By Doug Halberstadt
Gloom and doom is all I’ve heard since Derrick Rose left the game with a torn ACL in his left knee during the final minute-and-a-half of the Chicago Bulls’ 103-91 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers last Saturday afternoon, April 28. Bulls fans and some “experts” from throughout the country have now written them off for the rest of the season.
Following is a sampling of some of the comments I’ve read on various basketball sites on the Internet: “I’ve just witnessed the worst nightmare for a Chicago fan,” “we’re toast” and the most pessimistic comment I read was, “without D Rose the Bulls are one and done.”
Several NBA television analysts have also jumped on the “let’s crucify Chicago” bandwagon. They have pretty much declared the Bulls’ playoff hopes dead. Magic Johnson said “the Bulls cannot win the East and they won’t win an NBA championship without Rose in the lineup.”
Far be it from me to contradict the professional experts who get paid handsomely to express their opinions, but I’m not entirely convinced the Bulls are one step away from being fitted with toe tags.
The Bulls earned the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference by virtue of having the best regular-season record (50-16) in the conference.
Rose missed 27 of those regular-season games with a variety of nagging injuries. The Bulls went 18-9 while he donned a suit and tie sitting on the bench. Chicago relied on their smothering defense and the great effort delivered by their bench to offset the absence of the league’s reigning MVP. John Lucas III seemed to be rejuvenated by the extended playing time he picked up while Rose was healing.
Now, the Bulls will have to rely heavily on that defense and one of the best starting lineups in the NBA with Joakim Noah, C.J. Watson, Richard Hamilton, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer. They all have playoff experience and won’t fold when things get tough.
When Watson has been called upon to start, he has proven he is no slouch when filling in for Rose. He’s averaged nearly 11 points and 4.6 assists per game in 25 starts. His style of play also complements Boozer on the pick-and-roll and keeps him focused on the offensive end of the floor. I also like the way Kyle Korver comes off the bench and adds instant offense and excitement to the game.
If Lucas, Korver and Watson can continue their level of production and force the opposition to play five on five, the Bulls are legitimate contenders for another championship, even without Rose on the court.
For those reasons and the fact that they might actually relish the thought of being considered the underdog instead of the favorite, I’m writing this column in support of their chance at a championship. Granted, it will be tougher without Rose than it would be with him healthy and 100 percent, but I definitely don’t see this team rolling over and playing dead.
Perhaps I’m all wet, but the last time I checked, basketball is still a team sport. The Bulls are still a good team, even without Rose. I’m not ready to write the obituary to their season just yet. Let’s let them play these games out and see where the chips fall. I have a feeling there may be some experts backtracking on some of the things they’ve said. I love it when that happens.
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the May 2-8, 2012, issue