Man, what a season. Even though that phrase is usually reserved for happier times it still accurately applies to how the Chicago Bulls 2012 season went. It started out with enormous expectations and ended in a bitter and violent flash– over far too quickly for even the taste of fans outside of Chicago.
But we can’t live in the past, as much as Derrick Rose’s ACL tear is going to make us do so. Nothing will be the same in Chicago until Rose hits the hardwood again which means we will have a very awkward start to the 2012-13 season as that won’t happen until February at the very earliest.
The offseason is going to be a semi-monstrous one which is ironic considering little can happen for the Bulls. They have no money to lure in a huge superstar but still need to find both a interim point guard and a legitimate No. 2 scorer to compliment Rose. It’s going to be close to a make or break offseason with contracts expiring as we head into the next few years but no matter how gloomy it looks and how painful the end of last season was, things are still looking up for best team in the NBA tow years in a row.
CHICAGO BULLS OFFSEASON
2012 Free Agents: Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer (Team Opt.), C.J. Watson (Team Opt.), Kyle Korver (Team Opt.)
2013 Free Agents: Ronnie Brewer, C.J. Watson, Kyler Korver, Rip Hamilton
2011-12 Record: 50-16 (Eliminated in first round by Philadelphia)
Positional Needs: Shooting Guard, Center
Potential Draft Picks: Dion Waiters (SG/Syracuse), John Jenkins (SG/Vanderbilt), Fab Melo (C/Syracuse), Will Budford (SG/Ohio St.)
3 BIG QUESTIONS
1) Will Carlos Boozer be amnestied this offseason and what will the Bulls do about him?
The short answer is no, Carlos Boozer will not be amnestied this offseason. It just makes no sense for Gar Forman to eat that money even though it wouldn’t count against the salary cap. When a player is amnestied, the team no longer has the player count against them (So this would free up legitimate cap space and in theory considerable money for the Bulls to sign a top free agent). But the team that amnesties that player is still on the hook for the money they owe him and it’s pointless for the Bulls to pay Boozer close to $45 million to play for someone else.
Instead what is going to happen is Chicago will retain Boozer and see how 2013 goes. Boozer has had two years to try and earn (and justify) his $75 million contract and he’s done his best to make it look like the Bulls overpaid for him. But with the core of the Bulls heavily depleted for the start of next year — Deng and Rose will likely be out to start things off — Boozer is actually in line to change his fortunes and get on good terms with Bulls fans. Chicago wants to love Carlos Boozer, proof of this is how much fans rally behind him when he actually performs. But 8 times out of 10 he underperforms which is fine for any other third wheel on a team but not when he’s getting three quarters of $100 million to do so.
Boozer isn’t going any where contractually but he needs to go somewhere in 2013 or there will be a very different answer to this question in 2014.
2) What will the Bulls do about the gap at Shooting Guard?
Well right now the obvious stop-gap solution is to roll with Rip Hamilton for another year. EVerything changes for the Bulls in 2013 since Derrick Rose will miss a majority of the season. This is a blessing in disguise of sorts as guys like Boozer and Hamilton will have no choice but to step up or flame out in the spotlight.
Hamilton will likely do the previous and step up. We saw impressive glimpses of this in 2012 but he was massively hampered by nagging injuries all season long and ended up missing most of the regular season. Right now he’s being best remembered for doing his best Carlos Boozer impersonation and disappearing in the fourth quarter of the first round of the playoffs but there’s is still gas left int he tank for Hamilton. He scored his 15,000th point in 2012 so he’ s been around a while and isn’t going to want his career which includes an NBA Championship ring to end with his 2012 non-performance.
As far as a long term solution, the Bulls will look to the draft to try and grab that. Last year Jimmy Butler was drafted late in the first round as a defensive solution at shooting guard and a likely replacement for Ronnie Brewer who may be out the door as the Bulls have until July 10th to cut him or pick be forced to pick up the last year of his option.
Right now it’s a crap shoot guess as to who will fall to the Bulls at 29th overall. Chicago can either wait and see what happens or be proactive and trade up and grab a talented shooting guard. They’re in a position right now to get the bottom barrel players in the shooting guard pool despite it’s depth which may motivate the Bulls to either move up or take a different position all together. We will work on figuring this out with our continued Draft coverage here on Pippen Ain’t Easy.
3) When will Derrick Rose be back?
This is only the last question because it’s the one question that lingers the most in the minds of Bulls fans everywhere. When Derrick Rose’s ACL tore in Game 1, so did the hopes and dreams of a title. Chicago quickly fizzled out and are now watching the Eastern Conference playoffs rather than participate in them.
That’s the fear Bulls fans have and it’s a legitimate one and the fear is that the 2013 season will go much like the final five games of the opening round of the playoffs went.
Chances are that happens as Rose is more than just the top scorer for this team, he’s the pulse. Without him the Bulls struggled, even when they seemed to dominate despite his absence in the regular season. You have to factor in the gravity of Rose’s injury against the stage on which it happened as the reason the Bulls whimpered into the offseason but if it showed one thing it was that the Bulls can’t win on a big stage without Rose.
The hope is that Chicago can repeat it’s regular season success without him, gearing up Rose for a March return and a playoff run as a middle seed in the Eastern Conference. But that’s wishful thinking and for the first time in the Rose-Thibodeau era Bulls fans expectations are intensely low for next season.
No one is sure what the future holds for the Bulls next season but I’ll leave you with this bit of encouraging and hopeful thinking: the last time the Bulls entered a season with low expectation was the 2011 season — the season in which Rose won the MVP, Thibodeau won Coach of the Year and the Bulls came four games shy of an NBA Finals return.