In Chicago, the Derrick Rose watch has begun in earnest, but only those who drink the strongest red Kool-Aid believe the Bulls will become an instant championship contender the moment that he steps onto the court again.
To their credit, head coach Tom Thibodeau’s team tries hard and plays together on most nights, a formula that has them tied with Milwaukee atop the Central Division for now. (Shame on you, Indiana Pacers!)
Yet those traits play far better in the regular season than in the playoffs.
What’s more, Thibodeau has worked the starters to the max in the absence of a dependable bench — Luol Deng (40.9) and Joakim Noah (40.1) rank one-two in minutes played in the Association — which doesn’t bode well for the stretch drive.
The greater problem is the lack of a second go-to guy who can be counted on when the stakes are the highest. For all his singular greatness, Michael Jordan couldn’t do it alone. Rose will require someone to ride shotgun as well, even more so in his case because of the tricky recovery process from the catastrophic ACL tear that has sidelined him since last spring.
All they need is Kevin Love, Love is all they need . . .
At his best, something that a fractured right wrist hasn’t allowed him to be yet this season, Love is on a very short list of best all-around talents in the league, a 23-14 guy in the last two seasons. If you haven’t heard, the Minnesota Timberwolves forward also is less than thrilled about his current situation.
As Yahoo! reported last week, Love remains miffed that the organization did not offer a maximum contract last winter. He promised to have “a very, very good memory” when he can opt out of the deal in two years.
The gist of the message was nothing new, really. Love had said similar words before. At the same time, that he would go off again so early in the season was a signal that resonated throughout the league. General manager David Kahn has taken the low road for now — after all, Love is under contract through the 2014-15 season — as this is hardly the time for a knee-jerk reaction. Yet the front office has to consider an escape plan just in case, and you can be sure that it has already.