With just a little over a week until the Chicago Bulls’ regular season begins things are starting to come together, and some chemistry is starting to manifest itself as well. Taking a look at the progress of this team, it’s apparent from Friday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves that things are looking more positive with certain players finally stepping up in the absence of Derrick Rose.
Carlos Boozer showed Minnesota, as well as his own teammates, why he’s still a force to be reckoned with. Last season, a lot of critics and fans, including myself, accused Boozer of going soft and not playing with enough heart. He’s certainly not out of the woods yet, but he’s showing signs of the player he was with the Utah Jazz.
This preseason, he’s been slow to start for the most part, but Boozer got going early in the first quarter of Friday’s game, and ended up with 24 points, nine rebounds and four steals on the night. Boozer was able to build off his teammates and put forth an effort indicative of a team leader.
With just two preseason games remaining, Boozer and the rest of the starters need to really suck it up and all build off each other in order to replace Rose. Building up one player like Boozer isn’t going to be enough.
Luol Deng and Rip Hamilton really need to add to the offense on any given night too. For what it’s worth, Hamiltion did put up 15 points on Friday, but with such a large void left by Rose, it’s going to fall on at least a couple of players to have big games on most nights. Essentially, it’s going to take two men here to do the job Rose was doing in previous seasons.
Luckily, the bench is coming together. Taj Gibson is still putting up the numbers he was last season, and Nate Robinson has been averaging 11.4 points per game this season. But will that enough? Even if everyone stays healthy, can this group propel the Bulls to be in a position to win before Rose returns from his injury? The way things are progressing now, I’d like to think it could happen. Call it the wishful thinking of a misguided optimist, but the Bulls have flown under the radar a lot in the past five years. The team they have now is certainly better than the ones that reached the playoffs the first couple times after the Jordan era.
If things go right, Rose could be coming back to a team with a healthy lead in the division and have a solid spot in the playoff seeding. Whether the team will live up to its potential or not, is simply on the shoulders of those team leaders such as Boozer and Deng. If we get efforts like Friday night, the Bulls will be fine. But if we get efforts from Boozer like we did last year… just be ready for a long season.
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