Sitting in the ninth spot in the LeBron James led Eastern Conference, the Chicago Bulls are far from their usual competitive and aggressive stance in the hardwood court. The Joakim Noah squad, with practically half of its best players benched due to injuries, find themselves attempting to climb back up the top spot. At this point last NBA season, the Chicago Bulls had left the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks far behind in their quest to unseat the Cleveland Cavaliers as the top dogs in the Eastern Conference. In fact, fans of the Jimmy Butler team even hoped to see them go face to face with the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals last year.
With the potential in mind, the Chicago Bulls have been expected to give the Cleveland Cavaliers a run for their money in the Eastern Conference. Moreover, the brewing problems in the Kyrie Irving roster sparked hopes among Nikola Mirotic squad fans on the possibility of the team going to the finals this year. However, it looks like the Chicago Bulls failed to capitalize on the advantages they have this season. Instead, the Derrick Rose team now finds itself barely hanging on to their NBA playoff dreams.
Adding to the woes of the Chicago Bulls are the injuries of its best stars. Up until recently, the NBA team have been struggling to keep their heads up without Rose and Butler. Just as things started to turn around for the team, however, the Chicago Bulls find out that they might lose yet another significant star in the roster - Pau Gasol.
The Spanish star, who has been the center of NBA trade speculations this season, is out due to a knee injury. While the MRI of Gasol showed no significant damage, Fred Hoiberg shared that the knee showed too much swelling - a fact that the Chicago Bulls refuse to take lightly. Hence, the NBA team opted to sit out the former Los Angeles Lakers star and go on with the games sans his leadership in the hardwood court.
"But there's a significant amount of swelling in there," revealed Hoiberg of Gasol's injured knee, according to Chicago Tribune. He added, "It's been determined that he needs this week to recover from that. There are different treatment options we're looking at that we'll know more about in the next 24 hours."
Hoiberg went on to share that the lost of Gasol is "tough" for the Chicago Bulls. The NBA team head coach also revealed how they intend to make up for the Spaniard's absence in the lineup. According to Hoiberg, the Chicago Bulls might follow the lead of the Golden State Warriors. That is, they might have to go for a small ball lineup.
"You just try to keep their morale up," shared Hoiberg. "We're dealing with a lot of injuries and adversity. You can't feel sorry for yourselves."
He continued, "It's a tough blow. Pau is a guy, especially with Derrick out of the lineup, that you can run your offense through. Niko (Mirotic) will have to play more minutes at that spot, so we'll have some smaller lineup options out there. Bobby (Portis) will obviously get a shot. Cris, after going through the last Toronto game, gave us good, solid minutes in that game. It's just stepping up by committee for Pau. One guy isn't going to do everything that Pau gives us."
Rose is also out due to a left groin strain. The Chicago Bulls star reportedly opted to sit out the game against the Miami Heat to not further injure himself. This move, albeit necessary for his health, once again ignited the fans' disappointment over the Chicago native. Rose, who was once a favorite, quickly caught heat following his repeated decision to skip games regardless of the gravity of his injuries.
"Frustrating? I wouldn't say it's frustrating," said Rose of his injury, according to Chicago Sun-Times. He added, "I'm controlling all I can control. Try my hardest to be out there, but like I said the reality of it is stuff like this happens."
Rose also commented that his move to rule himself out of the game is his effort to listen to his body. He said, "[J]ust listening to my body. I think that nobody knows my body but me, so just trying to listen to it."
This attitude pushed some fans to compare him to Butler. The latter, who is pegged as the new face of the Chicago Bulls, has been known to endure even the most painful injuries in an effort to not leave the team hanging. This puts out the speculations that Butler might be looking into ways to get rid of problematic stars like Rose and Gasol.
"Whatever it takes," said Butler in an earlier interview via Chicago Tribune. He added, "I just want to win. I want to help us in any way, shape or form. If that's 48 straight minutes, if that's 60 minutes, I'm willing to do it."