First and foremost this Bulls season, there will be questions about No. 1.
In some regard, that makes this season unlike any of Derrick Rose’s first five NBA campaigns. Heck, Rose dominated last season’s news cycle and didn’t play a game.
Here are five of the most pressing questions facing the Bulls entering camp.
How is Rose’s knee? The will-he-or-won’t-he song and dance is over. The 17-month saga has reached the point where, until Rose plays a game, scheduled to occur in the first exhibition Oct. 5 in Indianapolis, words matter little.
Coach Tom Thibodeau said during summer league that Rose’s preseason workload would be dictated by how his body reacts. Rose said he wants to play every exhibition game. All roads lead to the season opener Oct. 29 in Miami.
On Sunday, Rose uttered phrases like “you’ll see” and “just wait” when asked about his repertoire. It’s the kind of bold Rose who bloomed en route to winning the Most Valuable Player Award in 2011.
How will Luol Deng react? Deng’s second straight All-Star season ended in well-documented fashion, in a hospital room after serious complications arose from a spinal tap administered to test for viral meningitis.
Though Deng didn’t publicly condemn the organization, sources indicated Deng bristled at his care, which included a non-private hospital room and doctors with whom he wasn’t familiar.
Then the organization informed his camp they wouldn’t address his expiring 6-year, $71 million deal until after this season.
Deng is an incredibly proud person who rose from humble, turbulent beginnings. Whenever he has been doubted – for example, the questioned stress fracture in his tibia that ended his 2008-09 season – he has responded with resolute determination.
How is Joakim Noah’s foot? After training with everyone from Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to surfer Laird Hamilton in the summer of 2012, Noah enjoyed another free-spirited offseason.
He toured China with Yao Ming. He again spent time in Africa, where his father’s family has roots.
Through it all, he said he trained with no effects from the plantar fasciitis that has plagued two of his last three seasons. Thibodeau said dropping Noah’s minutes is a priority.
Aiding the situation will be Thibodeau’s trust in Nazr Mohammed. And Carlos Boozer looked noticeably slimmer when he attended summer league.
How will Mike Dunleavy fit? The Bulls’ versatile main offseason addition affords tremendous flexibility for Thibodeau.
Dunleavy is coming off his career-best 42.8 percent 3-point shooting, prowess that will demand defenses decide whether to shade toward the arc or limit Rose’s penetration. He can guard multiple positions as a solid team defender.
Can Jimmy Butler (below) handle starting at shooting guard? Given that Butler played 160 minutes, 41 seconds during the playoffs, the third-year swingman should handle his promotion. He proved last season he can knock down the corner 3-pointer consistently. And his defensive versatility makes him valuable in Thibodeau’s schemes.
Offensively, he, too, will benefit from Rose’s return. And guess who Butler worked out with in Los Angeles this summer? As usual, all Bulls roads lead back to Rose.