As Bulls players begin to trickle in to the Berto Center to prepare for what could be a very special season, CSNChicago.com is getting fans ready to hit the ground running, too.
NBA training camps don't open until the end of the month, but from Monday through Friday up until Bulls' media day, we're discussing everything from Derrick Rose's comeback to the top competition in the Eastern Conference--with a twist.
CSNChicago.com has compiled the insights of anonymous behind-the-scenes league insiders (an assistant coach, a front-office executive, a retired player and an advanced scout), to go along with in-depth reporter breakdowns and complementary statistical analysis to ensure that diehard hoops fans are up to speed when the balls officially start bouncing.
[MORE: Will the Bulls be rested come playoff time?]
Today's Topic: Will heavy minutes take a toll on the Bulls' key players?
"They usually work themselves out. I think with Derrick coming back, they can rest Hinrich more. They want Kirk Hinrich healthy. For them to succeed in the playoffs, they need a healthy Kirk Hinrich and so, having him miss a few games during the regular season or cutting his minutes back is only going to help them when it counts in April.
Backup point guard, as a third guard, Teague is going to be adequate there. He's just going to get better than he was his rookie year. They have Taj Gibson to back up both the four and the five, Dunleavy backing up as a three.
I think they're deep. They're similar to what they were two years ago. I know they don't have Nate Robinson now, who was explosive and could get you 40 on a given night, but yet, they won't have to worry about him going off the deep end either. I like their team a lot."
It's safe to say that this source isn't prone to the hand-wringing many observers go through when examining the injuries to Derrick, Joakim and Luol, in particular. Last season was clearly an aberration when it comes to the myriad ailments the Bulls suffered and the resulting lack of depth. But Thibs' penchant for leaning on certain players is nothing new and neither are the knee-jerk reactions after the fact, if and when players get hurt.
Could some of the Bulls' health issues be related to perceived overuse? Sure, but if key players logged less minutes, then who knows how the team would have performed these past few years?
To expect Thibs to pull back this season would be foolhardy, as his philosophy of winning as many regular-season games as possible to secure home-court advantage throughout the playoffs and not easing back on the throttle to have his team be in the best position realize success isn't changing. Perhaps Derrick, at least early on, will be an exception to this rule, due to his unique situation, but Luol is not only used to heavy minutes, but has thrived as a player since Thibs' arrival in Chicago, and in a contract year, I'd bet he's preparing for a league-leading workload once again, so as to be as productive as he can.
In Joakim's case, Nazr's improvement over the second half of last season bodes well, although another obtaining another backup center is certainly a priority. Former Heat center Dexter Pittman, already at the Berto Center for workouts leading up to training camp, is poised to take advantage of his invitation, but surely other options are under consideration by management. Regardless, if Joakim is again plagued by plantar fasciitis, we know that a combination of rest, therapy and playing through pain has been the best solution in the past, meaning there's no one conclusive answer to the issue.
Jimmy's youth and the experience he gained last season makes his minutes less of an issue and barring injury, the power-forward tandem of Carlos and Taj is among the league's best at the position, with rookie Erik Murphy giving the Bulls another dimension, though likely only in special situations. The addition of Mike Dunleavy helps the wing depth and while this will probably be more of a developmental campaign for first-round draft pick Tony Snell, if he can make some progress, perhaps his blend of shooting and defense could earn him some spot minutes.
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The fact that the aforementioned source chose to focus on Kirk's health when it comes to the postseason is telling, but makes sense, given that the league has become so guard-dominant (although in the East, only Brooklyn's Deron Williams could be considered a top-tier point guard on a legitimate contending team) and with his defensive prowess and ability to play alongside or back up Derrick, he could be a significant factor down the stretch, especially given his experience. Marquis, coming off a promising summer-league stint, could seize an opportunity based on Kirk's ability to play both backcourt spots, but that will be based on better ball security, shooting and overall knowledge of the professional game.
All in all, while the Bulls' improved depth gives Thibs more options to utilize, a set rotation should develop quickly and once any unknowns are figured out early in the season-Dunleavy's adjustment defensively, whether Marquis or Snell can crack the regular rotation, etc.-it will be business as usual. And as much as minutes are a concern to outsiders, the players in question not only don't complain, they're prepared for the inevitable.
[MORE: What makes the Bulls special?]
Tomorrow: What is Jimmy Butler's ceiling?