By George Ofman-
(CBS) Everyone is offering an opinion on Derrick Rose. It wouldn’t shock me if Jack Nicholson or the Dali Lama penned a thought on the Bulls fragile franchise star.
Here is mine.
Start thinking about building a new team around Derrick Rose.
And do it now.
Rose will return, whenever that is. If it’s this season, fine. If it’s next, that’s OK, too. But if he returns with the same cast or even a revamped bench, the Bulls will be watching LeBron James in the Finals again, or maybe even Paul George. And for all intents and purposes, he probably will have the same set of starters, including Kirk Hinrich, who needs either a new body or personal ambulance service. Reggie Rose may have been a bit out of line to blurt out Bulls management needs to put better players around his brother, but he wasn’t wrong. The 2011 season proved that.
But how can the salary strapped Gar/Pax pull off a do-over? How can they recalibrate? What must they do to give their prized possession a chance to win a title?
This is neither an easy question nor do I profess to have the right answers, but it doesn’t take an Einstein to figure one thing out: A rehab is necessary. Not a gut rehab, but pretty close. To start, Rose needs another star player with the ability to make his own shot and probably average around 20 points per game.
In other words, the Bulls need a viable option that will make teams think twice. Rip Hamilton was that guy for last season but Rip became a rip-off because of all his injuries. And he became negligible when Rose went down. Let’s face it: LeBron has his Wade. Durant has his Westbrook. Duncan has his Parker AND Ginobili. That’s just part of it, but a very important part. Michael had Scottie, and Jerry Krause worked around both of them to build three championship teams. Then Jordan bolted for his fling with baseball but when he returned, he and Pippen had a new supporting cast and what happened? Three more titles. It can be done.
The difficulty in re-tooling is who to keep, who not, how the salary cap will affect it and what free agents might be available. Keeping Joakim Noah is a must. He’s proven his worth to the Bulls and they rewarded him with a long-term deal. And of course, he’s already a winner having been a part of two NCAA championship teams at Florida. It’s a pedigree that’s hard to find. Taj Gibson is likely a keeper, too, because Carlos Boozer is not. His shelf life is one more year and then…AMNESTY.
And you have to believe as much as Tom Thibodeau sings the praises of Luol Deng, upper management will be singing a different tune. He will be a free agent after next season and one assumes the Bulls will not give him another long term contract at age 29. The problem is money. When is it not? Trading him is not out of question whether it’s after this season or before the next trading deadline.
So the Bulls will have Rose, Noah and Gibson meaning they will need a 2-guard and small forward that can score, not to mention a viable bench. Nikolai Mirotic is a Bulls draft pick playing in the European league and he won’t come here for several years. He could be a very useful player up front but no one’s quite sure what kind of impact he’ll have. The Bulls own Charlotte’s first-round pick from the Tyrus Thomas trade in 2010 but likely won’t be available to them until 2016.
So Gar/Pax have their work cut out. Trying to rebuild a championship team with Rose as the centerpiece will be more difficult than Derrick’s rehab from the ACL tear. Far more difficult. And it probably won’t happen for at least another season.
Good luck. Glad I’m not making these decisions.
George Ofman is a sports anchor and reporter for WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9FM.