Now that all of the controversy from Reggie Rose's comments last week about his younger brother's employer has died down a little bit, here I am to stir things back up. No, not really, but in light of the Bulls' struggles this month, it seems relevant to read between the lines.
The elder Rose is used to his Derrick experiencing both team and individual success. And with his superstar status, there's no reason he wouldn't expect it to happen on the professional level, after being so successful in high school at Simeon Career Academy, which resulted in back-to-back state championships and his one-year stint in college at Memphis, where he advanced to the national championship game. Now, the timing of Reggie's comments, how he expressed himself and even the fact that he was discussing an organization that he doesn't personally have any involvement in may be questioned. But he, just like you or I, has a right to talk about a relative, though I doubt any journalist would want to quote us.
While Derrick, who isn't a complainer or malcontent, might not be the type of player to tell the organization what moves to make--something increasingly common within the contingent of the NBA's elite--Reggie's opinion should be viewed as more reflective of concerns about how the prime of his brother's career is spent, which is an issue that even fans who found his statements problematic have probably pondered. To say the Bulls are outright cheap is inaccurate, as evidenced by their payroll and first-time luxury-tax status.
But in a star-driven league, even one affected by the new league's CBA, it's not unfeasible to believe that without adding another impact player--and not in exchange for a current one, such as the All-Star duo of Lu and Jo, both of whom Reggie singled out positively, or valuable role players like Taj and promising young talents Jimmy and Marquis--that the team won't be able to again seemingly be on the cusp of being on a championship level, even if making a major move right now would be fruitless without knowing Derrick's status.
This isn't last season and not to belatedly over-dramatize the loss of the "Bench Mob," but it's tough to evaluate a team of one-year rentals and come to the conclusion that the team has a nucleus of a title contender, which Bulls management clearly understands. From the outside looking in, however, it's understandable why, especially in a big market and regarding a team that was just recently one of the league's elite, one could be disappointed about not having a roster that's perceived to have talent on par with their upper-echelon counterparts.
But take the fact that Reggie is Derrick's brother out of it--and again, if he wasn't, it wouldn't have been news--and his frustrations are identical to snippets of conversations in sports bars and barbershops, at water coolers and on public transportation, just without any connection to the team's best player and Chicago's favorite son, just with no media or tape recorders present.
Agree or disagree with what he said, the issue of how the Bulls capitalize on having one of the top talents of his generation will be examined from now until there's another parade on Michigan Avenue and the people most aware of that, the front office understands that sentiment, is assuredly preparing to make the best of the opportunity they have and whether their master plan ultimately succeeds or fails, just like Derrick's recovery--the determining factor in all of this and something that has now become an irrational obsession in Chicago, if not nationally--all the rest of us can do is sit back and be patient. On to the mailbag, which, as usual, features a handful of questions from Twitter:
Who made the best deal at the trade deadline? Worst?
Brian, this year's trade deadline was pretty anti-climactic, but while no big names were moved--I'm not counting last month's three-team deal centered around Rudy Gay--some of the subtle deals were interesting, though the deals that didn't happen were perhaps even more intriguing. I'll say Milwaukee made the best trade by acquiring J.J. Redick from Orlando, simply because all signs point to current starting shooting guard Monta Ellis opting out of his deal and becoming a free agent in the summer, with Redick replacing him at a reduced salary. For the worst move, Sacramento takes the crown by moving rookie power forward Thomas Robinson, the fifth pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. The Kings got a solid player back at the same position in Patrick Patterson, and Robinson wasn't lighting the league on fire in his debut season, but giving up on such a high draft choice so early, especially when the swap appeared to be financially-motivated and didn't even reap much savings, was unfortunately par for the course for a troubled organization, one that simply isn't deserving of getting the benefit of the doubt these days.
Does Joakim Noah get your Defensive Player of the Year vote right now?
Frank, Jo is certainly in the conversation. He was definitely an early-season front-runner for the award, but now that people are starting to realize how valuable Lu is as a perimeter defender, I wouldn't be surprised if they take votes away from each other. I'd put players like Chicago native Tony Allen of the Grizzlies, former Bulls center and last year's winner Tyson Chandler of the Knicks, league-leading shot-blocker Larry Sanders of the Bucks, Indiana center Roy Hibbert, Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka and even reigning MVP LeBron James of the Heat in the discussion, too. Perimeter players tend to get the short of the stick when it comes to this award, but right now, I'd give Allen the slight nod, just because of how committed he is on that end of the floor, a la former Spurs stopper Bruce Bowen. Of course, that's subject to change.
Did Luol Deng do enough with Derrick Rose out to command too big a contract that the Bulls can pay after next season? Does he seem like a guy to give a hometown discount?
Barry, I think Lu has proved his value over the past few seasons and teams with a need at small forward when he hits free agency will undoubtedly pursue him. He's spent his entire pro career in Chicago, but Lu has obviously lived in a lot of different places around the world, so I don't think he'd necessarily be averse to playing elsewhere. That doesn't bode well for the Bulls, as far as him taking less money to stay put, but if the front office doesn't have an upgrade at his position lined up--and there aren't many, period, let alone ones who will be free agents, willing to take less money or are good bets to come to Chicago--they might have to bite the bullet. A lot can change between now and then, but even though letting Lu walk would create some flexibility, he's nearly impossible to replace, not to mention losing him might give Thibs a stroke.
Do you see the Jimmy Butler and Rip Hamilton minutes (28-to-18 for Butler) at SG staying put the rest of the season, or will Thibs use Hamilton for his offense more than he is now down the stretch?
Patrick, I don't see Thibs increasing Rip's minutes much in the regular season unless it's absolutely necessary or based on matchups, but I wouldn't be surprised if that changed in the postseason, as his playoff experience and scoring ability could be crucial. At the same time, if that occurs, I think he'll find a way to get Jimmy on the court for defensive purposes, meaning that he and Marco could become more of a platoon, alternating based on the situation. It really comes down to matchups, but I do see Rip being more of a factor in the playoffs.
Do you believe the Bulls' record/shot at a championship will determine when Derrick Rose may return, or is it completely his decision once he's medically cleared?
Ben, I don't believe Derrick is basing his return on the Bulls' status--it might be different if they were out of the playoff race--but it isn't as simple as just choosing to play after getting the approval of the team's medical staff. As much pride as Derrick has, I don't think he wants to come back to simply be able to play, but make an impact and not be concerned with setbacks. That's independent of how the Bulls are faring, though I think as conscientious as he is of his teammates, he wouldn't want to affect their chemistry too much. This is something that could have a long-term effect on his career, so I'm sure he's weighing every aspect of the timing of his return, but ultimately, it comes down to when he feels comfortable enough, both mentally and physically, to play again.
Is Daequan Cook not good enough defensively to see minutes in Thibs' rotation? Wouldn't his 3-point shooting help the offense?
Ryan, Thibs is the type of coach who's not only loyal to the players who have toiled through training camp and the entire season, but overly demanding of in-season acquisitions learning the system. On top of that, the Bulls have good depth at the wing, as Lu plays the bulk of the minutes at small forward, Rip and Marco splitting minutes at shooting guard, and Jimmy playing both positions. Daequan has a skill set that can help the team, but the opportunity for extended minutes just isn't there right now. It's similar to when the Bulls picked up Rasual Butler a few years ago, as Daequan hasn't done anything wrong, but is more a victim of circumstance.
How much of the Bulls' recent offensive woes are on the players? Coaches? Road opponents?
Andy, the Bulls simply aren't a great offensive team. They're built to emphasize defense and even when Derrick was in the lineup, they struggled to score at times. That said, it's a squad that relies on unselfishness, solid decision-making, good shot selection and precise execution, and when those things don't happen, they can be painful to watch. They just don't have many players who excel at creating for themselves or others, making them relatively easy to guard if they aren't clicking on all cylinders and nobody has the hot hand or a favorable matchup.
Don't you think Deng plays too many minutes? Not saying he's playing bad, but he just seems tired. @Insan3Knight, I don't know if you've noticed, but Lu has seen a slight decrease in his workload lately. Jimmy's emergence when he was out has led Thibs to spell Lu a bit more, so he's played a bit less minutes recently. As far as him being tired, while Lu isn't an overly explosive athlete, he's one of the better-conditioned players in the league and prepares for every season with the knowledge that he'll be called upon to be an ironman, something he's done since Thibs' arrival in Chicago.
I love Derrick, but can we safely say that his brother needs to shut his mouth and let Derrick speak for himself? @SlapTheFloor, see above.
What exactly is up with Kirk's elbow that he can only play 1 game? Can you ask why is it not healing? @RipDirty, believe me, Kirk wants to be on the court even more than fans want to see him play. If you recall, he first injured his elbow back on Jan. 7, when he popped his bursa sac while diving for a loose ball in a home win over Cleveland. He missed a game, then gutted it out for the rest of the month, until it got infected after a road win over Milwaukee and following the team arriving in Brooklyn for a Feb. 1 matchup against the Nets, he returned to Chicago and missed the next seven games. After returning to the lineup after the All-Star break, the scar from the initial injury that was cleaned out reopened following the win in New Orleans and when it's satisfactorily healed, he'll eventually come back. Kirk's just been really unlucky, but nobody should ever question his toughness.
If Rose is out all year, don’t the Bulls get an injury exception on the cap? If so no trade needed to stay under cap. @hhhjr_1, regardless of when Derrick comes back, after missing 41 games, the Bulls were off the hook for paying his full salary for the season. The technical term for this is "Temporary Total Disability," and insurance will pick up a large percentage of the money. However, before any conspiracy theorists start floating the notion that the Bulls are purposely keeping him out, it has no impact on the salary cap, as Derrick's salary officially remains on the books. There's more to it than that, but I'm paraphrasing based on my research, the terms of the CBA and the explanations of people in the know who are clearly much smarter than me.
Am I crazy for thinking Butler can be our two-guard with a fully healthy [R]ose? @aLew23, Jimmy still has a ways to go before he can be considered a starting-caliber shooting guard. He can definitely defend the position, but still needs to improve his ball-handling and the consistency of his outside jumper. If he can gain confidence as a shooter and become competent at creating off the dribble, I wouldn't rule it out, but for now, Jimmy's best served as an energy player off the bench.
Could the Bulls be into Victor Oladipo? @avewoodbury, with the way he's played as of late, just about every NBA team is "into" the Indiana junior, who has transformed himself into a potential lottery pick after entering the season as a fringe draft prospect. Oladipo's a product of famed DeMatha High School (the alma mater of Hall of Famer Adrian Dantley, Hawks top executive Danny Ferry and former Bull Keith Bogans, among others), just outside my hometown, and I was familiar with him as a high-school prospect. His development from a raw athlete without a true position to a more polished wing has been remarkable, but his relentlessness, defense and toughness were always there. While his improved shooting and ballhandling are impressive, those aforementioned traits should be his bread and butter on the next level.