The Bulls came into the season riding the coattails of one of the best playoff series in NBA history. All the fans had high hopes, you could see the hunger in the eyes of the players, and most important the "fire Vincent "Vinny" Joseph Del Negro" talked died down. But summer came and went, the Bulls lost the best scorer, (since Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan) in Ben Gordon cause they chose to sign Luol Deng (who has yet to live up to the hype) to huge (un-movable) contract not leaving any money on the table for BG. But as Bulls fans we figured every thing would be ok. I mean John Salmons came in and played like a beast in the second half of the season, to be almost considered in the talks for most improved player, and sixth man of the year. Joakim Noah showed up big time, in that playoff series. Tyrus Thomas showed flashes of what he is capable of. Last but not least Derrick Rose, well he just played ball like we all knew he could.
Let's fast forward to off/pre-season. With two first round picks, the Bulls chose James Johnson (who I still think was the biggest draft day mistake ever) over Ty Lawson, Omri Casspi, and even his fellow draft day Bulls teammate Taj Gibson. With once again high hopes for the rookies. The Bulls marched into the pre-season with a swagger bigger then that of any one in the song Swagger Like Us. But injuries hit almost right away, first Derrick Rose goes down in pre-season ball, Brad Miller got hit by an injury as well. They endured and played through made a some what ok pre-season run.
To start the regular season the, injury to Derrick Rose still lingered. The Bulls played strong despite their leader not being 100%. Luol Deng stepped up and started to show why John Paxson signed him to a nice size payday. Tyrus Thomas tried to prove why he should be a starter. Even Kirk Hinrich played good enough to crush the talks of him being upset about being moved to the bench, to the talks of being named six man of the year. Joakim Noah was a whole new man, with more fire and… well he was just ready to play ball. There were still some bumps in the road. John Salmons was not playing up to the hype he gave us in the playoffs. Tyrus Thomas got relaxed it the starters role, did not show that same hunger, went back to his inconsistent ways. Then Kirk Hinrich gets hit with a thumb injury, Tyrus Thomas' mystery broken arm. But hears the kicker they managed and played through staying in the playoff race.
So what happened from the All-Star break, when the Bulls looked as if they could be a possible number 3 to 5 seed in the playoffs, to this? Well simple, the same stories, the story of the season; injuries. On the upside the Bulls had an All-Star in Derrick Rose, but that’s another story for another day. Joakim Noah's injury hit the hardest. I mean he's the emotional leader on this team and he gets shut down for 3-4 weeks, due to plantar fasciitis, the same injury effecting Taj Gibson. The trades of John Salmons, and 2011 and 2012 second-round draft picks to the Milwaukee Bucks for Joe Alexander and Hakim Warrick. Tyrus Thomas traded to the Bobcats for a future first-round draft pick, Ronald (Flip) Murray and Acie Law. Then another hard foul from Dwight Howard to Rose, which he swears was an innocent foul. Come on twice in as many games I don’t think those are "too" innocent. So now rose is out 2 weeks, and the Bulls continue to slide, father and further out of playoff contention.
Time to look toward the future: The Bulls could fall so far that they could get a nice 1st round pick, and get an outstanding rookie. They could sign a wonderful free agent, Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, Joe Johnson, (heck I'll settle for Tracy McGrady at this point). Joakim Noah gets healthy comes back with the same fierceness, and hunger he started this season with. Rose continues to make strides in his game, ready to carry the Bulls back to the promise land. A land that we as older fans hold on to, hoping that the new generation of Bulls fans will get to enjoy soon. Taj Gibson improves on what is a wonderful rookie season for a 1st round 26th pick. James Johnson hits the gym and the summer hard to show why the Bulls picked him over Gibson. Kirk Hinrich finds his jumper and shows why the John Paxson has kept him around for 7 going on 8 years.
Bottom line the Bulls have most of the pieces to become an elite team in this twisted league we love, called the NBA. Yet there are a few missing pieces, a few things that need to be polished. Maybe a replacement or two in the right (head coaching) places. Bring in a top or even middle free agent, and this Bulls team is ready for the next level.