By Doug Halberstadt
What a difference a few days have made in the world of the Chicago Bulls. A week ago in this column, I wrote how I thought the Bulls might be able to prove some of their fans and, more importantly, many of the national “expert analysts” wrong. They were writing the Bulls off as a result of the loss of Derrick Rose, last year’s NBA MVP. He suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game of the opening round of the playoffs.
I took exception to their pessimism. I went so far as to suggest they might end up eating their words. Little did I know that less than a week later, Chicago would also lose another one of their key players. Their starting center, Joakim Noah, rolled his ankle on a drive to the basket in game three of the series against the Philadelphia 76ers. Suddenly, those experts were starting to look a whole lot more credible.
No one can predict or prevent these types of freakish mishaps in professional sports. Without Rose, I thought the Bulls might still be a viable team and hold their own during the playoffs. That was before Noah was forced to the bench. I didn’t know the team was going to be further handicapped by another season-ending injury. Now, I’m the one who is eating my words.
The Bulls are now without Rose and Noah, that’s 40 percent of their starting offense. Regardless of how much the Bulls try to rally and pull together, I’m not sure any team can operate with any amount of effectiveness at only 60 percent. After winning the first game in the best-of-seven series, Chicago has dropped three straight and is now facing elimination. (Game five of the series was played Tuesday, May 8, with results unavailable at press time.)
I don’t see how the Bulls can overcome the devastation they’ve sustained. It pains me to say this, but the team is flat lining. Despite the efforts of the remaining healthy team members, I’m not sure any amount of resuscitation can bring this team back to life.
This time, the expert analysts got it correct. Not because they are so smart, because a torn ACL and a severely sprained ankle are insurmountable injuries in a grueling playoff series, especially when they happen to the league’s MVP and your starting center. It’s hoped they’ll get completely healthy during the offseason and the Bulls will be up and running at 100 percent when the 2012-13 season gets under way. Borrowing a phrase usually reserved for another Chicago team, “Wait until next year!”
From the May 9-15, 2012, issue