As the Chicago Bulls take on the Brooklyn Nets in New York, they will not be at full-strength. Then again, they haven’t been at full strength all year, but it’s worse than ever tonight, as Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah, Marco Belinelli, Rip Hamilton and, of course, Derrick Rose will all sit with injuries.
You may look at the headline above this piece and think it’s a rather crude exaggeration. You would not be entirely wrong to doubt that, although it is the truth.
The Bulls have 15 players currently under contract. Thus, the five aforementioned injury-stricken players make up exactly one third of the roster. Math!
All indications are that Tom Thibodeau will stick with the starting lineup of the last few games — Kirk Hinrich, Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Nazr Mohammed — but his already sub-standard bench has been more or less ripped to shreds. Nate Robinson has proved a capable sixth man, but Daequan Cook is shooting specialist who can’t shoot, Vladimir Radmanovic is the same, except worse somehow, Marquis Teague is a rookie and doesn’t seem to have earned Thibs’ trust yet, and Malcolm Thomas has played less than a minute in a Bulls uniform. So…yeah.
Nate and Cook have been getting substantial minutes for the last several games, so expect that to continue. Don’t be totally shocked to see some Teague-Robinson lineups, if Thibs ever actually sits Deng and/or Butler, and I continue to hope that Thomas will get some burn with Mohammed and Boozer as the only two big men who have shown themselves to be at all worth getting minutes.
We could also very easily see some sans-big lineups; when Gibson was injured and Noah ejected against the New York Knicks in December, Thibs went to a Robinson-Hinrich-Belinelli-Butler-Deng lineup that didn’t really work, but managed to not give up the ghost entirely. It wouldn’t surprise me to see that configuration revisited, most likely with Cook in Belinelli’s place.
The last time the Bulls visited Brooklyn, they were similarly short-handed — although not quite as badly — and nearly came up with a win anyway. So don’t expect this team to come out and roll over, despite a lackluster at best performance Tuesday in Washington D.C. They probably won’t win, but don’t expect a blowout.