Still Confident In Bulls?
I'M STILL CONFIDENT IN BULLS' PLAYOFF CHANCES
As the saying goes, it's always darkest before the dawn. Who said that anyway? I think it was Tom Thibodeau. If he didn't coin it, you can bet Thibs has said it, probably during an all-night video session.
The Bulls don't look sharp right now, that's pretty well accepted, but if they were playing well, would it mean anything in terms of their chances to -- say it with me -- beat the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals? No. You can't judge how the Bulls will do against Miami until that series. The danger now, I suppose, is getting there.
Derrick Rose's health problems are alarming, but an ankle injury can be toughed out, with a little medical help. Rip Hamilton has survived playing multiple games in the same month, so that's good, and Luol Deng is playing 40 minutes, even if he's doing it in a gurney.
Aside from Rose's myriad health problems, I don't see a reason for newfound skepticism. No one is going to hand the Bulls a series, but no one did last year when the team was much healthier going into the playoffs.
The one thing I've learned about the Bulls under Thibodeau is that they compete at a consistently high level more games than not. Even against the Boston Celtics, I like the Bulls' chances. You would hope this recent stretch would light a fire under some of the team, and I think they're pretty good at policing each other's effort.
As Carlos Boozer said recently, the Bulls like to ask themselves, "Was that a championship effort?" As long as they continue to think like that, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.
NOT AS CONFIDENT IN BULLS' PLAYOFF CHANCES
To suggest that a Chicago Bulls team with the NBA's best record (yes, this is still the case) is suddenly unequipped to hold on to the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference would be short-sighted, knee jerk and wrong.
The proverbial ball is still in the Bulls' court -- sorry -- and it is entirely feasible they can win out in the remaining week of their schedule with home games against Dallas and Cleveland sandwiched around a trip to Indiana.
But do I have less confidence this will happen than I did five days ago? And more importantly, do I believe the Bulls themselves are rattled? Absolutely.
Losing at home to one of the worst teams in the league in the Washington Wizards last Monday was as stunning, even without Derrick Rose and Luol Deng, as it was damaging to a team's collective psyche.
And while the Bulls have proven time and again that they are a very good team even without their star players, do not for a second think that they are not worried, as they look toward the playoffs, about Rose's condition.
As of Thursday, Rose was still limping, still telling reporters he had fluid in the ankle, still bothered by a sore foot that is the obvious by-product of the ankle, which was probably caused by the pulled groin, which could have been injured as a result of the bad back that was undoubtedly the source of the bad toe.
The Bulls start, stop and finish with Rose. He knows it, the organization knows it, his teammates know it and we know it. What we do not know is how the rigors of playoff basketball, even with -- joy -- a day or two off between most games, will further affect his physical condition and, thus, his game.