Our panel of experts discusses Luol Deng's sore wrist, the Bulls' trade prospects and Derrick Rose's MVP candidacy.
Fact or fiction: Luol Deng made a mistake by not having surgery immediately after injuring his wrist.
Nick Friedell: Fact. It's admirable Deng decided to postpone the surgery to help the Bulls win a title and play in the Olympics, but if he can't perform up to the same level he did before he tore the ligament, what's the point? Deng's wrist is obviously bothering him, and if he had the surgery right after the injury, there was a chance he would be ready to play at some point in the playoffs. He would have been fine for the Olympics. Now, whenever he takes a fall on the wrist the pain starts all over again. Plus, if he still decides to have the surgery, he would miss at least one month of the beginning of next season. Deng's heart was in the right place, but he might not have been doing the best thing for his team.
Marc Silverman: Fiction. Bottom line: If Luol Deng had surgery, there would be no guarantee that he would've even been available in time for the playoffs. Deng should be applauded for the way he's played through the pain. It's not easy, and there's going to be setbacks along the way -- such as the current situation, when he must rest the wrist and avoid contact. While his points and rebounds are down--Deng has never shot better from distance. When he returned from the injury, he shot 46 percent from 3-point land in February. So far in March that has increased to a white hot 52 percent. Even in "down" games, Deng was able to right the ship by hitting key shots on the road against the Spurs and 76ers. I'm OK with him missing a few games here and there much like an important pitcher who must miss a turn in the rotation. The Bulls aren't winning a title without Deng. Even with a torn ligament in his left wrist, I'm confident he'll provide outstanding defense, clutch shooting and overall smart play.
Melissa Isaacson: Fiction. Easy one to second-guess, and Deng might even being doing it himself now that the pain has become a hindrance. But no doubt he was somewhat prepared for this and given the length of time he would have had to sit out following surgery (he would have probably returned no earlier than the second round of the playoffs), the decision was ostensibly: Does he kiss off this season? The Bulls need Deng to get through the Eastern Conference playoffs and past the Miami Heat. If the wrist ends up keeping him from playing effectively by then, Deng will no doubt second-guess himself again. But given the decision at the time, it was an automatic.
Fact or fiction: The Bulls should make a move before Thursday's deadline.
Friedell: Fiction. Unless Dwight Howard decides he wants to sign an extension with the Bulls, there isn't another guy on the market who could put the Bulls over the top. Plus, in order to make any deal, the Bulls would have to give up either Taj Gibson and/or Omer Asik. The organization has no intentions of making that type of move unless it gets Howard in return.
Silvy: Fiction. I would love Dwight Howard to say "yes," and want to play long term in Chicago. I would love a scoring shooting guard or small forward who wouldn't cost much with Hamilton and Deng nursing injuries. I would love Pau Gasol if the Lakers are willing to give him away. Chances are, none of these things are realistic. What is reality? The Bulls have more than just great chemistry. They have the best record in the NBA as constructed. For those who say "The Bulls cannot beat the Heat in a seven-game series" -- how do you know? Many act like the Heat have been beating up on the Bulls for years. It has happened once, and it was a closer series than the end result indicated. No need to make a "panic" deal. I'm happy to go to battle with the MVP, coach of the year and best record in the NBA. And by the way, Howard is delusional not to embrace a trade to the Bulls. Good luck selling shoes and making movies. I'd rather have NBA titles -- but that's just me.
Isaacson: Fiction. Who do you want to get rid of? Taj Gibson? Because he’s the name most often mentioned. Joakim Noah? Luol Deng? Really? Yes, the Bulls have to count on a number of things to fall into place for a successful playoff run to occur. Deng has to be at close to full-strength; Rip Hamilton has to be on the court; Omer Asik has to become the imposing presence he has shown at times and also stay healthy as the Bulls missed him last postseason after he broke his leg. But if all that occurs, the Bulls are capable of winning the title. Of course there’s no guarantee, but I like those odds better than breaking up the team at this point in the season.
Fact or fiction: Derrick Rose is a better MVP candidate this season than he was in 2010-11.
Friedell: Fiction. He's already missed 10 games because of injury and played sparingly in a handful of others because of those injuries. Rose has been great when he's been healthy, but the MVP can't miss that many games and expect to repeat.
Silvy: Fiction. Derrick Rose is a better player this year than last year. With Rose, you come to expect improvement with the way he works on his game. I just can't say he's a better MVP candidate after missing 10 games. Rose is still a top 5 "vote-getter" in my world. Lebron, Kobe, and Durant, at this point, have a better shot at the award. On a related note, Tom Thibodeau is a better coach of the year candidate this year. Nobody comes better prepared to play than the Bulls injuries or not. Nobody gets his team to play harder than Thibs.
Isaacson: Fact. Or at least just as strong a candidate Rose’s most valuable status may have been more obvious last season when his spectacular play seemed to carry the Bulls as they played half of the season without Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer. And yes, his stats are, at this point, a tad under what they were after last regular season (except for field goal percentage and assists). But Rose is stronger physically, which is apparent on his drives to the hoop; more decisive on whether to take charge or feed his teammates; and ultimately every bit as good making his teammates better as the Bulls are still affected by injuries. It’s not easy to win the MVP award twice in a row in the NBA and Rose probably won’t unless he goes on an ungodly tear over the next few weeks (re: in nationally televised games), but it’s not because he isn’t worthy.