The Chicago Bulls have lost Derrick Rose for the season. It's been a crushing blow for the city of Chicago. I've had tweets from people saying they were vomiting, crying, breaking down. We've had our day to sulk. We've had our day to be depressed. Now it's time to sit back and look at this team and remember that these guys still have a chance.
It's always begun with defense and rebounding
If you can defend and hit the glass hard on both ends then you're going to be in every single game you play. Those are the Bulls two biggest strengths with or without Rose. When looking at the Bulls prospective opponents, they'll have a big advantage in the paint at least up until the finals.
They should continue to dominate Philly on the interior. Neither Boston or Atlanta have strong front courts, and the Bulls easily win a size and toughness battle in the paint against the Heat. The Chicago Bulls can fall back on their defense and rebounding and still play at an elite level.
18-9 without Rose
The Bulls beat every playoff team in the East outside of the Pacers [whom they didn't play without him] without Derrick Rose this year. They effectively were 2-1 against the Heat without Rose this year given how he played in one of the games.
The Bulls are more prepared to play on without their superstar than virtually any other team in this situation. They've already been doing it for the past couple months with Rose only playing in a small smattering of games and not playing well in those.
They've shown they can beat the good teams in the NBA without Rose, and they've done it after they had already experienced plenty of success in his absence, so they weren't sneaking up on anyone.
Their pro-rated win total of 43-44 wins would have put them second behind Miami and fourth overall behind Miami, San Antonio, and OKC in terms of overall seeding. When was the last time you thought the team with the fourth best record didn't even have a shot?
Most importantly, the players themselves still believe. They know they can win because they've done it already.
Rip is playing well
Richard Hamilton is playoff ready right now. Many of the Bulls wins this season have come without Rose and Hamilton, but they've at least got Rip Hamilton back now. After taking a considerable amount of time to find his groove and slowly having his minutes incremented, Hamilton is ready for real action now.
He's been playing at a very high level and is giving the Bulls a secondary option to penetrate and create a shot when C.J. or Lucas are struggling with defensive attention. The Bulls can move the ball much better and create shots from more places on the floor now than they could at any other point in the Rose era even without Derrick.
Chicago will obviously miss Derrick's ability to penetrate, create in isolation, and draw the defense to open up the offensive rebounding opportunities, but the Bulls can make up some of that with improved three point shooting, more ball movement, and more diversity in their offense due to Hamilton's return.
Plenty of guys can step up
The Bulls starting lineup of Watson, Hamilton, Deng, Boozer, Noah still features three borderline all-stars and two guys who can play at a star level on any given night. With Rose out, the Bulls probably lack one player who will consistently dominate, but they have a committee of players who can get the job done.
On top of the starters, the Bulls will still bring in an incredible bench. Asik/Gibson could both start for many teams in the NBA. Brewer and Korver bring elite specialized skills to the table. John Lucas has waited his whole life for the chance to have a real shot at making his NBA dream come true and plays like his life depends on the outcome of the games.
Even Jimmy Butler has been given tough assignments in his limited minutes to prepare him for whatever the Bulls may need.
Crying time is over
Injuries suck, and we all feel bad for Derrick, but it's time to pick ourselves off the mat as a city and get this thing done. Go out and support this Bulls team. They've earned it. They deserve it. That "underdog" feeling the Bulls tried to play up while being the #1 seed now has a real feel to it.
Everyone else will have forgotten about Chicago. Magic Johnson gave them no chance to get past Boston in the second round [we'll see if Boston gets there], but these guys still have a chance. They've got defense, rebounding, talent, depth, and the best tactical coach in the NBA driving them.
Yes, the Bulls odds of winning the title dropped considerably with the Rose's injury, but I guarantee you the team still believes. It's time to believe with them and enjoy this playoff run for as long as it lasts which could easily be longer than we think.