The Bulls fan base may be split on whether they're rooting for a lotto pick or a playoff run, and depending on your camp you'll feel radically different about the last couple of games.
Chicago has shown that it's players aren't going to quit, and even if you're a tanker like myself, you still likely admire the players for going about their job professionally. You have to admire the coaching staff for keeping them engaged in a dead season. It's a lot of hard work and commitment by everyone to keep doing that, and it shows the type of character you want on your team.
I just want it in about six months not right now.
The Bulls thrashed the listless Nets after thrashing the Cavaliers, and maybe they've found the will to start thrashing these junk teams. Maybe it had something to do with Kirk Hinrich replacing Marquis Teague as well. As I noted in all of my tank columns, for the Bulls to lose some trades would need to happen.
The team cares too much and has too much talent to fall all the way to the bottom where they need with the roster intact, however, management will almost certainly chase a playoff slot rather than chasing a bottom three finish, and you can't necessarily blame them for that.
What's going on with Luol Deng?
Chris Broussard reports that Deng is all about winning and not money when he hits free agency, that the Bulls and Deng both want to work out an extension this off season. Not sure that Broussard is the most reliable guy, but it's the second report we've had recently that the Bulls want to keep Deng rather than trade him.
This goes against all the local beat writer reports stating that they felt Deng was unlikely to be back next season. It also makes little sense when it's noted that the Bulls didn't want to extend Deng this off-season when they could have done so with a year less (possibly two years less if Deng eeks five years out of a deal with Chicago this summer) commitment.
It's not like anything that's happened this season makes me think "Wow, the Bulls really should keep Luol now" that wasn't present last off-season. If Chicago is really keeping him [which isn't my preference, but isn't necessarily bad either, as they'll keep more talent than if they replace him with a mid first rounder] then they made a mistake by not getting an extension done this summer.
Deng being about winning raises two interesting questions. Will the Bulls really be in position to win next year? Will he sign for a discount? I'd say the answers are "Yes in theory but no No in practicality" to the first, and "No, probably not at all" to the second. We'll see how it plays out though.
Bulls one game back of the last playoff slot
The question now is whether or not the Bulls can sustain what they're doing. Without any trades, I suspect they can. They'll still lose to the Pacers, the Heat, and 10 out of the 15 teams in the West, but I think Chicago can win 3/4 from everyone else. That "everyone else" still makes up the majority of the schedule which means Chicago (without further injuries) could go around .500 the rest of the way.
Such a finish is likely to put the Bulls smack dab where we don't want them. In the 7th-8th range in the playoffs. The Bulls are reportedly not looking to make any moves to improve the team for this season (which makes sense) but aren't necessarily looking to move any pieces on the roster either.
I'd still be of the mindset that if you can move Deng/Hinrich for anything (or even nothing) do so, and get yourself a shot at Jabari Parker, but we'll see what happens.
Jimmy Butler's knee gives out, stays in the game
In a theme running for several years, the Bulls continue to show that they're not particularly proactive about making sure their players stay healthy. Matt from blogabull, wrote up an interesting piece on the topic.
In short, he notes the only reason we're not incredibly pissed about the number of injuries, the bringing guys back too soon, Thibodeau not using any minute management on guys returning from injury and instead using a pass/fail test is simply because Derrick Rose is out so nothing really matters.
He's probably right.
Luol Deng comes back and immediately aggravates his achilles injury after a couple of games while playing big minutes. Jimmy Butler's knee gives out on him, and he still finished off the game. Maybe Butler's knee is nothing, and athletes are definitely used to pushing through pain to play, but someone should step in and try and get a hold of this thing.
I have to agree if Derrick wasn't hurt, if this season could amount to something? It'd be one more year where Chicago limps to the finish line while putting its players through the meat grinder and wondering why they aren't fresh in the playoffs.
The Bulls host the Mavs then travel to Memphis for a couple of games that look like losses. They then follow up with three interesting home games. Toronto, Boston, and Atlanta. The pedestrian of the East. We'll see if the Bulls look like they can really make a playoff run by how they perform over that stretch, as those are the teams they'll need to beat out to get a slot.
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