CHICAGO – No Derrick Rose. No hope.
Many people outside the Bulls organization, from NBA pundits to some fans, believe the 2012 season is a lost year with Rose sidelined indefinitely as he rehabilitates from surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. But the Bulls are refusing to concede or buy into that mentality.
Their mission to prove the doubters wrong begins at the United Center at 7 tonight against the Sacramento Kings.
“I think the sky’s the limit,” forward Taj Gibson said. “I think with the right mindset, the way we practice, the way we played in the preseason, everything is coming together right.
“I know we’ve got a lot of talent. I’m looking forward to shocking the world.”
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau emphasized that it's a new season and a new beginning – last year's hopes and disappointment must be left in the past.
"We're a group that everybody is going to have to contribute," center Joakim Noah said. "With Derrick out, guys have to probably contribute more offensively, definitely more shots out there. It's on everybody to step up and hold the fort down until he comes back."
While the Bulls try to find a rhythm with six new players on the roster, they benefit from playing six of their first seven games at home. Starting strong would go a long way in eliminating some of the uncertainty surrounding the Bulls.
"We still have to go out and play," forward Carlos Boozer said. "Just cause you're at home doesn't guarantee anything. ... Our fans will be going crazy because we have the best fans, so we'll get the best supporters."
Thibodeau expects any win to be hard fought in what he described as a much-improved Eastern Conference. They'll have to overcome the obvious front-runners, which include the Miami Heat, the defending champs, Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers. However, the Bulls boast veteran experience and a strong core of Boozer, Noah, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich. While 3-point shooting wasn't a strong point during the preseason, the Bulls' will rely on strong post play.
Hinrich (groin) is expected to start tonight against the Kings as long as he doesn't suffer any setbacks before the game. The Bulls need Hinrich to stay healthy to lessen the impact of Rose's absence.
"He went through two full practices and he didn't have any problems so he should be fine," Thibodeau said.