Coming into the season, quiet but definite optimism surrounded the fortunes of the Chicago Bulls and their returning star in Derrick Rose. Whether one was the somber, stoic fan that passively believed that they were good enough to at the very least put up a good fight or the enthusiastic, glory thirsty one that believed a championship trophy now likely lay only a half year into the future, optimism was something universal among the fan base.
Through six games that optimism has quickly turned into the kind of uncertainty and fear of the unknown that Bulls fans and players alike were hoping would not rear its ugly head into the midst of their season.
As anyone would tell a casual inquirer of the Bulls, any hopes of a title run begin and end with the healthy and productive presence of Rose on the basketball court. Thus far, there might not be a more important question that faces the franchise than that of those two factors involving Rose, involving his health and production, facets of the superstar that just haven’t been evident in the early goings this season. Over the course of the first four seasons of his career, a certain standard of excellence, of superiority surrounded Rose as he produced to the clip of 20.9 points, 6.8 assists, 3.8 rebounds on 46.1 percent from the field while radiating the kind of confidence that other teammates were inspired by.
Even before the hamstring injury that will most likely keep him out of tonight’s game with the Toronto Raptors, the question was already making its rounds through the city of Chicago: where is the Rose we knew and loved?
At 14.7 points, 4.5 assists and 2.8 assists, Rose has produced more than the average NBA player could hope for. Unfortunately, this is not the ordinary talent that gets giddy with the rare occasions of the hot hand but one that lives his moments on the court usually within just such a zone, something that his currently dreadful 33 percent from the field and 25 percent from deep point to not being the case at the moment.
As for the rest of the Bulls, questions run rampant about just how good this roster truly is. Although Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler make for a great group of players for head coach Tom Thibodeau to throw into the fire each night, it just feels like something might be missing with this team, something that could finally become evident not in the long season to come but in May and June when the battle is to extend it. The offense has been abysmal, the ball movement lacking speed and effectiveness and the defense lacking that extra gear that wouldn’t frustrate opponents but instill fear in them.
Does the team look to make a major roster move? Other than Deng and Boozer, two impact players with trade value who come up most often in prospective trade talk among fans, the team lacks the kind of resources that one needs to acquire a true difference maker on the floor, at least while Butler, Noah and Rose remain untouchable.
Do they look to the free agents currently looking for work to add some much needed injection of life into their locker room? Aside from Stephen Jackson, Richard Hamilton, Roddy Beaubois, Daniel Gibson and Drew Gooden, that market is one bare and lacking any promise of a solution.
At some point this season the Bulls will most likely have a difficult decision ahead of them. If the team doesn’t get the Rose that they knew before the injury back this season, Deng and others become not assets towards a goal this season but commodities to be used towards the pursuit of a future one. It is still very early, but it is a day that all Bulls fans and players should feel some level of anxiety over when the franchise finally evaluates its season to that point and decides whether to continue sailing the ship through the perpetual NBA storm with this crew or to find some fresh faces to change it up.
That day is quickly coming. For the sake of all of us calling ourselves Bulls admirers, let’s just hope when that day comes it is met with a brighter picture than the one currently painted before our eyes.