The Bulls have done an excellent job remaining more than relevant with Derrick Rose sidelined for the entire season to this point, as he works his way back from a knee injury.
Chicago is just a half-game behind the Nets for third in the East, a game and a half behind a Knicks team the Bulls have beaten three times already this season, and only three games out of first behind the defending champion Heat.
The Bulls have done it on the strength of their defense, along with two All-Star caliber performances this season from Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, as well as a massive increase in production from Carlos Boozer.
One or two more pieces offensively might push this Bulls team from the fringe to a legitimate championship contender. But help isn’t likely to be coming via trade — if Chicago is going to get over the hump, it’ll have to do it with their current roster intact.
“We’re up against what’s called a hard cap,” Paxson said Friday on “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on ESPN Chicago 1000. “In order for us to do something we’re not in a position to take on any real salary so we’re kind of limited in what we can do. I think our team has grown — it’s not always pretty, let’s face it; we’ve had some ugly games this year and that’s kind of who we are right now. But we do grind it out and play hard.
“You’re always on the lookout to do certain things, but I think our move hopefully will be bringing Derrick back into the fold.”
Rose’s return, if he ends up coming back anywhere near the level he was playing at during his MVP season in 2010-11, will be better than anything his team could do via trade before the Feb. 21 deadline comes and goes.
Still, Paxson will undoubtedly be involved in multiple trade discussions until then, just like every executive in the league. But the Bulls don’t have a lot of assets desired by other teams that they’d be willing to part with, so Rose’s return will be it in terms of player additions in Chicago before the end of the season.