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Bulls have gone from legit contenders to who-knows-what

Chicago Bulls Vs PortlTrail Blazers 2nd Half Action. Chicago Bulls bench was dejected after PortlTrail Blazers beBulls 100-89 I Scott

Chicago Bulls Vs Portland Trail Blazers 2nd Half Action. Chicago Bulls bench was dejected after the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Bulls 100-89 I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 26, 2012 6:23AM



Here are your 2012 Chicago Bulls!

Umm . . . uh . . .

OK. Marco Belinelli. Vladimir Radmanovic. Nazr Mohammed. Jimmy Butler (Yes!).

Omer Asik? Nope, he’s gone. Kyle Korver? He’s gone, too. C.J. Watson? So is he.

Maybe John Lucas III, Brian ‘‘White Mamba’’ Scalabrine and Mike ‘‘Two First Names’’ James?

Perhaps. Don’t think so.

A Bulls team that last offseason seemed so improved, so solid, so primed to take on the Miami Heat and go for the NBA crown, with fine starters and a feisty Bench Mob, isn’t exactly a memory, but it’s a fading vapor.

Even as the Heat celebrates and LeBron James says ‘‘uh-huh’’ to all his doubters, the Bulls seem to be saying, ‘‘Huh?’’

The team is built around beloved homegrown point guard Derrick Rose. Last season, there was tall Joakim Noah to rebound and defend, big Carlos Boozer to score and rebound, lithe Luol Deng to do everything, slippery Rip Hamilton to receive assists from Rose and Rose himself to be a rolling hand grenade. And then the Mob would descend on foes like a plague of locusts.

That was the plan. That’s how it worked — for a time.

Then came chaos.

Noah, Boozer, Deng, Hamilton, and Rose are still here. But who is healthy? Who is certain? What is there to stand in the way of a possible Heat dynasty?

Well, yes, ‘‘Captain’’ Kirk Hinrich is back as a point guard, and that’s nice. He’s got those goggles now, and some nights they might be lasered in on the rim. Hinrich is best cast as a reserve entering his 10th NBA season, but he’ll be starting for Rose for most of the season.

Rose, you see, has discovered he is mortal. He is recovering from a surgically repaired left knee, the injury having been caused by, well, Rose being Rose.

He won’t be back until January or February, we are told. And when he returns, no one knows how quickly he’ll return to his explosive form. Or even if he will.

When last we saw Noah, he was recovering from a severe ankle sprain, one that will keep him off the French Olympic basketball team in London.

Deng, who will be playing for Great Britain in the 2012 Games, was so beat up last season that he basically sat in an ice suit after games, making reporters shiver as they interviewed him and his wrapped parts. He has a chronically injured wrist that could use surgery but won’t get it because of Olympic service.

So what does Deng do during the Bulls’ season? Tape the wrist and bear it? Or miss most of the season after going under the knife?

Deng’s patriotism is admirable and unassailable, but it’s not a wonderful thing for the Bulls.

Then there’s the 34-year-old, straw-thin Hamilton, nearly as fragile as glass. Oh, to have him and Rose together at their best! But it might never happen.

And Boozer, the curiously unpredictable, defensively challenged power forward, remains the Bulls’ biggest scoring threat inside. He could be ready to roll — or to roll over.

We just don’t know. And that might be as good an assessment of the Bulls as we can give right now.

What we see is how quickly great plans can explode, how elusive perfect structure is.

The NBA is comprised of a few dozen stars, then a bunch of guys who move around like waiters at a banquet.

Mohammed, for instance, has modeled jerseys for the Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks, San Antonio Spurs, Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Bobcats and Oklahoma City Thunder during his 14 years in
the league.

And then there’s the issue of simply being on blah teams for too long and losing the spark that comes with winning.

The 6-10 Radmanovic has played for the Hawks (when they were bad), Golden State Warriors, Bobcats, Los Angeles Clippers (when they were bad) and ye olde Seattle SuperSonics (left town).

Belinelli, poor fellow, only has played for the New Orleans Hornets, Toronto Raptors and Warriors.

That’s a lot of losing, friends, and we only can hope it’s a phase and not a disease.

You gotta like Taj Gibson
coming back and staying energized, and Marquis Teague will be fun to watch develop. His older brother Jeff has been a rising blur for the Hawks.

And Butler has made 21 of his 24 free throws in his last two summer-league games. Sweet.

But it’s all kind of up in the air for the Bulls, isn’t it?

Like a weird jump ball.



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