris Paul and Eric Bledsoe with the Clippers.
Is it a stretch to call the Bulls the favorite in the East if a healthy Rose returns?
Jack, I'd say so. Miami is still the defending champion and although the Heat have been underwhelming at times and still need to solve their interior issues, they do have the game's top player, as well as two other All-Stars. After Miami, however, it's a bit of a toss-up, as none of the Knicks, Pacers, Nets, Hawks and Bucks are truly intimidating. In a seven-game series, I have a hard time decisively picking any of those teams to beat the Bulls as presently assembled and assuming Derrick is at least a semblance of his old self, the chemistry is still strong and they can develop more consistency, specifically at home, they have as good of a chance of anybody in the East to dethrone the Heat.
How will Kirk Hinrich's and Nate Robinson's minutes shake out when Rose returns? When he's healthy (no minutes restriction?)
Conor, only Thibs knows the answer to that question, but I'll take a guess. Honestly, I don't know if Derrick will be cleared for a heavy workload this season and I can't say if Nate will be back next season. Hypothetically though, if there's no overly restrictive minutes limit by season's end, let's pencil Derrick in for 30 a night, though I suspect it could be less. I could see Thibs utilizing Kirk and perhaps Nate in the backcourt with Derrick for short stretches, though he's not a huge fan of having two small guards on the floor together at the same time. Let's say that against teams that go small, he does that for a three-minute period, just to showcase a different look, as well as to give himself a strategic exercise for those late nights and early mornings at the Berto Center.
I'd assume that Kirk would get that handful of minutes, as well as serving as Derrick's primary backup, the role he was signed for, as many people seem to forget. I'd think that Kirk would play the bulk of the remaining 15-plus minutes per game at point guard, with Nate on the fringe of the rotation, not playing some nights and being used as a situational substitute or when the offense needs a boost.
Given the intensity of the Boston game Friday, who right now is the Bulls biggest rival?
Luke, the Celtics are definitely one of the Bulls' top rivals, given the recent history between the teams, not to mention Thibs' ties to Boston. Indiana, being so close geographically, a Central Division foe and a team that greatly desires to unseat the Bulls, is also up there. The Knicks should also be considered, as the Bulls have links to New York -- almost the entire coaching staff either worked for the Knicks or is from New York, not to mention Taj and Jo being from the Big Apple, the fact that players just get up for games at Madison Square Garden and the past battles of the Jordan-Ewing era -- and this season's matchups have been extremely competitive. However, Miami has to be the team the Bulls view as their biggest rival and I'd suspect that the Heat, if pressed, would say the same thing, at least when it comes to Eastern Conference opponents. The sting of the playoff defeat two years ago hasn't faded away yet and even since then, virtually every Bulls-Heat game has been an absolute dogfight.
What is the difference between Rose and Shumpert injuries?
@paulconner33, Derrick and Shumpert, a native of nearby Oak Park, Ill., were hurt the same day. But while they both suffered torn ACL injuries, Shumpert had his surgery 10 days before Derrick had his, something that was done to reduce the swelling before the procedure. Beyond that, however, no two injuries are exactly the same, no two players heal exactly the same way and no two medical staffs have the same approach. Also, I'm not saying the Knicks are putting Shumpert in any danger by letting him return to the floor prior to Derrick, but although the second-year guard is seen as a major part of New York's future, he's not the face of the franchise like Rose is to the Bulls. As impatient as people are to see Derrick playing again, the caution exercised by the Bulls is prudent, especially after seeing Minnesota point guard Ricky Rubio experience back spasms after he returned to action, whether his ailments were related to his surgically-repaired ACL or not.