The Chicago Bulls (44-14) currently own the best record in the NBA and are sitting at the top of the perch despite playing without reigning league MVP Derrick Rose for roughly 40 percent of the season.
The stellar play without Rose may surprise casual observers, but the Bulls have a very solid infrastructure in place to absorb short term adversity.
Surrounding Rose, the team boasts last season’s coach of the year Tom Thibodeau roaming the sidelines, a former All-Star power forward in Carlos Boozer on the interior, a first time All-Star in Luol Deng on the wing and a very energetic and talented set of reserves who call themselves ‘the bench mob.’
But all of the above pieces were present last season when the Bulls were sent home packing in the Eastern Conference Finals by the Miami HEAT.
If the Bulls are going to make a serious title run in 2012, outside of Rose, the player they need at 100 percent in the postseason will be their coveted free agent signing, shooting guard Richard Hamilton.
Hamilton was signed last December before the season with the mission to fill the team’s void at shooting guard and provide Rose with a proven backcourt partner who could create their own offense.
However the duo hasn’t seen much action in the lineup together to gain cohesiveness with Hamilton missing 38 games due to a variety of ailments.
But with only two weeks remaining in the regular season, things may be taking a positive turn.
On Tuesday, Hamilton’s fourth game back after a suffering shoulder injury, the guard led all Bulls scorers with 20 points (18 in the third quarter alone) to help the club secure a win over the much improved New York Knicks.
With eight games remaining before the playoffs, Hamilton’s offensive explosion couldn’t have been timed better during a period when teams are trying to solidify their postseason edge.
‘‘Tonight was a great night for Rip,” Boozer said after the team’s win. ‘‘He was hitting shots from everywhere. It was the first time we saw him that aggressive. He gave us a huge lift.’’