Linsanity Exposes How Badly Bulls Miss Derrick Rose

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 25, 2012

Dec 25, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin (right) tries to get past Chicago Bulls point guard Nate Robinson during the third quarter at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

In 2011, Jeremy Lin spent his Christmas looking for an NBA job.

The undrafted, twice-waived Harvard grad was cut by the Houston Rockets on December 25, 2011.

In 2012, though, the global phenom spent his Christmas exposing a razor-thin Chicago Bulls backcourt to the tune of 20 points (on 8-of-12 shooting) and 11 assists in the Houston Rockets' 120-97 victory in the Windy City.

Houston looked too strong, too fast and too explosive for the Bulls' sputtering offense.

Lin forced the tempo, attacking before Chicago had a chance to set up its defense.

With superstar (and former MVP) Derrick Rose still awaiting even a timetable for his return, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has experimented with veterans Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson along with rookie Marquis Teague to fill Rose's void.

Despite Chicago's 15-12 mark, Thibodeau cannot be satisfied with the effort put forth by his substitute floor generals.

Robinson has been the best of the group (and he did pour in a game-high 27 points in the loss), but his season (much like his career) has been marred by inconsistency. His performance was his second 20-plus point outburst of the season, less than half of the times that he's been held under five points (five).

Not to mention Robinson has never been as a distributor. He's averaged just 3.5 assists on the year.

As for Hinrich (Chicago's insurance piece who signed a free-agent contract with his former employer over the summer), he'd struggle to win a batting title with his shooting percentages. His three-point percentage is adequate (.350), but his field-goal mark has been horrendous (.359).

His player efficiency rating of 10.2 is worlds removed from the average 15.0. But the Bulls should have foreseen this considering he was even worse with Atlanta in 2011-12 (9.2).

Then there's the rookie, Teague. He entered the season with the typical goals given to the 29th selection of the draft—have a strong Summer League showing, then provide enough glimpses during garbage time to warrant further investment from the coaching staff.

Las Vegas was not kind to the Kentucky product. During his five games there, Teague averaged just 10.6 points and 3.0 assists in 27.4 minutes per game. His field-goal percentage was bad, even by Hinrich's standards (.294).

His regular-season efforts have shown some improvement, although he's still offered a small sample size. Due to the limitations of Robinson and Hinrich, Teague has seen the floor outside of garbage time. He's averaged just 7.7 minutes per game on the season, but topped the 15-minute mark in three of his past five games.

To paraphrase from the eloquent philosopher Dennis Green, Teague is who we thought he was. He's an explosive athlete with a developing jump shot (.400 field-goal percentage) and a raw set of point guard skills.

So therein lies the quandary for Thibodeau. He can opt for the leadership and defense of Hinrich, and try to avoid noticing the unsightly shooting numbers. Or take the scoring of Robinson, along with his poor decision-making and underwhelming defense. Or throw minutes at his rookie, who looks at least a year or two away from being a regular contributor on this Chicago team.

Of course, this all becomes moot when Rose returns to the floor and reclaims his position as this team's unquestioned leader.

But we're still not sure when that time will come.

If the Bulls see too many performances like the Christmas Day eruptions put forth by Lin and his Rockets, it's not even clear what kind of a team Rose will be rejoining.