The Chicago Bulls split the weekend games beating the Jazz off of Marco Belinelli's heroics and falling to the Lakers behind the struggles of Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer to score.
Is it odd that going into a typical game I frequently have higher expectations of Belinelli and Robinson than Boozer and Deng when it comes to scoring? I'm more disappointed when the two guys making a combined three million can't outscore the two guys making a combined 27? It shows the state of this team in its offense that even if that thought is somewhat irrational [Beli + Nate don't typically outscore Boozer + Deng even when all four are starting], it's not entirely crazy.
Against the Lakers only Robinson was able to score with anything close to resembling efficiency (19 on 19 shots). Belinelli scored 11 on 15 shots, Boozer 12 on 16 and Deng 11 on 16. That's not going to get it done for the four guys carrying the offense load right now. Joakim gave the Bulls 18 on 12 shots, but it's simply not enough when your scorers all become chuckers for the night.
Granted, I doubt I was alone in feeling the Bulls had little hope against a hot Lakers team with half the roster injured. It's a small miracle when they win any game with Hinrich, Hamilton, Gibson, and Rose out while Noah plays through 40 minutes a night of pain with plantar fasciitis.
Marco Belinelli provided that miracle on Friday night against the Jazz drilling his third game winner of the season by knocking down a three point shot with around five seconds to go to put the Bulls up one. The best part of the play is that Belinelli is initially in front of the three point line, but jumps backwards as the pass is coming so that he lands behind the three point line when taking the shot.
I'm going to call that move the anti-Deng in some light jest about the guy who takes more shots with his feet within 6 inches of the three point line than any player in the NBA [okay, I admit, he's been much better in the Thibodeau era, but it takes a long time for me to get over the fact he spent years launching shots that were six inches away from being threes at low efficiency to try and get two points].
The Bulls are simply drifting through the season at this point. There's no way they're going to miss the playoffs. Toronto (9th) has 39 losses already and clearly is in no danger of winning out to make things close. The race now is to stay out of the 8th spot and a first round matchup against the Heat.
The Bulls will likely struggle in the first round if Rose doesn't come back regardless of whom they play, but they'd have a shot against anyone they go up against outside of Miami even sans Rose. With Derrick back they become the favorite in the first round regardless of which seed they end up with [at least assuming Rose can play the game reasonably well even if not at his peak].
So what's going on with D Rose?
Peter Vescey stirred the pot by claiming that Derrick Rose missed practice with a "likely unexcused" absence as retaliation for the Bulls leak about his medical status focused on pressuring Derrick to play again. I haven't heard the story repeated, confirmed, or denied though, and Peter Vescey is known to make up crap to stir the pot. [edit BullsBlogger just noted that the Bulls said it was an excused absence for a dental appointment, though seems odd that you'd have a dental appointment in the middle of a road trip no? So it's not out of the realm of possibility that this is some Bulls spin that said see note about Vescey making stuff up]. Then on Sunday Derrick continues his recent trend of only talking to the national guys and discusses how his hamstrings are on fire after practice every game and that's keeping him out.
The Bulls issued an official statement as well discussing how they have no rift between themselves and Rose's camp. In the end, this reminds me of the tension built up by house guests who've stayed a bit too long. Everyone is on edge and feeling pressure and kind of want the saga to just end. As soon as it does we'll forget all these petty things even happened, but no one wants to sit in this situation.
At some point, there has to be a drop dead date for Derrick to return. No one has mentioned it, but I don't think the Bulls would bring him back just for the playoffs. Nor do I think they'd bring him back with three games left and the playoffs. I think 10 games back prior to the playoffs seems like a reasonable stretch for him to play through and see what he has. It also conveniently happens that there are 10 games in April. Humans love to round things, so my guess is that if Rose can't go by March 31st against the Pistons that we're not going to see him.
If so, we're three weeks away from seeing Derrick play or knowing that he won't. We'll have to hope that his hamstrings [and every other part of his body] cooperate.