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The Bulls' sorry state without Derrick Rose

In the 12 games the Bulls have played without Derrick Rose, things have gotten ugly quick.

Bruce Bennett

Is a cliché really a cliché if it also doubles as a working thesis for one's entire life? It's a question central to understanding the brooding beast that is Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.

For Thibodeau, the platitudes he's repeated ad nauseum go beyond coach-speak. He treats them with the reverence of scripture, like the handful of sayings were bestowed upon him by the no-nonsense, tactical masterminds that came before him. The most famous among them only refrains from often being an outright lie because it's said with so much conviction. No matter the circumstance, Thibodeau always believes his team has "more than enough to win with."

Thibodeau said it after Derick Rose tore his ACL in the first game of the 2012 playoffs. He said it again after it became clear Rose wasn't coming back a year later. He said it with Luol Deng bound to the hospital bed following complications from meningitis. He said it when Kirk Hinrich ruptured his calf and when Joakim Noah could barely walk due to plantar fasciitis.

Mostly, Thibodeau has been right. Only now is the facade slowly starting to decay.

In the 12 games the Bulls have played following Rose's second straight season-ending knee injury, his team is just 3-9. The record doesn't speak to the aesthetic eyesore they've been on the court or express just how bad some of those losses have been.

The Bulls have scored fewer than 80 points and failed to shoot at least 40 percent from the floor in four of the last six games. They lost to the Toronto Raptors by 22 points on their home floor on Saturday. Earlier in the same week, they were dropped by the increasingly-dysfunctional New York Knicks and league-worst Milwaukee Bucks.  On Monday, they lost at home to the 8-17 Magic. The only thing preventing the Bulls from getting knocked out twice by the Bucks in four days was a late banked in three-pointer by Mike Dunleavy Jr. on Friday night.

It's not just Rose who is hurting, of course. Deng was in the midst of the best offensive stretch of his career before missing four games with an Achilles injury. Jimmy Butler missed 11 straight games with turf toe, and was pushed to return while it was still bothering him. Noah missed a game and Hinrich has missed two over the stretch with various ailments as well.

What's left is a roster devoid of any semblance of shot creators or shot makers. It's made for an atmosphere in which Dunleavy -- considered to be nothing but a 33-year-old floor spacer at this point in his career -- has had to become the team's go-to perimeter player. It stands to reason the product on the floor has been damn hard to watch.

The Bulls already had the league's sixth-worst offense on the day Rose went down, and they're free falling to the bottom without him. Since he's been hurt, only the Bucks are scoring less than the Bulls' 94 points per 100 possessions, per, and that's by just two tenths of a point. The Bulls are down to shooting 42 percent from the floor on the season, the third worst mark in the league.

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It isn't an exaggeration to say this might be the most feeble backcourt in the NBA. Hinrich has been abysmal as the starting point guard in Rose's place, shooting under 34 percent from the floor and posting a 9.72 PER on the season. That's the lowest field goal percentage for any player in the league and the lowest PER for any point guard in the league with at least eight starts. The backups -- Marquis Teague, D.J. Augustin and the now-departed Mike James -- have been even worse.

The Knicks' game was a magnum opus of misery, a blur of bricked jump shots, aimless dribbling and stumbles to the floor. It was an effort ripe to be fit with sad Charlie Brown music, which might as well become the Bulls' official theme song at this point. With the Bulls trailing by four with under :40 seconds left, Hinrich led the Bulls to ... this possession.


That physical vomit of a shot attempt by Dunleavy was just one of 24 from him on the night. 24 shots for Mike Dunleavy! That's what Chicago Bulls basketball has been like without Derrick Rose.

If there's a defining characteristic for Thibodeau's teams, it's their ability to outperform expectations. They've done it in all three seasons he's been the coach. With Deng and Butler returning to the lineup from injury recently, and with the rest of the East already seemingly more preoccupied with jockeying for draft position than winning, it's plausible Thibodeau could still take this team to the playoffs. But for the first time in Thibodeau's tenure, there's also real doubt.

The backcourt is going to bleed points for the rest of the season, and the recent signing of Augustin isn't going to make things much better. The team is still ulta-thin up-front. If Noah misses any time, there might not be much stopping the Bulls from a "noble" form of tanking. Which is to say, Chicago could be genuinely bad enough to sink to the bottom of a conference, even one as pathetic as the East.

A year ago, the Bulls were prepared for life with Rose. Not anymore. Nate Robinson is doing his thing in Denver now after languishing in free agency for far longer than he should have. Marco Belinelli is just another cog in the Spurs' killing machine. There isn't some miracle save for this team coming.

What's left is 59 more games of empty platitudes, missed shots and ugly basketball. If Thibodeau really believes his team still have enough to win with, he might be the only one.

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