Through three games, the Chicago Bulls have gotten blown out of the gym by the Miami Heat, coughed up a double digit lead in a disastrous fourth quarter against the New York Knicks before Derrick Rose bailed them out, and then blew another large lead and were shocked by those titans of the NBA, the Philadelphia 76ers.
Not inspiring stuff.
But given the circumstances, the way Chicago has come out of the gates can’t be too much of a surprise (mainly the sluggish play and jumbled offense, not a loss to the 76ers).
Let’s get this out of the way first: Derrick Rose was always going to struggle at first. He lit it up…in the preseason. His assignment in his first game in 18 months was to dissect the incredibly aggressive Heat defense on the night they celebrated their championship. His second game, and his first back in Chicago, was obviously emotionally charged. It was clear he was trying to force the action to show up for his home fans, and ended up shooting 7-23 from the field with many wild forays into the paint.
As far as the 76ers game, well, those nights happen in the NBA. Chalk it up to rust. If Rose is still playing like that in January, then let’s talk.
So Rose is rusty, and Luol Deng looks beat. He can’t hit an open jumper right now, and the rest of his offense has been pretty clunky. Is it because of accumulated wear and tear over the last few years? Is he nursing an injury? Is he just on the decline? We don’t know, but what is clear is that this isn’t the Deng that has endeared himself to Bulls fans recently.
Lastly, Joakim Noah is still clearly dealing with the groin injury that kept him out of almost the entire preseason. He had no burst around the rim against Miami, missing a few bunnies around the rim, and just hasn’t been bouncing around the court like he usually does.
So that’s Rose, Deng, and Noah (arguably the three best players on the Bulls) all playing sub-standard basketball.
No surprise, then, that the Bulls have looked pretty rough in all three games.
The positives? Jimmy Butler has looked great most of the time, and his ascension will take the Bulls backcourt to a whole new level when Rose finds his form.
Other than that? Not really much. The bench, specifically Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Kirk Hinrich, have provided next to nothing, especially in the shooting department, where they could really provide a lift.
So with three stars all dealing with issues and a new bench trying to find its way, not to mention trying to work a franchise player back into the lineup, there’s no reason to be surprised at three rough games to start the season.
All these issues are fixable (assuming Deng is just in a slump). In that case, I still expect the Bulls to crank it up and start smacking down teams like we know they can.
A couple months from now, if they’re not? Then it’ll be a very tense and interesting rest of the season, and an offseason that may change the look of this franchise.