The Bulls have lost three of their last four. Two in blowouts, one against the worst team in the NBA, and their win was a hard fought contest against the second worst team in the NBA. The energy is down, the defense is bad, the team is struggling.
Better get this one because Miami is coming
If the Bulls fail to beat the Magic tonight, then they'll likely be staring a three game losing streak in the face as they travel to Miami for a Friday night game against the Heat. Unless LeBron and Wade have simultaneous ACL tears or tag team cross body tackle some refs to get suspended, the Bulls aren't winning that game.
That's what makes the Bobcats loss so disappointing in some respects. You've got to get those games against terrible teams, because you're not going to get the ones against the great teams too often. The Bulls could have been rolling into Miami on a three game win streak, if they simply took care of business. Now they'll hope to simply be coming off a win.
The Magic have no offense
What fixes an ailing defense? Hopefully a matchup against the second worst offensive team in the NBA. The Magic rank 29th in the league in offensive rating and struggle to get the ball in the hoop. On top of that, the Magic will be missing Glen Davis and may be without E'twaun Moore and Jameer Nelson whom are both game-time decisions.
Of course, the Magic lost to the Heat by just two points in overtime despite missing the trio last game. They can obviously play hard and play well against good competition and sometimes in a losing season the bench players bring more energy than the starters who've been getting beat up.
That said, the Magic don't have many shot creators on their squad and will rely on ball movement and team play to get the ball in the basket. Traditionally an aggressive Bulls defense could be counted on to shut down such an attack, but recently the Bulls have struggled to defend as a team, close out on their rotations or get back on defense.
If the Bulls go into this game with the same mental approach as the past four, they'll likely lose. Chicago may also be missing starting PG Kirk Hinrich for the contest and Joakim Noah's listed as questionable.
Derrick Rose traveling with the team still REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY FAR AWAY DON'T EVEN DREAM OF HIM COMING BACK TO THE BULLS PROBABLY LIKE EVER!
Why is it every article about Rose has to include how he's not close to returning? Not sure, but it seems par for the course that any time something positive is mentioned about Rose it must immediately be followed up by "but he's no where near playing, so don't even think about it".
At any rate, according to multiple reports, Derrick Rose will begin traveling with the team on road trips, and he's going through the non contact portion of practice. Prior to suiting up, he'll apparently need to go through full contact practice many times without having any pain the next day.
I think Bulls fans are fine taking the cautious approach with Rose. We're all anxious to see him, but not so anxious we'd dare rush him out there. My prediction on a Rose return has always been end of January or immediately following the all-star break. If we're to believe the general vibe coming out of the team then end of January isn't happening [even if he's healthy enough by then].
Nate Robinson guaranteed
Nate Robinson will stick around for the rest of the season as his contract became fully guaranteed when the Bulls didn't waive yesterday. Chicago only has a smidgeon of room under their hard cap and isn't likely to use any of it anyway because it would add more tax payments.
Thus, the Bulls aren't about to eat any salary whatsoever in order to turnover the roster. It'd be insane to waive Robinson anyway. If you wanted to waive a minimum salary player then you'd first dump Radmanovic or Mohammed who've both done nothing even remotely useful. Robinson's been awesome for a minimum salary guy and a big contributor to many of the Bulls wins and one of the few watchable players on the team.
His style of play probably doesn't work well for many teams in the league, but a team like Chicago which is desperate for shot creators really needs a guy like Robinson to help them find some buckets when the rest of the team just passes the ball around the perimeter scared to shoot because they have no offensive skills.