It’s time for the Chicago Bulls to go to Derrick Rose and find out once and for all if the former MVP is going to return this season or not because it appears that Rose’s situation is starting to wear on the rest of his teammates.
On Sunday, the Bulls were completely outclassed at Oklahoma City, 102-72. Chicago started the game missing an incomprehensible 44 of its first 55 shots and needed a mini-flurry just to finish at a season-low 29.1 percent from the field. The Bulls 25 field goals and 14 assists also were season-worsts. Carlos Boozer disappeared with two points on 1-for-5 shooting, Nate Robinson (starting again for the oft-injured Kirk Hinrich) was 2-for-14 and Taj Gibson missed his first eight shots, finished 2-for-11 and left with a sprained knee.
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The Bulls have now lost seven of their past 11 (6-5 ATS) and have failed to score more than 72 points in three of their past five games (1-4 “over/under”). The team overachieved for most of the season without Rose thanks largely to effort, stellar defense, and heavy minutes and all-star caliber play from Luol Deng and Joakim Noah. They appear to be wearing down. Deng leads the NBA in minutes per game at 39.0, and Noah is tied for eighth at 38.2 and is playing through a foot injury. Deng is averaging just 12.2 points in the past five games. Chicago doesn’t have many offensive options, so when Deng and Boozer struggle, the team is going to lose more often than not.
Several members of the Chicago media who cover the Bulls believe that Rose has become a distraction. Not he himself but all the daily questions, etc. On the bright side, Rose was seen dunking in warm-ups before Sunday’s game. In his most recent public comments a week or so ago, Rose had said he hadn’t been able to dunk yet and sort of hinted he wouldn’t return until he could again. So perhaps he could be back soon. Could it be this week? The Bulls have three home games: Tuesday vs. Cleveland (Bulls are nine-point favorites), Wednesday against the 76ers and Saturday against Brooklyn. Certainly team management would want Rose to debut in front of the home fans, I would think.
But time is running out to get Rose in sync with his teammates as the Bulls have only 26 games left. It’s hard to see even Rose at 100 percent making Chicago a legitimate threat to scorching-hot Miami, which pummeled the Bulls 86-67 on Feb. 21 at the United Center. The Heat are now down to -280 on Sportsbook.ag to win the Eastern Conference, with Chicago at +1000. At least it’s unlikely that the Bulls drop all the way to No. 8 in the East, which would mean a first-round date with the Heat. Currently Chicago is No. 6 and five games ahead of No. 8 Milwaukee. The Heat are now six games clear of the pack in the East and could rest their stars some nights in the final few weeks of the season with such a cushion for home-court advantage in the conference.
Quiet Trade Deadline
Last Thursday’s NBA Trade Deadline was a total flop in terms of big names being moved. When J.J. Redick is the headliner, you know things are quiet. The Magic traded their best player to Milwaukee for three players who aren’t going to make any difference, although at least Orlando got something for Redick before he hits unrestricted free agency this summer.
The deal almost assures that Orlando will finish with the NBA worst record this season, which is probably what GM Rob Hennigan wants. The Magic enter this week two games “ahead” of Charlotte for the worst mark. Orlando has lost five straight and 17 of 18 (3-15 ATS). Here was the team’s starting five in Saturday’s home blowout loss to Cleveland, which isn’t exactly a road powerhouse: Andrew Nicholson, Moe Harkless, Nikola Vucevic, E’Twaun Moore and Arron Afflalo. I’m not sure that group would be more than a five-point favorite against Indiana, and I mean the University of, not the Pacers.
You might see a rarity on Wednesday night in that the Magic could actually be favored as they host Sacramento. I can only see that and perhaps another game or two in which the Magic will be favored the rest of the season (never on the road). Orlando has been a favorite once since Jan. 27, losing 102-95 at home on Feb. 19 to Charlotte as a five-point favorite. Two of the Bobcats’ 13 wins have come against the Magic. Those teams face off for the final on March 27 in Charlotte, which could determine the NBA lottery favorite.
The Magic actually haven’t been the worst ATS team of late. That title would belong to their trade partners, the Bucks. They lost 103-102 at home to Atlanta on Saturday in Redick’s debut. It was Milwaukee’s third straight loss and seventh in the past eight games. Since a 117-90 win at Detroit on Jan. 29, the Bucks have just one cover in 11 games (and they lost that one in Brooklyn).
Don’t look now, but Milwaukee could give Toronto hope to catch the Bucks for the No. 8 spot. The Raptors have been playing much better with Rudy Gay (6-4 ATS in past 10 entering this week) and are four games out. The Bucks will be dogs Tuesday at Dallas and the following night at Houston before hosting Toronto on Saturday. That game could have potentially huge implications for the No. 8 spot in the East if the Raptors have a good week leading in and the Bucks lose their two as is likely.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews