Rose’s Bulls seem ready to win a title
by Sean Highkin, USA TODAY Sports
DEERFIELD, Ill. — There was a time when the Chicago Bulls were seen as the only legitimate threat to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference.
With a roster loaded with veterans and All-Stars and a tough, defensive-minded coach in Tom Thibodeau, it appeared a half-decade of Eastern Conference finals between the Bulls and Heat were inevitable.
That was 2012. Since then, 2010-11 MVP Derrick Rose has missed a season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and the conference as a whole (particularly the Brooklyn Nets and Indiana Pacers) has reloaded. But going into the 2013-14 season, the Bulls not only view their window as open but also possibly wider than ever.
Without Rose, the Bulls performed better than most could have reasonably expected in the 2012-13 season. They won 45 games, enough to finish fifth in the Eastern Conference. They upset the Nets in the first round of the playoffs with a seven-game series win. They lost to the Heat in five games but kept the series close despite dealing with numerous other injuries to key players.
Now, with everyone healthy, the Bulls might be more relevant than they have been since Michael Jordan last suited up at the United Center.
“This is definitely the most talented group I’ve ever been in camp with,” says Bulls center Joakim Noah, who has been with the team since 2007.
“We have a core that’s been together for a long time now,” Thibodeau says. “So there’s a pretty good understanding of how we’re going to work.”
Indeed, the Bulls look to field a roster with a healthy Rose and experienced supporting cast.
Noah, a hard-nosed defender and rebounding machine, is entering his seventh season. Luol Deng, the Bulls’ defensive stopper at small forward, has been with Chicago for nine years and was an All-Star the last two seasons.
Backup power forward Taj Gibson, also a terrific defender, is going into his fifth year. And Rose’s backup, veteran Kirk Hinrich, is an unselfish leader who has played all but two of his 10 seasons with the Bulls. Veteran wingman Mike Dunleavy Jr. is a newcomer who should fit in … [For more on Derrick Rose's Chicago Bulls seem ready to win a title, click here.]