Q&A with Bulls Aficionado Steve Graham

In light of the Rose injury, thought maybe we could do a quick Bulls Q&A.

Q. First off, on a scale of 1-10, from a fan’s emotional perspective, how much does the new Rose injury hurt?  

A. I’d say about a 7.  When Rose tore his ACL, it was about a 15.  That group was the Bulls’ best chance to win a championship.  They were finally at full health going into the playoffs, and then that happens in the first game.  I was devastated.  It was probably the worst sports moment of my life.  Plus, you knew he was going to be out for about a year, so even the next season was in doubt.
This injury certainly hurts too, and while I’d still say I’m devastated, it’s not nearly as bad.  Another lost season sucks, especially this soon after coming back from the previous one.  But the injury is not as serious, it’s his other knee, and he should be “fine” for next season.  Of course, “fine” isn’t really what Bulls fans wanted from Rose.  He was an MVP entering the prime of his career, and now he’s had 2 major surgeries on his knees and will miss essentially 2 full seasons. When a player comes back from a serious injury, health is always at the forefront of most people’s minds.  Now, having to come back from a second, I can’t imagine that feeling/fear ever going away, at least not for me.  When this injury happened, I was equal parts sad and angry.  Sad for obvious reasons, but angry that I care so much about the Bulls.  Now, Rose’s body is betraying him.  Can we trust his health ever again?
Of course, not all hope is lost.  When he tore his ACL, I had to come to terms with the fact that he might never be as good as he was before.  But it was interesting to see how he would come back from that.  He was rusty to start this season, but he was warming up and getting ready to break out.  His outside shooting was looking improved from previous seasons (although in a small sample size), and I was intrigued to see how good he could become again.  He talked about better conditioning, increased strength in his core, and his improved shooting.  I also thought that if he couldn’t rely on his explosiveness and agility as much, he would have to become smarter, and perhaps a better passer.  Now, we’ll have to wait some more and see next season.  The nice thing is that Rose has a lot of heart and the will to succeed.  He wants so badly to win and to be great, and he won’t let anything stop him.

Q. How do you expect the team to bounce back from the news, from a psychological standpoint?  Essentially, the cure to all that ailed them last year is gone.  That seems like an insurmountable obstacle, from a mental perspective.

A. It has to be even tougher on the team than on us fans.  Rose’s teammates love him.  They believe in him, and they stood by him when he sat out all last season, including the playoffs.  They are probably Rose’s biggest fans, and they’re the ones that still have to keep playing without him.  We know the Bulls have heart, and they will continue to play hard, but it has to be tough.
I mentioned Rose’s determination earlier, and while you think it may be the toughest on him, as it turns out, he was the one trying to cheer up his teammates after the news came:
Thought Deng eloquently captured human element to this. Beyond being great player, Rose is beloved teammate. Told he’s been cheering up team

There are also other ways this will impact the team, which I’ll get to later/next.

Q. With the East looking so terrible, is it still realistic to expect them to finish as a 5th/6th seed?

A. So, the rest of the team does have to move forward.  They’ve been in a bit of a funk lately, but with the players they have now, they could still make the playoffs.  However, this injury has major implications for the roster going forward.  Luol Deng is now the #1 guy on the Bulls, but he’s also in the final year of his contract.  He’s long been a subject of trade rumors, and now those rumors are almost certain to come true.  The Bulls are not title contenders anymore; it would be foolish to keep Deng for the season and then lose him for nothing.And then what?  Rookie Tony Snell has been starting alongside Kirk Hinrich since Rose went down, and has been doing well.  Jimmy Butler’s future is at the 3, but he was starting at the 2 before he got hurt.  Assuming he returns before Deng gets traded, who gets the starting job?  Probably Butler, just because he had it first, and he’s higher in the pecking order.  But he might actually be a better fit to be the spark off the bench, at least for now.

If/when Deng is traded, that makes Boozer (likely in his last season in Chicago as well) their main offensive weapon.  At this point, will the Bulls be a playoff team?  They’ll still be a good defensive team, and maybe they could sneak in at 7 or 8, but what’s the point?  I suppose another playoff matchup against the Heat would be good experience, but the Bulls are probably best off in the lottery with a deep draft coming up.  Some people would love to see them join the tankfest going on this season.  But anyone who knows Coach Thibodeau knows there is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY that will ever happen.  Besides, I think the players are too proud for that.  There’s no question the team will continue to play hard.  But how far they get will be determined by how their roster looks.  Personally, I’d love to give all the young guys significant playing time so we can see what they’re made of, and if that has the side benefit of the team missing the playoffs, then great!

Q. How has Jimmy Butler looked so far this season?  He seemed to be doing everything right in the playoffs last year.  

A. Butler has missed the last 2 weeks with turf toe.  He’s only played 9 games, so it’s tough to judge.  We can probably skip this question for now, since I mentioned Butler earlier.  However, he should have plenty of opportunity to shine when he returns, which will probably be at least another week.  Again, depending on what happens with the roster, he could find himself a focal point of the offense.

Q. Among the possibly available and decent point guards (Andre Miller, Goran Dragic, Kyle Lowry, Jameer Nelson, Nate Robinson) which one do you think would fit best with the current Bulls team?

A. It hadn’t really occurred to me that the Bulls would go out and get another PG.  As I said earlier, the Bulls could be a playoff team as constructed now, so I suppose they could try to add a PG and make a playoff push.  But they would be foolish to give up anything of value.  Deng is their best trade chip, but if they get rid of him, I don’t know that the Bulls really have any business being in the playoffs.  I guess it could be nice if they could acquire a good, young future backup PG who can play significant minutes if needed to help spell Rose, or even let Rose play at the 2.  Sort of like a younger, healthier Hinrich.  Teague doesn’t seem to be that guy at this point.

Thanks for the insights, Steve.  May the rest of the year be merciful to the Chicago Bulls.

Steve Graham has stuck by his beloved Bulls through more tragic times.  He will continue to stick with them through this one.
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