Bulls rolling with changes, looking to stay alive this season

By Kyle Rich

The makeup of an NBA team can end up changing faster than the  possession of the ball on a

breakaway layup.

The Chicago Bulls are one of many teams this year that have made significant lineup changes. The team said goodbye to seven players and welcomed eight new ones, according to its 2011 and

2012 rosters.

But one of the biggest differences for the Bulls this season is scheduling. This year NBA teams will play a full preseason along with their regular schedule, as opposed to the 2011–2012 season, which was

abbreviated and had no preseason because of a partial lockout. Cheryl Raye-Stout, a sports reporter and blogger for WBEZ, believes this year’s schedule will benefit the Bulls, especially in terms of

injury recovery.

“The games crammed in last year resulted in a very intense schedule, especially for players with nagging injuries,” Raye-Stout said. “[At one point], back-to-back-to-back games [were] being played.”

The Bulls faced another setback when guard Derrick Rose tore his ACL during Game 1 of last year’s playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers. While the timetable for his recovery is still unknown, Raye-Stout doubts he’ll play until the end of the 2013 season.

Unfortunately, injury was a problem for Rose prior to his torn ACL. He missed numerous games because of back spasms and ankle and groin injuries. Raye-Stout, who spoke to Rose during an Oct. 16 preseason game at the United Center, said his recovery is going smoothly, but there are certain fundamentals he needs to master before he can play at the same level as last season.

“He’s going to look good [in the meantime] until he can start cutting [to the basket] without any real issues,” Raye-Stout said. “[Cutting] is a real test to the knee.”

Others agree the team will struggle without Rose. Josh Hill, senior editor of Bulls blog PippenAintEasy.com, which is featured on Sports Illustrated’s webpage SI.com, said even though the team fared well last season when Rose was hurt, many bench players who helped carry it are

now gone.

“It’s going to need to be a team effort, because there is no guy equal to Rose in both his leadership skills and his intensity on this team,” Hill said. “The team will need to come together to try and erase Rose’s absence as much as they can.”

Players like Ömer Aşık, Kyle Korver, John Lucas III and Ronnie Brewer are no longer on the Bulls bench because of the NBA’s new salary cap.

“[Bulls Chairman] Jerry Reinsdorf decided he didn’t want to pay for [the bench players] anymore, and now we may see a less

talented Bulls team as a result,” Hill said. “The guys they got this offseason are sufficient, but sufficient doesn’t win championships.”

However, fans will be glad to know that, with the exception of Rose, the starting lineup hasn’t seen any drastic changes. K.C. Johnson, the Bulls reporter for the Chicago Tribune, said he would be shocked if the lineup was anything different from Kirk Hinrich, Richard Hamilton, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng.

On another positive note, Bulls Head Coach Tom Thibodeau was given an extended four-year contract, as reported by ESPN. Last year, he became the fastest coach in history to reach 100 wins, a distinction previously held by coach Avery Johnson. He was given the NBA Coach of the Year award in 2011.

“He is clearly an elite coach,” Johnson said. “It was easily the biggest no-brainer [to extend his contract] in the offseason.”

The Bulls will play against the Sacramento Kings in their first game of the season Oct. 31 at the United Center.