MIAMI, FL - APRIL 19: Luol Deng #9 and Taj Gibson #22 of the Chicago Bulls box out Udonis Haslem #40 of the Miami Heat during a game at American Airlines Arena on April 19, 2012 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
We discuss our common rival in South Beach, Derrick Rose's injury status and how both teams are handling the last week of the regular season.
Head over to their site for my answers to his questions about Dallas.
1) Are the Bulls going to have anything to play for on Saturday or should Mavs fans expect them to be resting players?
After losing to Miami on Thursday, the Bulls still control their own destiny but are now pressured to likely win-out to keep the #1 seed. While it's not a death-knell if they fall to #2, and they may even have an easier first couple of rounds if they do, it's fairly important to have home-court over Miami should they meet in the Eastern Finals again. It's not a necessity that they have that edge, but any such advantage will help in a matchup that is potentially a toss-up if both teams are healthy.
2) How's Derrick Rose's recovery going and do you expect him to be 100% by the playoffs?
The idea of 'rest' isn't really the case with the Bulls, Rose is sitting out games because he's still hurt. The Bulls have been clandestine about their players recuperation all season, and you can question their aptitude in handling Rose's ailments far. He missed nearly a month due to a groin injury, came back and hurt his ankle after one game, sat out a couple more then injured his foot. That suggests that he may have come back too soon or to hard, and thus it's tough to be that optimistic that he'll be back to full strength this season, and if he's not whether he's at risk to re-injure himself.
Incredibly surprised. What was most demoralizing about facing Miami is that even if you stayed with them for a majority of the game, their ability to lock down opponents especially in 4th quarters would ultimately have them seizing control. But Dallas proved that they had a lot of weapons to break through that D, and then put the pressure back on LeBron and company to make some 4th quarter shots themselves. Miami obviously crumbled in that setting in the Finals, but after they looked so good doing so against the Bulls (including a furious comeback win in their close-out game) it still seems kind of flukey that it happened. But we were certainly very happy it did.
4) How has Rip Hamilton looked this season and do you think he'll be enough to move Chicago past Miami?
Rip is finally back to playing substantial minutes and is starting to show what he's capable of. If looking simply in relation to the Bulls starting SG last season (Keith Bogans), he's already a clear upgrade. Rip's a legitimate threat on offense, whether it's coming off of screens or in the transition game. He's shown the ability to draw fouls and has surprised with his ability to pass (a trait shared by the whole starting unit). But in terms of his capability to get the Bulls over Miami, that can't be as easily determined since he's barely had any time together with Derrick Rose, let alone in the type of 4th quarter situations you could use as a test case for the playoffs. There's a hope that there isn't that much to learn about each other if both are back and playing well, but there's certainly been no chemistry figured out to where you can trust it'll be there against Miami later.
5) Outside of the Heat, which Eastern Conference team do you think matches up best with the Bulls and what are the chances the 2012 ECF isn't a rematch?
That's one saving grace of any issues worrying about Rose's health: even if he isn't 100% they can probably take care of any team that isn't the Heat. Their size and depth advantage is apparent over nearly every team to where over the course of a series there isn't an opponent who can do enough to get 4 wins over them. So even if teams like Indiana or Boston are suited for the playoffs with slower styles and physical play, the Bulls can still play that game better.
Maybe if I had to pick a worry it'd be a team that doesn't play that style of ball, which could be the Knicks. If they were able to maintain their solid defense, they have the type of shot creators who can get through even the leagues best, so if they somehow were hot for an entire series the Bulls may not have the firepower to keep up. But that's a lot of ifs to their detriment, along with re-integrating Amare and not having a capable point guard. I could also see Atlanta giving the Bulls trouble if they can get anything from Horford's return, as they pushed the Bulls to 6 games last season and also have the kind of players who can score against any defense. (if Rose is out or really hobbling, they're in trouble against anyone)