COMMENTARY | The center of the NBA world for various reasons since the season began, the Chicago Bulls continue to press forward amidst injuries, roster shakeups and depleted expectations.
The much-hyped return of Derrick Rose was supposed to signal a subsequent return to the top of the Eastern Conference. Instead, the former MVP suffered his second knee injury (torn medial meniscus in his right knee) in a game against the Portland Trail Blazers on November 22 -- signaling the end of his season.
Rose's injury then forced Chicago into an untimely decision regarding Luol Deng's future with the team. The longtime Bull is playing in the final year of his contract, so the organization was facing his impending free agency in the offseason.
But rather than potentially let him walk for nothing, the Bulls sent Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Andrew Bynum (waived in a cost-saving move less than 24 hours later) and three draft picks. There have also been constant rumors surrounding Chicago's other tradeable commodities, which could result in Carlos Boozer and Kirk Hinrich possibly following suit.
It is obvious that the Bulls are in some sort of rebuild, and that the expectations placed on this particular group are no longer relevant. But Chicago keeps plugging away, sitting at a respectable 17-19 mark (even in the East), winning eight of its last 11 games and three of four since the Deng trade.
While head coach Tom Thibodeau should be looked as one of the primary reasons the wheels have not completely fallen off yet in Chicago, Joakim Noah has undoubtedly been the Bulls' rock throughout this trying season.
Obviously part of the franchise's future, Noah's objective now is to lead the charge in bridging the gap between what the Bulls currently represent and where they intend to be as an organization to start next season. Though there will be a much different look around the locker room, there is no lack of confidence that this thing can't get back on track sooner rather than later.
It is Noah's passion for the game and pride in what he does and who he represents that the Bulls can lean on.
"We're just going to give it everything we've got -- there's no tanking,'' Noah said. "When people in Chicago say, 'Chicago Bulls,' I want (them) to be proud of that. Even if there's four guys hurt, no matter who's out, we're going to give 150 percent, win or lose. I know people in this city are proud of that."
It must be a relief to know as a teammate, fan, owner, coach, or anyone associated with the Bulls that even if Noah is the last man standing in Chicago at the end of the season, he is going to put everything on the line.
That is the definition of a rock.
Jeremy Sickel has successfully created and operated numerous websites. His work can be read on Yahoo and Bleacher Report, and he has also appeared on various podcasts and sports talk shows around the country. Interact with Jeremy on Twitter @JeremySickel.
- Sports & Recreation
- Chicago Bulls
- Derrick Rose
- Joakim Noah
- Luol Deng