The Bulls limp into Indiana looking to overcome the odds again

The Chicago Bulls will head into Indiana with a one game lead over the Pacers for the division crown. They'll try and build onto that lead without Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich while Carlos Boozer is a game time decision.

Without having a specific diagnosis for either injured player, I'd say it's a good guess that both will be out through at least the all-star break. The Bulls options to add a big man are limited. I'm not sure entirely how days are counted in the NBA for partial salaries, but the Bulls only had enough room to sign someone to the minimum after Nov 17th. If we go by games the Bulls could afford to pay the minimum for 73 games.

Daequon Cook signed on January 6th, going by games, he could signed up for 50 games. That means the Bulls only could pay for 23 more games the rest of the season which means they couldn't pay someone the minimum right now. Granted, it doesn't go by games, it goes by days, but using games is a close enough proxy that I believe the Bulls can't offer the veteran minimum to any player due to the hard cap [and I can't easily calculate the number of days, so deal with my estimation].

The Bulls could sign a big man to a 10 day contract just to get to the all-star break, but since they haven't done so yet, it seems unlikely that they're going to. Especially if Boozer is able to come back tonight [or Thursday would seem likely if he was close tonight but can't go] then their need to sign someone else will significantly decrease.

Kenyon Martin is my leading candidate for such a signing if the Bulls were able to squeeze another player in. He may consider the Bulls since they'll be legitimate championship contenders, and he'd probably be able to find a 5-10 minute per game niche as a fourth big man if he's still capable.

A SG needs to step up

On paper, the Bulls should lose. The Pacers are an extremely hard working, hustle oriented team that will bring more talent to the table tonight than Chicago. The Bulls may catch a break if George Hill is unable to go and while listed as questionable, it's probably more likely than not that he plays. The Bulls will need to bring more to the table than hustle to beat the Pacers tonight.

The Bulls need at least one of their SGs to to step up. Last game, Hamilton and Belinelli combined for 4/22 from the field, and Belinelli who played well as a starter has hit a wall again as a reserve going back into the tank. Chicago frequently struggles to find offense, but they have capable offensive shooting guard who just aren't performing.

While expecting 50% from the field from the pair is probably a stretch, getting 40% from the field with as many points as shots (via FTs and 3s) seems like an obtainable metric for the duo. At least one of them should be due after the last game.

Team rebounding, everyone needs to do it

The Pacers are going to come into this game with a large size advantage on the interior. They play with a lot of hustle and energy, and the small ball Bulls lineup may struggle to keep them off the glass as well as stop them from scoring in the paint. Chicago's going to need plenty of help from its wing players on the glass to clean things up and may need to sacrifice some fast break/leak out opportunities to make sure everyone is attacking the defensive glass.

With the Bulls can't afford to give up second chance points when they'll already be fighting through a talent deficit.

The Bulls need good Nate

Nate Robinson's a streaky player. If he wasn't, he'd be making eight to 10 million a year instead of the minimum. He's had far more good streaks than John Lucas III, Jannero Pargo, or some other scrubby minimum player though, and the Bulls have come to rely on him to create offense. There are games where he's going to shoot 25%, but when Hinrich is out, the Bulls will be hard pressed to win those games, because they simply have no other options.

Nate will control much of what happens with the team, and the Bulls fate without Hinrich and Rose rests largely on his shoulders. If he played well, the Bulls have a chance, if he plays poorly their odds are minimal. It's tough to pin the outcome of the game on a minimum salaried player who won't even be in the rotation once the whole team is healthy, but that's where the Bulls are.

Hoping for the best

In the end, I think the Pacers have too much fight for the Bulls to hustle away a win with a depleted roster. It'd be a tough battle if they had Hinrich/Noah and without the pair they'll need something pretty special from someone to make up for it. The cumulative wear and tear on Robinson, Butler, Deng, and Gibson is also going to cause problems as games go on since these guys are plying huge minutes every night.

That said, the Pacers offense can go into Bulls like slumps, so there's always a chance to simply out shoot them in the game.



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  • There's something everybody is missing with the whole Kenyon Martin story. My personal conspiracy theory...he's being blackballed by the teams/coaches.

    Reportedly, Kmart tried to get together a bunch of players to throw a revolt and get VDN fired, but Billups (being the professional he is), squashed it.

    Kmart has been linked to multiple teams, all teams who needed Big men at one point or another, and all teams who were veteran-laced enough to not have a malcontent kill their locker room STILL didnt bite.

    LAC passed, LAL passed, NYK passed, MIA passed, BOS passed, DAL passed...if these teams all passed it has to be for a reason bigger than 'he's done', right?

  • In reply to YouBlewwIt:

    I don't know, "he's done" always explains why people pass.

  • Hey Doug, u hear about bulls and nuggets trade rumors?? Rip Hamilton for mozgof and Anthony Randolph?!! We need another big badly!!!

  • In reply to bullzfan:

    Can't imagine the Bulls say yes to that with Randolph having an extra year on his deal, but yeah, I heard Mike McGraw mention it. Sounded more like an idea than a rumor to me though.

  • Doug thank u so much for keeping us updated so well even right after your shoulder surgery! U the man!

    I like the Bulls small ball lineup

  • In reply to smiley:

    Small ball will be much tougher tonight against a big team.

  • my biggest fear was always not having a backup center and Noah said recently in an interview he will not make the same mistake and rush to play with plantar fasciitis so that means he will be out for at least a few weeks or maybe the rest of february. I'm a bit pissed off at thibodeau for not playing Gibson more minutes and loading up many 40 minute+ games with Noah. The wear and tear is much greater for a big compared to a perimeter player so you need quality bigs rotation that can come in and do the job. A major fail having two players like nazr and vlad-bad that are completely useless when we need depth now. Hopefully the rumors of the Bulls trading for a quality big are true.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    Noah said he's hoping to return Thursday. I'd say it's unlikely he's out past the all-star break given he's considering returning Thursday. I think the Bulls would be best served to hold him out through the ASG to get him the extra rest. Even if he plays, he won't likely play big minutes or at a high intensity level.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    I'm kind of with you on keeping Noah out for as long as it takes. PF doesn't go away in a week, not sure if it ever really goes away during the course of a season.

    Really feel sorry for both Taj and Deng having to kill themselves for 45 minutes a night against much bigger opponents.

    Again, that is why I just would not have let Asik walk, and I would have worried about the 2014-15 season 2 years from now. Basically, unless we end up with Lebron, it is not going to make a difference anyway.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Maybe if Thibs didn't play Noah 40min and Taj 20min before the injury, we wouldn't have to rely on Taj going 45min now.

  • In reply to YouBlewwIt:

    Thibs has been given a roster with one legitimate center, hard to blame him for Noah playing the minutes he has. Blame an owner not willing to pay for Asik (or for Boozer to go away making Asik's contract more palatable).

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I'm sure he Bulls won't have to worry about acquiring LeBron cause he will end up going back to Cleveland first before he ever comes to Chicago.

  • Thibs is the kind of coach that runs his players to the ground. The way he coaches is good for short term success but in the long term I don't think it's healthy the way he slave drives his players.

    I don't see us beating Indiana this game with all the injuries but then again this is the Bulls so you never know. The Bulls is one team I wouldn't bet on or against no matter who they play. Every game is up for grabs.

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