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Aaaaaaaand Now! Your 2008-2009 Chicago Bulls!

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Oct 28, 2008 3:00PM

sports_bulls_logo.jpgA year ago, many -- us included -- believed the Bulls were on the verge of competing for the Eastern Conference title, even if it wasn't quite yet time to reserve Grant Park for any rallies. The young Bulls team fell flat on their face and cost Scott Skiles his job on the way to a 33-49 record, missing the playoffs after three consecutive appearances. Tonight, they open the 2008-2009 season at the United Center against the Milwaukee Bucks and their new head coach, Scott Skiles.

So the big question -- which Bulls team will we see this season? The team of young, rising stars looking to join the elite of the NBA or the self-centered, undisciplined group whose inability to play like a team caused the franchise to take a big step back?

Major Roster Subtractions:
Chris Duhon - PG

Major Roster Additions:
Derrick Rose - PG

The Bulls made their big moves during the season last year, shipping out Ben Wallace and Joe Smith and landing Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden in return. During the off-season, they did little to mix up the roster. With the first overall pick, they drafted point guard Derrick Rose, and not surprisingly jettisoned point guard Chris Duhon. The team locked up forward Luol Deng long term, but was unable to reach a similar deal with shooting guard Ben Gordon. Unhappy with his contract situation, Gordon made it abundantly clear he did not want to remain with the team. With no trade and no long-term contract, he signed a one-year offer sheet and will look to test the free agency market next summer.

Perhaps the biggest change on the bench is the coach. After Scott Skiles was dumped mid-season, Jim Boylan moved up from the ranks of assistant coaches. As expected, he was not retained and a bizarre coaching search ensued, with Mike D'antoni and Doug Collins seemingly imminent hires before the team pulled Vinny del Negro out of left field. As a guy with no coaching experience of any kind, his ability to handle this team is a real wild card.

Ultimately, we believe that last year was the fluke. Contentious contract talks and rampant trade rumors broke the team's focus early, and it never recovered from the slow start. With so much young, highly drafted talent on the roster some of these guys will ultimately blossom. But this team's biggest strength might also cause problems as the season progresses. With a team that is this deep, it could be hard to find enough minutes for everybody. The front line includes five guys who expect to be part of the rotation, with Andres Nocioni, Gooden, Thomas, Noah and Gray all justifying playing time. Only Deng knows his minutes are secure. The team is even more overloaded with guards -- who'll start among Rose, Hinrich, Gordon, Hughes and Thabo Sefalosha? That depth is nice with Hughes out and Gordon hobbled, but will we see infighting once everybody's healthy? Or will the competition push them to all work harder?


We foresee a roller coaster season, between the rookie coach and rookie point guard, as well as the uncertain rotation. But we think this team will show marked improvement over last year's debacle and will once again grab a middle seed in the playoffs. Whether they have the toughness to make any sort of run is hard to say.