Every week, ESPNChicago.com Bulls writer Nick Friedell is joined by two other ESPN writers to weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Chicago Bulls followers.
1. Would a Derrick Rose return actually hurt the Bulls at this point in the season?
Friedell: In the short term, it would. Whenever Rose comes back it's going to take some time for him to get back into a rhythm with his teammates. But the key for the Bulls is that they aren't winning a title this season anyway so the best long-term answer is to have Rose come back and play whenever he is ready. If that means he's ready to play in a few weeks, then the Bulls would still welcome him back with open arms.
Jon Greenberg: No, it wouldn't hurt, and yes, it would help. But that's only if his knee is game ready and his body is in game shape. With just a few weeks left until the playoffs, it just doesn't seem feasible that both of those things could coalesce and Rose could return. This knee injury is different from the previous one. The rehab is less intense and intrusive and the recovery time is quicker. That's why Rose will be able to participate in national team activities and games this summer. Now, if Rose's recovery has somehow sped up and the team is hiding it, or downplaying it, I'm all for Rose returning at the end of the season, as long as there's no risk for injury, outside the usual one. Last season, I was more skeptical because the ACL recovery is much more limiting. But again, I'll be shocked if he came back in the next few weeks, in a good way.
Scoop Jackson: Yes. Not only would it hurt the Bulls, it would hurt Derrick. Look, any talk of Derrick coming back anytime this season needs to cease. Just stop. The Bulls are better and much more secure this season than they were last year going into the playoffs. Everyone's roles are established, there's no lingering uncertainty of what they can and can't do or are capable of, no cloud hanging over their heads of whose team this is, no one questioning Thibs' decision-making, and no major injuries (so far). And Rose returning would also not be fair to Joakim Noah, who has earned the right to lead and carry this team as far as he can take it.
2. Should Jimmer Fredette get more playing time?
Friedell: No. Thibodeau's rotation is set and it's playing well. Fredette isn't going to take time from Kirk Hinrich or D.J. Augustin as long as they stay healthy. Fredette seems like a good guy, and Thibodeau appreciates the fact he can shoot, but he's not a better option than Hinrich and Augustin right now, and he hasn't proved he can play at a high enough defensive level to warrant big minutes.
Greenberg: No, because he won't get significant minutes, and he has only one talent: shooting. Are the Bulls going to run plays for their 13th man? Whose minutes should he take? Thibodeau is a man who believes in player rotations and his rotations are set. Now if one of his regulars goes down, then it's up to Fredette to prove he can handle these minutes. We know he can shoot, and his only goal this season is to stay ready to do just that if the team needs him.
Jackson: Depends. It's a game-to-game call. At this point all Jimmer needs to do is be ready. The Bulls are still in a battle for positioning for one of the top five playoff spots so every game still matters to a degree. Giving Jimmer more playing time will only take away time from players they are going to rely on in the playoffs like Tony Snell and Augustin. Jimmer is a good player, but unless the Bulls are really about to flip the whole season's script and depend on Jimmer to win them playoff games, then finding more playing time for him just for the sake of playing time is kinda pointless.
3. Should Tom Thibodeau win NBA Coach of the Year?
Friedell: Yes. In my opinion, this is the best coaching job Thibodeau has done to date. Unlike last season when they had time to plan for Rose's injury, he and the front office rebuilt this team on the fly. The Bulls are actually better than they were at this time a year ago, which is impressive because they also traded away All-Star forward Luol Deng in January. Thibodeau got the players to buy into the fact that this was not a lost season, and he put them in position to succeed. The players deserve a huge amount of credit, but it was Thibodeau who set the tone that they all followed.
Greenberg: Yes, but he's turning into the Eastern Conference Gregg Popovich. Thibs is such a consistently good coach, his efforts don't stand out for merit. No offense to Phoenix's Jeff Hornacek, Dallas' Rick Carlisle, Charlotte's Steve Clifford and others, but what Thibodeau has done this season is truly special. In the past two years, I've been of the belief that Thibodeau's COY award in his rookie season was all he needed, because it was in that season, and the months leading up to it, that Thibodeau established the foundation for his success. He got his players in the Berto Center during the summer to instill his defensive philosophy. He turned ordinary visits into hard-core workouts. Maybe it's just me, or possibly some recency bias, but Thibodeau has gotten better as a coach. He talks a lot about self-improvement, and it's not an empty canard. From the increased usage of Noah as a point-center to the slightly stricter management of minutes, Thibodeau is coaching a masterpiece. When the Bulls lose, it's because they're just not talented enough offensively without Rose and Deng. I think getting a team without those players into a top-four seed in the East, weak as that conference might be, deserves a trophy.
Jackson: Should? Yes. Will? No. As long as Toronto has a better record than the Bulls and as long as Phoenix is in the playoff hunt in the West, Dwayne Casey and Jeff Hornacek will be the front-runners for the COY. Thibs' job this season is subjectively more amazing than what any other coach in the NBA has done, but he will not be recognized for it. Not like that. But ask any coach around the league -- hell, ask Casey or Hornacek -- and they'll tell you Thibs deserves the coach of the year award as much if not more than Joakim deserves the MVP.