The Chicago Bulls seem to be craftiing a miracle this season, forging the NBA's best record with Derrick Rose missing so many games with a variety of injuries.
Our panel weighs on whether this year's team has accomplished more through adversity than last year's Bulls.
It also discusses the new-look New York Knicks.
Fact or Fiction: It's clear the Bulls can't count on Derrick Rose being 100 percent for the rest of this season.
Nick Friedell: Fact. Derrick has had so many injuries this season that it's hard to imagine him miraculously becoming completely healthy in the next few months. He was the one who admitted earlier in the year that he wouldn't 100 percent healthy the rest of the way and that was long before he dealt with the groin injury that has kept him out the past couple weeks.
Scoop Jackson: Fiction: Pooh at 85 percent is equal to Pooh at 100 percent. He's one of those rare players where once he's on the court there is no difference between the 15-20 percentage points of separation. His giving 100 percent will override the percentage of where his physical heath stands. "No excuses" will be and has always been his motto, his way of life. So expecting rose to be at 100 percent is one thing, because there is no way he will be this season. But ‘counting' on him to be 100 percent is a whole different piece. He'll be 100 percent even if he isn't injury-free.
Jon Greenberg: Fact. No player is truly 100 percent at the end of a season, as their health is carefully maintained with treatments, soaks and trainers' manipulations, and Rose has suffered three injuries (back, toe and groin) that will surely worry him and the team until the season ends. But I still think Rose can play at a high level come playoff time. The Bulls are obviously taking special care with the groin injury. Obviously he needs to get healthy and then hopefully play in 10 or so games before the postseason begins. Remember, he'll get more rest in the playoffs, though not as much as during a normal season.
Fact or Fiction:What the Bulls are doing this season with so many injuries is more impressive than what they did last season.
Nick Friedell: Fact. Derrick Rose has missed 17 games already and is going to miss several more. He is the reigning MVP of the league. That means that Tom Thibodeau has found a way to continue to win without Rose, and to a lesser extent, Luol Deng, who has been dealing with a torn ligament in his wrist since January. Thibodeau gets more out of his roster than any coach in the league.
Scoop Jackson: Fact: I've said this to Jonathan Hood on ESPN 1000 on various occasions, about being more impressed with what they've done this year in relation to what they were able to pull of during the regular season last year. Even without the injuries, I think I'd still be more impressed. It's the roles that Thibs has established and the ease with which the players fell into and embraced them. It's as if they've twisted and stolen the "Impossible is nothing" adidas motto into an “Injury means nothing" religion and found a way to play through it and play everything forward.
Jon Greenberg: Fact. The Bulls' run this year, though, was made possible by the work they put in last season. Tom Thibodeau obviously knows how to run a team. He is lucky that he got the same cast back from last year, which meant he didn't have to waste much time teaching. With only a couple handfuls of real practices this season, Thibodeau has integrated more teaching into his shootarounds, but mostly has been concerned with maintenance issues. That the Bulls are winning without their starting backcourt is more impressive than last season, when they won without their frontcourt (Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer) for good chunks.
Fact or Fiction: With the Knicks winning six of seven since Mike D'Antoni was fired, it's clear they'll be a tough out in the playoffs.
Nick Friedell:Fact. The Bulls should still win the series if the two teams meet because they play defense every single night, but the Knicks have improved over the course of the season and new coach Mike Woodson appears to have righted the ship in New York City. The Knicks are playing with much more confidence of late -- the difference is that the Bulls have been playing with that confidence all year. Aside from Miami, they don't think there's a team out there who can beat them in a series.
Scoop Jackson: Fact: But not for the Bulls. From a talent standpoint the Knicks are going to be a nightmare. One that the Heat better hope they don't have to face in Round 1 because there seriously could get beat. But the Bulls won't go into a series taking the Knicks lightly, they won't look past them. The Heat on the other hand, I could see them going into a series against the Knicks unmotivated and focusing on the bigger picture instead of focusing on the details. If Amar'e's back situation isn't very serious (he's out indefinitely), then the Knicks will be the team that the Heat don't want to see to open up the playoffs. A match-up nightmare. Against the Bulls the script flipped: They'll be New York's match-up nightmare.
Jon Greenberg: Fact. New York will frustrate their first-round opponents and extend the series to six or seven games. I could see a Bulls-Knicks series being reminiscent of last season's second-round matchup against the Hawks. I don't think anyone was worried Atlanta would win four games, but it wasn't a “cakewalk,” as Joakim Noah reminded me this year. I really hope the Bulls play the Knicks in the first round, and not just because I want to chill in New York. I think it'll be a good test for a Bulls team that hasn't worried much about wins and losses this year. And it will be fun for NBA fans.
Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000. Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com. Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.