The Chicago Bulls’ Game 1 win over the Miami Heat, just 48 hours after their seven-game war with Brooklyn, was a shock to our playoff system. To check the pulse of Chicago, The Shadow League chatted up Chicago Bulls writer Ernest Shepard of Bleacher Report to get the low-down on Derrick Rose, Nate Rob’s passion bucket, and their conference semifinals matchup with the Miami Heat.
TSL: Right off the bat, what's the general mood in Chi-town about Derrick Rose sitting out despite being medically cleared to return since the All-Star break? The city rallied behind Rose after his injury, but how much has that support waned over the last few weeks?
Ernest Shepard : The mood is mixed to be honest. While some fans want Rose to get 100 percent, there is a sizable contingent who wants to see him on the court now. This is especially given to the current injury status of several of his teammates.
As you know, Luol Deng will miss at least Game 1, Kirk Hinrich is questionable and Taj Gibson is still favoring his knee.
The fans want to see Rose return to help the Bulls score an upset against the defending champion, Miami Heat.
It is safe to say that the city of Chicago is in win-now mode.
TSL: The Bulls don't have a single mismatch to take advantage of in this series. Chris Andersen and Joakim Noah are going to lock horns under the boards. LeBron is eviscerating defenses and Deng is recovering from a spinal tap. Dwyane Wade's health is inconsistent, but so is Marco Belinelli's shooting stroke. Are the Bulls going to have to rely on Nate Rob going Mighty Mouse like in Game 1 to keep this series competitive?
ES: The Bulls have two clear mismatches: Joakim Noah versus anyone that the Heat can suit up at center, and Nate Robinson over Mario Chalmers.
In the case of Robinson versus Chalmers, Robinson is quicker on the ball and is always a threat to score. Chalmers, on the other hand, is stronger defensively than people give him credit for, but playing against the Milwaukee Bucks' Brandon Jennings, exposed a weakness that Chalmers has defending smaller, quicker guards.
How well Robinson plays will be the key, but I'd like to see a Rip Hamilton sighting in this series. He is a champion; he knows how to win; and he can allow coach Thibodeau to rest Jimmy Butler for a few minutes.
I would love to see Rip step up, and I would like to see Carlos Boozer realize that he can take advantage of Chris Bosh down in the post. Being honest, the only shot-blocking threats that the Heat have are LeBron, who is amazing at the swat from behind, and Chris Andersen.
TSL:. What's been the most surprising revelation about the Rose-less Bulls?
ES: The most surprising revelation about the Bulls is their resiliency throughout the postseason. Despite all of their shortcomings, from the injuries to the Derrick Rose story, this Bulls team is playing hard and playing winning basketball.
If you had told me that the Bulls would lose Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng in the playoffs and still be a viable threat, I would have told you to keep dreaming, but I have seen it for myself. This Bulls team has what we are calling T.W.T.W. a.k.a. The Will To Win.
TSL: Who would you rather see out there in this series to give Chicago a better chance to win between Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng and Derrick Rose – keeping in mind that Rose is probably rusty after a 12-month layoff?
ES: An obvious answer would be Rose, but I would take Luol Deng. If this were the Brooklyn series, my answer would be Hinrich because he can guard Deron Williams against Miami; Jimmy Butler could use some help in slowing down LeBron. I would keep Butler on LeBron and play Deng on Dwyane Wade, keeping in mind that Butler and Deng are somewhat interchangeable. Butler offers an athletic defensive approach, while Deng is a bigger body that keeps LeBron out of the post.
If you promised me that Rose was ready to play, I'd play him immediately, though.