How will the Bulls season end?

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How will the Bulls season end?

Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010
10:34 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

A historic summer for the NBA has passed and for the Bulls, while they didn't acquire quite the star power many expected andor hoped for, optimism runs high, both within the organization and throughout the team's fan base. With the offseason coming to an end, the time to fully delve into the upcoming NBA season is here. Instead of a traditional season preview, issues both throughout the league and in Chicago will be probed daily here on CSNChicago.com up until the squad officially convenes for training camp toward the end of September.

19. How will the Bulls' season end?

Heading into the season, there are certainly some unknowns for the Bulls, many of which have been covered recently in this very space. Some of these variables can be predicted to an extent, but others--such as new head coach Tom Thibodeau's performance and team chemistry after an offseason roster overhaul--cannot.

There will obviously be an adjustment to Thibodeau's system, which will surely prioritize defense. Some of the Bulls--namely Carlos Boozer and Derrick Rose--will have to make a shift in their mentality, as the defensive end is perceived to be among their main shortcomings. Boozer, in particular (Rose, 21, is still a very malleable player), will have to work to change his reputation as a poor defender, as sources with knowledge of Thibodeau's thinking tell CSNChicago.com that the coach doesn't plan to double team opposing post players.

The issue of chemistry will also be an ongoing plot line to be observed in the season's early going. None of the Bulls--whether holdovers or newcomers--are specifically known for being a selfish players; rather, the question of a set pecking order and perhaps who will be willing to take a backseat is more pertinent.

After entering last season as the team's go-to scorer, Luol Deng will likely be the team's third option on offense, behind Rose and Boozer. While this may make him a more dangerous threat and be better for the team as a whole, every player has somewhat of an ego and a more-limited role may initially be tough for Deng to swallow.

While Joakim Noah doesn't necessarily require a lot of shots or set plays run for him to be effective (although Noah, an underrated passer, not getting a lot of touches would be a mistake) and the team's supporting cast seemingly having defined roles to play, it will take some time before everybody is comfortable with each other. Furthermore, Thibodeau, despite all of his experience, is still a novice as an NBA head coach (he did have a stint as a college head coach over 20 years ago) and will need to balance his lauded work ethic with delegating to others on his staff.

That said, the Bulls are a fairly balanced and deep group with a lot of weapons and besides outside shooting, not a lot of weaknesses. The holdovers from last season--including Taj Gibson and James Johnson, along with Rose, Noah and Deng--all have playoff experience, as do the majority of the offseason acquisitions.

A so-so start wouldn't be completely unexpected, but as the season goes on, the Bulls should get stronger, find their groove and enter the postseason as a squad to be feared. Becoming a true contender may be too much of a leap, but a five-game increase from last season's win total--in a much tougher Eastern Conference--isn't an impossibility.

As was written in an earlier edition of this series, Milwaukee should be favored to win the Central Division based on success last season, overall team depth, and not having to deviate much from how they played a year ago. Chicago, however, should be in a two-team Central race until the end, garnering a decent playoff seed--if not the top-four East finish many observers expect--and potentially playing spoiler to a higher-seeded team in the first round of the postseason before bowing out in the conference semifinals.

That might not sound satisfying to fans, but with so many variables going into this season, a marked improvement from the 2009-10 campaign bodes well for the future. After all, it's always necessary to crawl before walking.

Chicago Bulls predicted finish: 46-36, fifth in the Eastern Conference (second in the Central Division), second round of the playoffs

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Doug McDermott to return for Bulls against Spurs after missing 11 games with concussion

Doug McDermott to return for Bulls against Spurs after missing 11 games with concussion

After a couple weeks of woozy moments, confusing car rides and 11 games of inactivity due to suffering a concussion Bulls forward Doug McDermott will return to action tonight against the San Antonio Spurs.

McDermott took a hard fall Nov. 12 against the Washington Wizards while going up for a dunk, hitting his head on the unforgiving floor of the United Center and had to go through the concussion protocol before finally being cleared. It was his second concussion this season, with the first coming on Halloween.

“Good, great, it’s been a long couple weeks, but finally feel good to be able to go out there and compete, so I’m excited,” McDermott said after morning shootaround at the Advocate Center.

The last couple of days after being cleared for contact, he practiced with the Bulls’ D-League team in the attempt to get some rhythm and most importantly, some conditioning after being out for so long.

He was in great spirits Thursday, a sharp contrast to the initial days after the concussion where the simplest tasks became herculean.

“The first week-and-a-half was tough sleeping-wise, just weird symptoms you don’t even realize,” McDermott said. “Just being in cars, going to my appointments was tough at times, some headaches throughout the week. But with a concussion you just have to be true to yourself and true to the doctors. You don’t want to lie about things because it can only make things worse. I’m finally to the point where I’m feeling better.”

McDermott said going to physical therapy or riding on the freeway would trigger vertigo in the first week, but luckily for him, it didn’t last much longer after that. The first concussion of his career took him to different place mentally, and he leaned on Celtics big man Al Horford during that time of confusion and frustration.

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Horford missed a number of games with a concussion he suffered early in the season.

“Talked to him for about 30 minutes,” McDermott said. “He was in the middle of his and I had my second one. We talked about our symptoms and he really took his time and you see his game has been really good since he came back.”

“We're really the only two guys who've had it this year. People don't really understand, it's a tough deal. Basketball can be physical. You see it a lot in football. You gotta be true to yourself, true to your doctors because you don't wanna mess around.”

With the second concussion taking place 13 days after the first, McDermott and the Bulls had to be a lot more careful the next time around. Having one is scary enough but the fall he took in the United Center probably ignited a fear in him that he didn’t know existed.

“Yeah, you have to just listen to your symptoms, but I think with the second one in such a short period of time they wanted to be cautious too, and I did too,” McDermott said. “It’s not like an ankle sprain or a knee deal where you can play through things like that. It’s your brain, so you want to be as sharp as possible.”

The Bulls need any type of reinforcement they can get, especially for the struggling bench. McDermott feels like he can add some confidence or at least put other guys in a more natural order, although that remains to be seen as Nikola Mirotic and Isaiah Canaan have really struggled in his absence — all season, it seems.

“I think we'll get our swagger back too. We've had some injuries,” McDermott said. “Once we get myself and Michael (Carter-Williams) back, we've been rotating guys that aren't used to playing with each other. Once we get some continuity there with that group, things will get better. Adding a shooter like me, it'll take pressure off Niko, take pressure off Isaiah to hit shots. Just having 3 floor spacers out there will really help all of us.”

Five Things to Watch: Bulls try to snap skid against Spurs on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Bulls try to snap skid against Spurs on CSN

Watch as the Bulls take on the Spurs tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com, the only place where you can get the hometown call from Neil and Stacey.

Coverage begins at 8 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

1. Attempting to end perfection. The Spurs have been absolutely electric outside of San Antonio this season, winning each of their first 13 road games to begin the year. That's the second longest streak in NBA history, and the Bulls have actually lost two of three at home. The Bulls will be home underdogs as the Spurs look to make it 14 in a row. The good news is the Bulls have defeated the Spurs at home each of the last two seasons.

2. Battle of the two-way studs. There's a real argument to be made that Thursday's matchup will tout the two best two-way players in the NBA. Kawhi Leonard, the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year, is having his best offensive season to date, averaging 24.5 points on 46 percent shooting, 1.9 triples, and averaging nearly 91 percent from the free-throw line. Expect Jimmy Butler and Leonard to be on each other's rear most of the night in what should be one of the most fun 1-on-1 matchups in the NBA.

3. Questions at the point. For the Spurs, Tony Parker is questionable to play with a knee injury. If he can't go, it would be Nico Laprovittola and Patty Mills running the point. For the Bulls, Rajon Rondo is coming off a pair of ugly performances in Bulls' losses to the Mavericks and Pistons (and his suspension against the Blazers). Someone needs to step up at the point, and it could decide Thursday night's winner.

4. Pau returns to the UC. Though it didn't result in much success, Pau Gasol enjoyed two highly successful seasons in Chicago. The stat-stuffer was named an All-Star in both seasons, averaging 17.6 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 150 games. He's now in San Antonio, filling Tim Duncan's role in the starting lineup. And though his numvers are down from a year ago, he's still capable of putting up numbers, especially against a Bulls' interior that has struggled of late.

5. Getting Doug McDermott back. Dougie McBuckets has been activated to the Bulls roster, and not a moment too soon. Since McDermott suffered a concussion on Nov. 12, the Bulls bench ranks 26th in 3-pointers per game (2.5) and 30th in 3-point field-goal percentage (23.5 percent). Getting McDermott back, even in a small role as he gets his legs under him, will be a major factor against a Spurs team whose offense continues to heat up in December.

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