By Rob Mahoney
Although you wouldn't know it from their league-leading 2011-12 regular-season record, the Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls don't have all that much room for error. A new season should bring an assortment of new challenges, and without Omer Asik, C.J. Watson, Ronnie Brewer, John Lucas III and Kyle Korver around to help hold leads and trim deficits, the Bulls may find themselves to be unusually top-heavy and regularly outmatched.
That makes it all the more painful that Kirk Hinrich, who had been brought in as a point guard stopgap to help the Bulls survive Rose's rehabilitation, may be floating in and out of the lineup for the foreseeable future due to a right groin strain. According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune (via SBNation), it's possible that the injury will pull Hinrich out of the lineup entirely for a few games, thus leaving the Bulls to rely on the confusing-if-entertaining Nate Robinson and the wholly unproven Marquis Teague to initiate their offense. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau explained following Thursday night's game why even that possibility doesn't yet concern him (per Aggrey Sam of CSN Chicago):
“That’s part of the game,” [Thibodeau] explained. “Everybody in that room is capable of playing and playing well, and we’re going to need everyone over the course of the season, so I expect [them], when they’re called upon, to be ready and get the job done.”
If only we could share in Thibodeau's confidence. Thibodeau knows his own team as well as anyone, but his comments come off as mantra superseding reality. It's important that Thibs have some modicum of faith in every player on his roster, but expecting Robinson and Teague to "get the job done," in a way that will sustain the Bulls' season-long goals may be a bit of a reach.
And though Hinrich's potential absence would prove tricky for a Bulls offense that struggles with shot creation, the greater concern for Chicago is what comes next. Groin injuries are notoriously difficult to shake, and they have a habit of staying with players who rush back to the court -- a discouraging possibility for a Bulls team that needs Hinrich back as soon as possible, in spite of all his limitations. This may not make for a Bulls doomsday scenario, but the trio of an injury-nagged Hinrich, Robinson, and Teague is neither well-equipped to orchestrate an adequate offense nor hold steady on the perimeter in one of the league's top defensive systems. Consider it our first glimpse into the trouble of Chicago's point guard rotation, and the problems of depth without clear application; there are three players slotted into the Bulls' depth chart behind the injured Rose, and yet their entire arrangement rests on a precarious balance.