Another underwhelming All-Star weekend has come and gone. Before the Bulls enter the season's second half, our experts debate dunk contest, Carlos Boozer's production and the team to beat in the East in this week's 3-on-3.
Fact or Fiction: Derrick Rose should be in the dunk contest next year.
Jon Greenberg: Fact. Rose won’t do it for a variety of reasons, but I think he should consider it. Rose is the reigning MVP and one of the most exciting athletes in all of sports. He sells shoes based on his aesthetic glory. But outside of dominating in the NBA Finals, and there’s no guarantee he gets there while LeBron James is on the Miami Heat, Rose needs a singular moment. Michael Jordan’s dunk contest performances were as important to establishing his eternal brand as his commercials. How much Gatorade did the free-throw line dunk sell? How many shoes? In Chicago, we see Rose dunk. NBA fans see his ability too. He’s already the star of Madison St. But a dunk contest performance could make him a crossover star on Madison Ave.
Nick Friedell: Fact. But he's never going to do it. Derrick has told me repeatedly that he doesn't feel he's creative enough to pull off dunks in the contest. There's no question his shoe company, adidas, would love the exposure that comes with having their MVP in the contest, but this is a pipe dream that isn't going to happen.
Melissa Isaacson: Fiction. Absolutely not, are you kidding? I'm not sure why any NBA star who does not want to risk a career-ending injury would want to leap over a motorcycle, a medium-sized hip-hop mogul or even a small child, for that matter. OK, maybe I'm being a little over-protective of the Bulls' most valuable resource, and obviously it's not like a normal person attempting a similar stunt (though the point is, these are not normal people). And yeah, yeah, Michael Jordan competed as a young player. But that was before the advent of inanimate and human props and either way, it's ludicrous that we're debating whether Rose should have even played the game with a sore back and then consider whether he should practice and then perform such a stunt.
Fact or Fiction: Carlos Boozer will be able to maintain his recent level through the postseason.
Greenberg: Fact. Boozer has shown no signs of slowing down. You can fault him for his, well, faults, but you must concede that he’s doing what he does -- old man at the Y moves, defensive rebounding -- at a pretty high level. He’s also been remarkably healthy. I think the lockout was good for Boozer. He seems healthy and his mind is right, especially now that he’s not getting benched in the fourth quarter anymore. Boozer isn’t the perfect player, but he’s looking like the best Boozer he can be.
Friedell: Fiction. Boozer has been pretty consistent this year because he's managed to avoid the injury bug. The past few seasons have shown us that the odds do not favor Boozer staying on the floor for the rest of the year without dealing with some kind issue. Even if he does though, the teams that usually give Boozer the most trouble are big, athletic teams. The exact kind of teams (Miami, Indiana, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Boston) that the Bulls will be seeing in the postseason.
Isaacson: Fiction. Sure, it's possible. And he has already defied the odds and predictions of many, including yours truly, that he would even make it this far still healthy and playing well. But history suggests that while Boozer is certainly capable, when the team is back at full strength and his services are seemingly not needed as much, that he goes back to his inconsistent and less-than-passionate ways. Thing is, most Bulls fans would take it if there was the guarantee that Boozer would play to his potential in the playoffs.
Fact or Fiction: The Miami Heat remain the team to beat in the East.
Greenberg: Fact. Last season the Bulls swept the season series, took the first game of the Eastern Conference finals and then got swept. I don’t think there are too many people who think Miami is worse than last season, especially when LeBron James is playing as well is he right now. If/when the Bulls have Rip Hamilton if/when they face Miami in the playoffs, I think it’ll be a little closer this time around. But I don’t see any reason to rank Chicago ahead of the Heat right now.
Friedell: Fact. The Bulls have improved this season, but not as much as the Heat have. Miami's bench is deeper than it was last year and they are playing better defense. They also have two superstars to give the ball to in crunch time with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Not to mention Chris Bosh has played very well. Derrick Rose is great, but he is only one player. He can't overcome Miami's talent by himself. Boozer, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, and (when healthy) Rip Hamilton are very good players, but they can't take over games on their own. When James switches onto Rose defensively, the Bulls still don't have an answer.
Isaacson: Fact. A few Eastern Conference teams have been playing well of late -- the Knicks and certainly the Bulls, periodically without the services of their best players -- but the Heat have clearly hit their stride and are simply steamrolling through their schedule with a dominance of a future champion. It is still early and things happen and no one wants to peak early (arguably, that happened to the Bulls before last postseason). Also, come playoff time, it will be appropriate to re-open the discussion of how much they can count on LeBron James in the most pressure-packed moments. But as of the break, the Heat ranked first in points scored (107.9), fifth in points allowed (96.9); third in field goal percentage and first in three-point shooting and look like the best in the league.