Then again, there weren’t many players left from last season by the time the Bulls were through with their makeover.
They fired coach Vinny Del Negro and replaced him with Thibodeau, a longtime respected NBA assistant who wound up making the most of his first opportunity to lead a team.
Instead, the Bulls wound up with power forward Carlos Boozer and a cast of role players that gave them a deep bench. Rose emerged as one of the game’s top players in his third season, averaging 25 points and 7.7 assists, though he had a tough time against James and the Heat.
He averaged 23.4 points in the series, but shot just 35 percent and the Bulls had seemingly no other scoring option at crunch time.
The Bulls figured Boozer would be that guy when they acquired him, but injuries limited him to 59 games. He also disappeared at times during the playoffs after averaging 17.5 points and 9.6 rebounds during the season.
A turf toe injury that cropped up during the first round against Indiana only partially explains why Boozer averaged just 12.6 points in the postseason. Things were so bad for him on Thursday that he was benched for the fourth quarter, a spectator with just five points. So was Joakim Noah.
“It hurts right now, because we really did have a chance to do something special,” Noah said.
What they did wasn’t bad, though. And losing to the Heat is going to linger for this team.
“I think it’s going to make everybody hungry,” Rose said.
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