With the exception of the Las Vegas oddsmakers, most people are writing the Chicago Bulls out of playoff contention for this season thanks to Derrick Rose's torn ACL and MCL. But are they still playoff contenders in what is a lopsided Eastern Conference? Reserve power forward Taj Gibson think told ESPN Chicago he thinks the Bulls can contend even without Rose for at least most of the regular season.
"Our mindset hasn't changed. It's about staying focused and taking one game at a time. We understand it's going to be up and down at the beginning of the season. We can't look forward to the end. We got to look forward to one game at a time and playing to our strengths and just listening to coach (Tom Thibodeau). I know it's going to be a long season, but I'm really optimistic about what's going to happen."
What else is he going to stay? Of course Gibson thinks the Bulls can compete, especially when the Bulls have a fairly succesful record without Rose in the lineup over the last two seasons. The Bulls are a team full of gritty competitiors, so them griding through the regular season and getting a playoff spot isn't that big of a stretch.
But is it the right thing to do? The Bulls are currently pretty strapped for cash and that's not counting the money they'll have to give Gibson if they sign him to a contract extension. Their bench, which was so good over the last two seasons, is now missing four core pieces (C.J. Watson, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and Omer Asik). That also means they have less trade assets then they did a year ago. The only way I see this team improving is by calling this year a lost one, securing a lottery pick and let Derrick Rose get completely healthy for the 2013-2014 season. They could amnesty Carlos Boozer's terrible contract and rework their team around a core of Rose, Luol Deng (who could also be trade bait), Gibson, Joakim Noah and their draft pick. They also have European stud Nikola Mirotic who will be over in the next few years.
The Bulls aren't winning a title with Derrick Rose at less than 100 percent and he's not going to be 100% less than a year after blowing out his ACL and MCL. It's tough to imagine a Tom Thibodeau coached team laying down ever, but 2012-2013 could get rough in a hurry for the Bulls.
Photo: Chicago Tribune