The Bulls played their starters regular minutes in last night's preseason game and came away with a narrow victory over a Thunder team that sat Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The bad news for the Bulls is that they look like a team that's only somewhat better than the Thunder without their two best players. The worse news is that Kirk Hinrich tweaked his groin.
Thumb resting on panic button
Normally, I'm a wait and see guy with these types of things. There's little reason to jump to conclusions, and Hinrich may be perfectly fine. The Bulls, fortunately, still have a full week prior to the tip off of regular season for Kirk to rest up and get better, so a light pull may not cost Kirk any time and a moderate one only a couple weeks.
However, the post-game press conference revealed two things that gave me pause. First, Kirk was not available for the media to talk to. Maybe he simply didn't want to answer a dozen "how's your groin" questions, but if the answer was "it was no big deal, I could have gone back in if it were the regular season" then he probably wouldn't have minded.
Thibodeau also didn't dismiss the injury as minor, but simply said if Kirk needs time he'll get it, if not he'll play next game. The Bulls clearly didn't appear to treat this like a "nothing" injury, which implies a "something" injury.
Groin pulls also have a tendency to linger and without full rest can recur easily. Bulls fans are all too familiar with that problem after watching Hamilton never really get over one last season.
Moreover, regardless of the severity of the injury the fact that Kirk Hinrich getting hurt evokes a "oh my god we're screwed" thought process shows what thin ice this season rests on. No team should be so reliant on a sub MLE player.
Starters played well I guess
The starters had a nice game, but we're largely playing our best against the Thunders B team, so I'm not sure how excited to get about that. It was nice to see the unit play with good chemistry and to see some life out of Boozer. Joakim Noah looks ready to go this season, and Luol Deng looks as steady as usual.
However, things took a step back with Hinrich off the floor, and if his injury extends into the regular season it won't be pretty.
Bench barely played, but it wasn't pretty
Jimmy Butler showed some life and hustle in his 11 minutes, but the rest of the bench struggled going 3-16 with Nate Robinson hitting all three of the makes but using up 10 shots to do so.
This game played out closer to a regular season game in terms of minutes and player usage, and what we see right now is that the present bench isn't going to come in and extend leads or lead comebacks. They're going to get shelled. That might change when Rose comes back and Hinrich gets pushed to the bench to lead them, but right now it's not pretty.
The weaker bench combined with a starting lineup that no longer evokes much fear and has no true shot creators means the Bulls have fallen from the elite to the middle class at best. We'll just have to hope the fall isn't greater than that and when Rose comes back there'll be enough time to rebuild chemistry and do some damage in the playoffs.