It may not look like it from the box score, a typical Hinrich affair 2-7 for five points, but Kirk Hinrich's return meant everything to the Bulls last night. The offense went from completely disjointed to running much more smoothly and all of a sudden all the other players who were struggling busted out of their slumps.
Nate Robinson had one of his off nights, but when he wasn't counted on to play 40 minutes that no longer mattered. The Bulls, as a whole, played with much more intensity and scored a much needed win after struggling so much prior to the all-star break.
Joakim Noah had a huge night with 15 points and 17 rebounds coming off of the rumors that he partied like a rock star for four straight days on all star weekend barely sleeping. Noah dominated the glass and played like an all-star for the first time since his plantar fasciitis kicked up a few weeks ago. Hopefully his foot is feeling better after the break/treatment, because the Bulls need Noah to continue playing like this.
Luol Deng also appeared reinvigorated by Hinrich's return as he busted out of a shooting slump to score 20 on 13 shots and had his first efficient offensive night in quite some time.
All in all, a quality win by the team. Somewhat ironic that the Bulls beat the Hornets on the road with Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon playing but lost to them in Chicago earlier in the year with both stars sitting.
Still feeling Jimmy Butler?
After a very strong stretch, many Bulls fans were climbing aboard the Jimmy Butler express. Thoughts that he could make Luol Deng expendable in the long term floated through the minds of many Bulls fans. Well, Jimmy Butler on a hot streak looked impressive, but it's worth noting that he scored many of his points off of hustle, second chances, and bad defense. Not a combination you want to count on night in and night out.
Butler has since struggled mightily, perhaps the scouting report is now out on to deny the baseline cut, make sure to box him out on rebounds, and play him for the drive. Butler's shot just 38% since his hot stretch, but on top of that he's been unable to fill up the box score with boards, assists, or steals which he was doing earlier either.
In general, he's looked hesitant on the court, passed up shots, and while he's still playing defense with a high intensity level, hasn't been able to make the big impact. Butler didn't completely bust out of his slump last night, but his 4/8 performance with three boards, an assist, and a block was his best effort over the past five or six games.
Hopefully Butler gets it going again, but the slump serves as a reminder that there's still a fairly large gap between Butler and Deng that needs to be made up in the next couple of years if the Bulls are to move Deng and hope to not experience a significant drop off in play at the SF position. That's not to say Butler won't fill those shoes (or come close enough at half the price) just that we still need to see quite a bit more to feel comfortable with him doing so.
Derrick Rose ready to go?
Chris Broussard tweeted the following gem:
Eyewitness at D Rose's first 5-on-5 said Rose looks "ready to go." Said he looks able to play in games.
Of course this is much better than hearing the opposite, but I'm going to withhold my joy a bit. I'm deeply curious as from whom Broussard is hearing this information. It seems likely that the only eyewitnesses are some Bulls staff and the players. The players are always likely to talk optimistically, and I'm not sure what Bulls staff is going to leak something to Broussard.
Everyone wants Rose to wait on his return until he's ready while at the same time hoping that hes' ready soon. With any luck, this is a sign that he'll be ready soon. Rose coming back and limping around the court or risking further injury isn't going to excite fans any. Remember what Derrick looked like at the start of his second year when he lost a bit of athleticism due to a sore hamstring? It wasn't pretty.
It seems like Rose and the Bulls are both on the same page with that mission though. We'll see Rose when he's capable of giving a Rose like performance not when he's capable of making it through 20 minutes.