- When: Thursday, 19 December 2013 at 7:00 PM CST
- Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
The tale of Russell Westbrook is often intertwined with the tale of Derrick Rose. Both are hyperactive point guards who break down defenses by getting into the paint and causing chaos. It is in that chaos where they find most of their success. But those intertwined tales have now become cautionary tales within the past year. Both guards suffered and recovered from serious knee injuries. Both started the season. Only one is still playing.
The loss of Derrick Rose to a meniscus tear decimates any chance the Bulls had of coming out of the Eastern Conference. With that, another season (3 in a row) goes down the drain for a team that many had tabbed as a darkhorse contender. Now begins the internal struggle within the organization in choosing between rebuilding or regrouping.
This cautionary tale should remind Thunder fans of why the organization had to trade James Harden. With max contracts for Rose and Carlos Boozer, and near max contracts for Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, the devastating blow that was the ACL injury to Rose set the organization back at least a season. The meniscus tear to Rose is probably the coup de grace for this core group of Bulls players. Losing a main player is never easy for a franchise, but it is especially difficult when the team is financially handcuffed from making any moves that can help in the short term. With a similar salary cap structure to the Bulls, the Thunder decided that they couldn’t support 4 max or near max contracts plus the contract of Kendrick Perkins. The Harden trade provided the Thunder with not only salary cap relief, but also with assets to build a support system around the nucleus of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka.
Probable Starting Line-ups
- PG – DJ Augustin
- SG – Jimmy Butler
- SF – Luol Deng
- PF – Carlos Boozer
- C – Joakim Noah
Oklahoma City Thunder
- PG – Russell Westbrook
- SG – Thabo Sefolosha
- SF – Kevin Durant
- PF – Serge Ibaka
- C – Kendrick Perkins
3 Keys to the Game
1. Bench Play – One of the things that suffers when you have financial restraints on a team is the bench. With their inability to re-sign Nate Robinson and Marco Bellineli, the bench play for the Bulls is average at best. The Thunder may be able to pull away during those 2nd quarter / late 3rd quarter stretches when the bench is primarily playing.
2. Russ – With injuries to Rose and Kirk Heinrich, the Bulls have DJ Augustin and Marquis Teaque to man their point guard position. Feast, Russell.
3. Rebounding – The Bulls’ only saving grace may be rebounding. The front court combo of Boozer, Noah, and Taj Gibson can gobble up rebounds on any given night. Prevent this and you prevent any second chance opportunities for the Bulls.