To get a read on Derrick Rose and the East-leading Bulls (34-9), as they take on the Knicks tonight at the United Center, I spoke with Nick Friedell, who covers the team for ESPN Chicago. Here are his responses to three burning questions I had:
Zwerling: The Bulls were without three starters on Saturday -- Luol Deng (wrist), Joakim Noah (flu) and Richard Hamilton (shoulder) -- and they still beat the Jazz. What did you learn new about the team? Are they deeper than you ever thought?
Friedell: They are the deepest team in the league in my opinion. Saturday's win didn't change anyone's perception of the Bulls as much as it reconfirmed it. No matter who is out there on the floor, the Bulls feel like they can pick up a win every single night. It's a credit to the culture Tom Thibodeau has built over the past year and a half.
Zwerling: Has D-Rose exposed any weaknesses this season? Perhaps you'd like to reveal a slither of hope for Knicks fans.
Friedell: Rose's biggest weakness this year is that he has gotten hurt this season more than any other point in his career. I do think the back injury is still an issue for him, but it hasn't slowed him down that much. At times, Rose still struggles with the quick double-team trap when he crosses halfcourt, but he's still one of the most dominating forces in the game.
Zwerling: If the Knicks remain the eighth seed and play the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs, will you already be previewing the semifinals or staying alert for a competitive series?
Friedell: I think there's a window of opportunity for the Knicks. The Bulls' players respect the Knicks and they know that a postseason series at the Garden could be difficult. They still believe they would beat the Knicks, but they know it's not a slam dunk. Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire can still go off at any time and you would think that Jeremy Lin will continue to get better. I'm sure Knicks fans aren't feeling good about the team's play right now, but rest assured, no visiting team wants to go into the Garden during the playoffs if they don't have to.
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