Year in review: Best and worst of 2013

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
4:01
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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Derrick RoseAP Photo/Michael ConroyBulls superstar Derrick Rose spent most of 2013 on the bench with knee injuries.


CHICAGO -- The 2012-13 Chicago Bulls season will always be remembered as the one in which Derrick Rose didn't play at all as he recovered from a torn ACL in his left knee.

No matter what the Bulls did on the floor the fans still talked about Rose's status. Few within the organization believed at the start of the season that Rose would not play at all, but by the time the Bulls were eliminated from the playoffs last May that's exactly what had happened.

Despite Rose's situation hovering over them, Tom Thibodeau's team managed to grind out a pretty impressive season and an appearance in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Given the fact that the Bulls missed Rose all year and dealt with a myriad of injuries, it will be remembered as one of Thibodeau's best coaching jobs.

BEST MOMENTS

5. Bulls beat the Heat in Miami twice: It will get lost in the shuffle of a forgotten season -- but Carlos Boozer played arguably the best game of his Bulls tenure on Jan. 4 in a surprising win over the Heat. The veteran power forward scored 27 points and had 12 rebounds. The Bulls earned another surprise win in Miami during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. It was a performance that few in the league expected given how much energy the Bulls used to beat the Brooklyn Nets in the first round.

4. Bulls snap Miami's 27-game streak: The United Center was rocking on this memorable night on March 27. Already without Rose, the Bulls managed to knock off LeBron James and company without Belinelli, Richard Hamilton and Joakim Noah. Luol Deng led the way with 28 points as the Bulls picked up a win that both fans and players took great pride in.

[+] EnlargeNate Robinson
Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY SportsNate Robinson scored 23 points in the fourth quarter of a triple OT win over the Nets.
3. The Nate Game: Nate Robinson got so hot at the end of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against Brooklyn that he would joke afterwards that he felt like a character in the old video game, "NBA JAM,” in which if a player makes enough shots the nets burn because of the ensuing fire. Robinson scored 23 points in the fourth quarter as the Bulls wiped out a 14-point deficit with less than three minutes left to play in regulation. They would end up winning 142-134 in triple overtime.

2. Rose returns: After a stellar preseason in which he looked like his old self, Rose made his 2013-14 regular season home debut a special one as he knocked in a game-winning floater against the New York Knicks. After a year and a half away from the game, Rose looked relieved to deliver for his team in the clutch once again.

1. Noah, Bulls find a way in Game 7: May 4, 2013 is the defining moment of Thibodeau's tenure to date. That's when the undermanned Bulls, playing without Deng (illness), Kirk Hinrich (calf) and Rose found a way to win Game 7 against the Brooklyn Nets. Noah, playing with plantar fasciitis, racked up 24 points, 14 rebounds and six blocked shots in a performance that will live in the annals of Bulls' history.

WORST MOMENTS

5. Reality check for Bulls: So often during the Thibodeau era, the Bulls would find a way to beat bad teams no matter who was on the floor. Last Nov. 3rd's loss to a New Orleans Hornets team playing without Anthony Davis was a reminder that there would be bad days ahead for a Bulls team without Rose.

4. Playoffs start poorly: The Bulls had high hopes coming into the postseason, but those were dashed in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals as the Nets beat Thibodeau's bunch on both ends. It was one of the worst games Deng has played in years. The All-Star forward scored just six points in 38 minutes and struggled to guard Gerald Wallace.

3. Rose wonders about the season: The Bulls lost an ugly looking 71-69 game on Feb. 13 to the Boston Celtics -- but fans will always remember what happened after that game. That's because Rose, who hadn't spoken to local reporters since media day, opened up the possibility that he may not play all season if he didn't feel right. Before that point, few thought Rose would sit out the whole season. After that night, it became a distinct possibility -- which ultimately came to fruition.

2. Sleepless in Sacramento: Rarely during Thibodeau's tenure have the Bulls been embarrassed in any game, especially against a bad team, but that's exactly what happened on March 13 against the Sacramento Kings. The Bulls got pounded 121-79 and never showed the heart that has become their trademark over the last four seasons.

1. It happened again: Nov. 22 is a day Bulls fans won't forget. That's because Rose went down again to a season-ending knee injury in the third quarter of a game against the Portland Trail Blazers -- this time a torn medial meniscus in his right knee. Players and coaches, not to mention Rose himself, couldn't believe that he had suffered another career-altering injury. The postgame scene in the locker room was eerily similar to the day in April 2012 when Rose tore the ACL in his left knee. A season full of championship aspirations came crashing down again with the news of Rose's latest setback.

Nick Friedell | email

Chicago Bulls beat reporter
Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Derrick Rose
PTS AST STL MIN
15.9 4.3 0.5 31.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Noah 11.3
AssistsJ. Noah 5.4
StealsJ. Butler 1.9
BlocksJ. Noah 1.5