Six Bulls questions heading into season

October, 1, 2012
10/01/12
11:07
AM CT
Derrick RoseAP Photo/Nam Y. HuhThe uncertainty about Derrick Rose's return -- and his game when he does -- will follow the Bulls all season.
CHICAGO -- Media day usually doubles as Derrick Rose photo day at the Berto Center. The former MVP, as usual, is the center of attention.

While each player and coach have their pictures taken and are asked by the media, it's Rose whom everyone wants a few seconds with. Rose is the center of the Bulls' universe -- a fact which becomes even clearer on days like media day.

Rose may still be in attendance Monday during the organization's annual media day but it won't be the same. With Rose working his way back from a torn ACL, the reality has changed for the foreseeable future and everyone within the organization knows it. They're trying to prepare for what's coming: A season full of uncertainty surrounding the most important piece of the organization.

With that in mind, let's take a look at a few of the biggest questions facing the Bulls as they head into the 2012-2013 season:

[+] EnlargeTom Thibodeau
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesTom Thibodeau is still waiting for a contract extension.
1. When is Rose coming back?: It's the question nobody can answer. Rose said recently that he was feeling good and may even be a little ahead of schedule in rehab. It's a feeling shared by many close to him. But nobody knows when he's going to be on the floor again and when he does return if he will be the same kind of player he was before the injury. The guess has always been around eight to 12 months to return. Somewhere around February or March has always served as a reasonable timeframe, but no one knows, and it's the question that will hover around the Bulls all season until he come back.

2. Is Thibs getting a new deal?: The answer is probably yes, and it could happen soon. There is a sense of optimism among some in the organization that this deal could get done before the regular season begins. Thibodeau has quickly become one of the best coaches in the league and has earned a reputation as a hardworker. The fear among some around the team is that at some point players may get sick of his hard-charging message. But there is little question that Thibodeau has earned the extension of a top-tier coach. The longer the Bulls drag their feet on giving him the extension, the bigger distraction this will become.

3. Can Deng's wrist hold up without surgery this season?: Deng has said this summer that he will be fine and his wrist is feeling much better. He played in the Olympics and appears to be willing to play with pain again this season. He knows a lot will be expected of him without Rose for much of the season, but will he be able to handle the rigors of an 82-games season, especially if he takes another hard fall on a wrist that never fully healed? The answer to that question will go a long way toward determining how successful the Bulls will be without their MVP.

4. What does Kirk Hinrich have left in the tank?: The veteran guard took less money to come back and play for the Bulls. If he can be the player he used to be – a defensive-minded combo guard who can score 10-15 points a night -- then he will be a solid bridge between the beginning of the season and when Rose gets back. But at 31, it's questionable whether Hinrich can get back to that level on a consistent basis. He averaged just seven points last season and battled through injuries. Rose loves having one of his mentors back in the fold, and Hinrich will definitely be a welcome presence in the Bulls' locker room, but he needs to find a way to turn back the clock on the floor in order to the move really pay off.

5. Is Noah 100 percent healthy?: He badly twisted his ankle during last spring's playoffs causing him to miss playing for Team France in the Olympics. He spent all summer working with his trainer Alex Perris in order to get the injury back in order and recently tweeted that he was ready to go. But will the wear and tear on his feet finally catch up with him? With Rose out, Noah has a chance to show that his offensive game has improved over the summer. He has a chance to lead the Bulls on and off the floor. But if his ankles don’t hold up, all the work he put in over the summer won't matter.

6. How will the new Bench Mob compare to the old one?: The Bulls decided to gut the popular Bench Mob (Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, C.J. Watson, John Lucas III and Omer Asik) for cheaper options (Hinrich, Marco Belinelli, Nazr Mohammed, Nate Robinson, Vladimir Radmanovic) to avoid going deep into the luxury tax. If this group can have success this year, Bulls GM Gar Forman will look smart for declining to match the big offer sheet for Asik and replacing his bench core with other pieces. But if this group struggles to find success and can't give the Bulls the same type of push the previous group did, it will be Forman, and owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who will take the heat for the summer decisions.

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