Schanowski: Can Bulls contend for title this season?

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Schanowski: Can Bulls contend for title this season?

Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011
12:02 p.m.

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

With Derrick Rose putting up an MVP-worthy season at the age of 22, some NBA observers are wondering if the Bulls might be ahead of schedule in their plan to build a title-contending team. Even with the long-term injuries suffered by Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, the Bulls have the 3rd best record in the Eastern Conference, and already own victories over both Boston and Miami. Question is, could they beat either of these teams in a best of 7 series? What do you think? Please post your comments in the section below.

Noah surprised reporters by announcing hes hoping to return to action before the NBAs All-Star weekend, which starts on February 19th. That would give the Bulls almost two full months to get their team fine-tuned for the start of the playoffs. Amazingly, the Bulls have gone 15-6 since Noah went out with a torn ligament in his right thumb, which leads everyone to wonder just how good this team can be at full strength. Kurt Thomas has done an excellent job of holding down the center position in Noahs absence, but once Joakim returns, the Bulls will have the kind of frontcourt depth and versatility that few teams can equal.

Of course, there is that nagging lack of production at the shooting guard position, but dont look for the Bulls to make a major move before the February 24th trade deadline, unless Detroit decides to buy out Richard Hamilton, which isnt likely. With the league facing a difficult round of collective bargaining in the off-season, the Bulls and most other teams dont want to be stuck with long-term salary commitments for past their prime veteran players.

If David Stern and the owners are successful in instituting a hard salary cap in the new collective bargaining agreement, many teams could be forced to trade or release players just to get their rosters to comply with new league rules. And, with the Bulls planning to offer Rose a contract extension before next season, they need to make sure their roster isnt overloaded with long-term, big money deals. Adding another 8 million plus per year contract like Hamilton, Jamal Crawford or Stephen Jackson could actually prevent the Bulls from working out a new contract with Rose, and obviously, that would not make any sense for the future of the franchise.

So, the next time you wonder why Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer are failing to provide the offense youd expect from the shooting guard position, just remember building a championship roster isnt normally done in just one season. The Bulls decision makers know they need to add another reliable shooter to the mix, but because of the labor issues, it probably wont happen this season. Rest assured, Gar Forman and John Paxson are making their calls around the league, trying to find creative ways to improve the roster. But the reality is, any big move isnt likely to happen until next year, when the Bulls will have more roster flexibility.

Now, that doesnt mean the Bulls couldnt add another shooting guard before the trade deadline. Moderately priced players like Anthony Parker and Courtney Lee might be available, as well as guys in the 5 to 7 million range like Mikeal Pietrus, J.R. Smith and Leandro Barbosa. The problem is, any team talking trade with the Bulls is likely to ask for Taj Gibson as part of the package coming back. And, with the injuries suffered by Boozer and Noah this season, plus the inexperience of Omer Asik, it would be tough to give up such a valuable frontcourt reserve.

Its always difficult to be patient, especially with the Bulls exceeding pre-season expectations at this point. But if the Bulls could potentially add another All-Star caliber player at next years trade deadline, or in the summer of 2012, maybe patience is the best course right now.

As always, we appreciate your feedback and suggestions. Should the Bulls wait until they have the cap room to make a major upgrade at the shooting guard position, or would you like to see something done before February 24th? And, can the Bulls contend for a championship this season, or do they still need more talent and experience? Please post your comments in the section below.

Ill see you Friday at the United Center when the Bulls get another litmus test against Dwight Howard and the new-look Orlando Magic.

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNet Central, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10 p.m.

Bulls hand Rajon Rondo one-game suspension

Bulls hand Rajon Rondo one-game suspension

The Bulls are suspending Rajon Rondo for one game.

The organization sent out a press release Monday morning with the announcement their point guard would miss Monday night's game against the Portland Trail Blazers for conduct detrimental to the team.

Rondo's history is littered with behavioral issues. 

[SHOP: Get your Bulls gear right here]

He was suspended by the NBA one game almost exactly a year ago for using a "derogatory and offensive term towards an official" as a member of the Sacramento Kings.

Rondo is averaging 8.2 points, 7.2 assists and 6.7 rebounds per game this season in 17 contests.

Bulls pass out Christmas gifts to Chicago youth on Sunday

Bulls pass out Christmas gifts to Chicago youth on Sunday

It was hard to tell who was more excited Sunday afternoon: the Bulls players or the 400 kids who stopped by the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry as the team passed out Christmas gifts for kids who reside in the Chicago family housing development.

Robin Lopez was carrying about Benny the Bull, much to the surprise and delight of many kids who were in attendance, while Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo took photos and passed out gifts to every child.

Rondo established roots in Chicago long before becoming a Bull, but has become entrenched in the months since signing with the franchise, being a part of the 17th annual holiday party.

“It’s definitely an honor. An honor to be a Bull,” Rondo said. “Since Day 1 when I got here I thought they were the best organization as far as giving back to the community, and it shows. They do it without hesitation.

“Very welcoming. The people have been great. The kids have been here since Day 1 supporting us as well. It’s very exciting.”

Bulls volunteers served lunch provided by Papa John’s, Coca-Cola and Edy’s Ice Cream, as the holiday party is one of the 30 events the Bulls are organizing as part of the team and NBA Cares’ “Season of Giving.”

“It’s no problem for any of us,” Lopez said. “Look at Raj, look at Jimmy, they’re having a blast out there. They’re having as good of a time as the kids out there.”

Being a California native, the newfound snowfall added to the atmosphere for Lopez.

“This really feels like Christmas,” Lopez said. “I can feel the spirit inside with the kids and the looks on their faces when they walk in and see the toys, they see Jimmy Butler and they’re so excited to be a part of it.”

Whether it was Barbie Dreamhouses, or Nerf basketball rims, the kids were ecstatic to see the Bulls and to pick out the toys being distributed by the Bulls’ stars.

“Very humbling. Over 400 kids. And every kid comes through all smiling and excited,” Rondo said. “Some of them don’t get toys all year and this time of year is about giving. I’m very humbled.”

Butler has been around Bulls Charities since being drafted in 2011, so although this is old hat, he hasn’t lost any of the spirit that comes with doing events like this year after year.

He posed with kids for photos and cracked jokes to the younger basketball fans.

“Feels good. I just like being here. It’s what this time of year is all about, seeing these kids smile,” Butler said. “I love kids, I love this city, I want everybody to be happy all the time. However I can make that happen, especially around Christmas and the holidays, I’ll do.”

Lopez is quiet to many who see him on the floor, but his eyes lit up around the kids and made Benny the Bull his personal prop by picking him up and carrying him through the museum.

“Every time I see it, it’s a wonderful feeling. To think I’m a small part of it, I can’t begin to describe it,” Lopez said. “Any opportunity I get to work with kids, that’s always easy yes in my book. I’m a big kid at heart. Any time I can go play, I’m in.

“It’s indescribable. I got so many great gifts as a kid, and blessed in so many ways. Just to be able to give back in any facet, that’s an easy yes.”

Sunday's event leads up to Monday's Chicago Bulls Charities Night at the United Center. The Bulls host the Portland Trailblazers at 7 p.m. on CSN.