By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) It wasn’t quite as bad as Marion Barber running out of bounds in Denver, but it was pretty close.
With about 10 seconds left in Game 6 between the Bulls and 76ers, the refs failed to call a foul on Jrue Holiday at half-court, leaving C.J. Watson free on a 2-on-1 fast break. A more seasoned starting point guard would have pulled the ball back out and taken a foul, but instead, Watson slipped a pass to Omer Asik who went to the line instead.
By now you know what happened. Asik missed both free throws, the Bulls got caught watching and before they knew it, Andre Iguodala had won the game with two free throws on the other end.
76ers 79, Bulls 78.
Just like that, another Chicago team saw a season with so much promise end so quickly at the hands of a backup trying to carry out the impossible task of filling in for the best player on the roster.
Yes, the parallels between the 2011 Bears and 2011-12 Bulls are eerie.
In truth, the Bulls had no chance of winning the NBA Finals once Derrick Rose’s ACL snapped in half, just like the Bears had no chance of winning the Super Bowl when Jay Cutler’s thumb broke.
And any sliver of hope really went out the window when Joakim Noah bent his ankle 90 degrees, just like when Matt Forte bent his knee in a way it wasn’t supposed to bent.
It’s fair to compare C.J. Watson’s blunder to Barber’s brain fart in Denver. And if you want to go even further, you could say Asik’s missed free throws were the equivalent of Barber’s fumble later in overtime. And the whole “not getting back on defense thing” after the missed free throw? Well that was just as bad as the Bears defense allowing Tim Tebow to take over after Barber ran out of bounds.
OK, maybe I’m going a little too far now.
Look, the wounds are fresh. And it doesn’t help that Doug Collins walked into the interview room and said, “I don’t know how we won this game.”
But the sad truth is that Watson’s stupid pass and Asik’s awful free throws mattered just as little as Barber’s idiotic decision to run out of bounds. The Bulls weren’t going to win a championship once Rose went down, just like the Bears had no chance once Cutler found himself sitting in the front row at Dancing With The Stars.
But in an odd way, both of those terrible injuries to Chicago’s two biggest stars might end up being a good thing. Giant flaws in both rosters were exposed (and not just at backup quarterback and point guard). The Bears’ problems at wide receiver were more glaring than ever once we realized how much Cutler had been doing to make them look even a little bit adequate. And a number of role players on the Bulls were brought back down to Earth once Derrick Rose was gone and the opposing team was no longer going at half-speed as they were in the regular season when Rose was out.
The flaws in the Bears’ roster resulted in Jerry Angelo being fired. And now new general manager Phil Emery is bringing legitimate receiving weapons to Chicago for his quarterback. Such a scenario probably wouldn’t have played out if Cutler hadn’t broken his thumb.
Meanwhile, over at the Berto Center, it’s obvious Derrick Rose needs a legitimate scorer in the backcourt with him. Such an addition must be made in the offseason.
The point is, while Caleb Hanie, C.J. Watson and John Lucas III might take the brunt of the criticism for not prolonging their respective team’s season, a much larger realization was brought forth by the injuries to Rose and Cutler:
Neither team was ready to win a championship even before their season-ending injuries occurred.
Did Cutler have enough weapons around him to win a Super Bowl? That’s doubtful. Did Derrick Rose have enough complimentary offense around him to beat the Miami Heat? No way.
Now, nearly six months after Cutler’s thumb injury, he has two new legitimate receiving options in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey. And with some smaller additions elsewhere on the roster, the Bears already look more equipped to make a deeper run this season than they ever would have a year ago even if Cutler didn’t get injured.
The Bulls’ situation is a little more precarious because Rose’s injury will keep him out of part of next season, but at least the flaws have been exposed. Changes can be made.
And the Bulls can stop wasting valuable years of Rose’s career, much like the Bears did in Cutler’s first three seasons in Chicago.
Adam is the Sports Content Producer for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.