Preseason games start Tuesday with more questions


Oct 4

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In the old days with Michael Jordan when there was a crisis they used to call it the “Archangel offense.” You know, save us, Michael.

So with Carlos Boozer out with a broken hand (surgery Tuesday) and Ronnie Brewer still unable to recover from lingering hamstring issues, thus 40 percent of their planned starting lineup sidelined, the Bulls likely will be going back to a familiar savior–Derrick Rose.

Perhaps not Tuesday when the Bulls open the preseason in Milwaukee at 7 p.m. against the Bucks. But when this season begins to get serious, it will again have to be a Rose to transcend with these suddenly troublesome thorns.

You know, the military Rose.

Rose right, Rose left.

It’s really unfortunate because by all accounts Boozer was looking great, fitting in well and optimism around the Berto Center in training camp was as high as it’s been in more than a decade.

I know coach Tom Thibodeau tried to put a good face on it, that there was enough depth, that there are enough players who’ve performed at big times, and Boozer would return relatively early in the season.

But there’s no escaping the void.

Sure, Taj Gibson has become a legitimate NBA starter, and the Bulls are in better shape with a backup than had Rose or Joakim Noah gone out.

But it does tamp down the effusive optimism that had been bubbling and ready to pour into the season.

It does deprive the Bulls immediately not only of Boozer’s post potential, but his absence limits the potential strength of the depth.

Boozer likely will return a month into the regular season, and Rose has shown he can score and lead. And this season—we certainly hope—Rose won’t be coming in with hurt like he did last season with that troubling achilles problem. So that should be a plus.

The Bulls went 6-9 the first month last season, and by the end of that month two of their top six, Tyrus Thomas and Kirk Hinrich, were out with injuries. So, yes, it’s all a part of the game.

Though this Boozer injury also has in some ways obscured the biggest issue coming into the season.

It was the uncertainty at shooting guard, which has become more troublesome with Brewer still unable to scrimmage and out for Tuesday’s preseason opener in Milwaukee.

Brewer tore a hamstring after being traded to Memphis last season, and though the team says these latest hamstring issues are in a different place, it is worrisome for the same kind of injury to develop so quickly.

It wasn’t even clear whether Brewer would be the shooting guard given his lack of long distance shooting range. So now the position seems even more uncertain.

It was no secret the Bulls had discussions with Portland about Rudy Fernandez, who lately said he doesn’t want to play in the NBA anymore. Would he be worth a one year rental for a No. 1 pick, protected, for sure, if he’s serious? Or is he just trying to expedite a deal?

The Bulls are going to start Keith Bogans Tuesday. Bogans was mostly brought in as an insurance policy guard.

Thibodeau has been using Bogans with the starters and Kyle Korver with the second team as the shooting guards. Korver is a good shooter, and has been better as camp as gone on. But he’s not much of a defender and probably more a small forward.

Which is why I like the idea of moving up free agent Kyle Weaver.

The 6-6 guard from Beloit, a four year player at Washington State, has been with the Thunder but mostly hurt. But he’s supposedly shown the most quickness and defense at that position in camp with Brewer out, and probably would be worth a good look.

Thibodeau mentioned Luol Deng at power forward at times, which he played some under Vinny Del Negro. I’ve suggested Deng at times at shooting guard. I know he’s not quick enough there on defense, but he’d sure have offensive mismatches and is said to be shooting the ball better with range.

The Bulls tried James Johnson some there last season, but he’s said to have struggled again in camp at small forward and can’t seem to find a position. After seeing him on and off for a year, I think he’d do best as some sort of a stretch power forward with his quickness, like Deng a mismatch on offense. And with his strength, Johnson should be able to hold off fours.

Maybe C.J. Watson ends up at two guard to get the minutes he wouldn’t backing up Rose and you have a quick backcourt. Maybe Rose plays off the ball like Isiah Thomas did when the Pistons got Joe Dumars. And the Pistons did pretty well with small guards including Vinnie Johnson. Then maybe the Bulls keep John Lucas, though his size could be an issue on defense compared with Weaver.

The unfortunate part of all this is the Bulls had a pretty set lineup and second unit coming into camp. So even with the large number of new players it seemed like the chemistry could come together quickly.

Now, Thibodeau is going to have to experiment with combinations and lineups and positions, and while there’s a date on the return of the power forward, nothing seems certain about shooting guard.

So it should make for a more interesting exhibition season. Maybe this will be more entertaining than we thought. It begins Tuesday.

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