Aaron Brooks Thriving as Chicago Bulls’ Latest Derrick Rose Insurance

Sometimes, fit is everything.

Aaron Brooks has bounced around the NBA in his eight-year career, a real home always just out of his reach. In Chicago, he may have found one.

Brooks came to the Bulls in late July, after the dust had settled on their failed pursuit of Carmelo Anthony and eventual signing of Pau Gasol. He wasn’t a high-profile signing, or one that anybody thought too much about. He was an offensive reinforcement off the bench that, in an ideal world, Tom Thibodeau wouldn’t have to rely too heavily on because he’d be playing behind a full-strength Derrick Rose.

Instead, the 29-year-old Brooks has been the latest in a long line of scoring point guards whose careers have been resuscitated in the Windy City. In 15 games with the Bulls, he’s shooting 45.8 percent from three-point range and averaging 10.9 points per game off the bench.

In production and role, his nascent Bulls tenure is more in line with his promising career beginnings in Houston than the disappointing last few seasons.

“I don’t know if you’d say it’s the way I’ve always been playing because I had some rough years,” Brooks says. “But it’s been a good few games.”

Brooks has had an up-and-down career. He was a key contributor to the Rockets’ 2009 playoff run and won the league’s Most Improved Player award a year later, averaging 19.6 points and 5.3 assists per game and shooting 39.8 percent from three-point range in 2009-10.

Since then, he’s become something of a journeyman. After being traded from Houston to Phoenix in 2011, he played in China during the lockout and signed a two-year deal with the Sacramento Kings in the summer of 2012.

He didn’t last a season in Sacramento, agreeing to a buyout and rejoining the Rockets midseason, only to be traded to the Denver Nuggets the following year. Brooks’ production has dipped since that career year in 2010, which is also the last time he’s played an entire season with a single team.

Coming into free agency after a productive stint with Denver (11.9 points and 5.2 assists in 29 minutes per game), the Bulls weren’t even on his radar, but they’ve proven to be a perfect fit.

“I don’t know where the Bulls came from, honestly,” Brooks says. “During the summer, it wasn‘t really on my mind to go to Chicago, because I didn‘t know it was an option. We were looking at Denver. It seems like I always end up back in Houston.

“But then the Bulls came over and it was like, ‘That’s a perfect situation.’ So it’s a blessing. It’s early, but hopefully it can continue progressing and get better.”

With Rose’s health in limbo, the Bulls have gotten solid production out of a variety of athletic scoring guards for the past three years. In 2012-13, it was Nate Robinson. Last year, it was midseason signee D.J. Augustin, who led the team in scoring after Rose’s injury and January’s trade of Luol Deng.

Now, it’s Brooks’ turn. With Rose in and out of the lineup, Brooks’ role is less defined than those of his predecessors, who were operating without the 2011 league MVP from the beginning. Some nights, he’s a scoring stopgap when Rose plays. When Rose is out, he takes on a larger role, one his coach and teammates say he does very well.

“Aaron’s been great,” Rose says. “His mentality is what we need it to be right now. When we’ve had other guys come to the team, like D.J. and John Lucas, it took them a while to really get that mentality. And right now, he’s got that mentality right away. He can affect the game.”

“D.J. saved us last year,” Thibodeau says. “Aaron’s doing a great job filling in. They’re different, but they’re both excellent players. We were fortunate to have D.J. last year and we’re fortunate to have Aaron this year. They’re different players, but they’re both tough-minded and they can shoot.”

That adjective—tough-minded—is what connects all of Thibodeau’s successful point-guard reclamation projects. When he gets a player that wants to adapt to the role and put in the work, Thibodeau can work magic.

Thibs puts guys in a position to be successful,” says Augustin, now with the Detroit Pistons. “It’s really on the player to come out and do what you need to do, but he puts guys in position. That’s a team that plays hard for all 48 minutes, they run their plays, and they don’t get rattled by anything.”

So far, Brooks is a fan of his new coach’s approach to things.

“We don’t do useless drills,” he says. “It seems like everything is for a purpose. One thing I admire about Thibs is he’s precise and he’s consistent. Whether you like it or not, you have to respect the consistency. I think that’s why he’s a great coach.”

The relationship works two ways. Brooks is giving the Bulls some much-needed scoring off the bench, a steadying force while the rest of the team battles injuries. And in Chicago, Brooks is in an ideal position to re-establish himself as a viable player and earn himself some long-term security.

Robinson came to the Bulls in 2012 on a one-year minimum deal and signed a two-year, $4.1 million contract with the Nuggets a year later. Augustin was picked up off the scrap heap in December of 2013 after being waived by the Toronto Raptors; he parlayed a strong showing in Chicago into a two-year, $6 million deal in Detroit this summer.

Brooks was another minimum-salary flier for the Bulls, and if he keeps up his current performance, he’ll be in for his own longer guaranteed deal, whether in Chicago or elsewhere.

For now, though, he’s just glad to be on a team where he isn’t an afterthought.

“I think it translates to the court,” Brooks said of his newly stable situation. “You know, you’ve got to have confidence that a guy actually wants you here, and it’s not just the GM that wants you there. You can feel it. It just makes you a happier person and it seems like you play better happy.”

So far, Brooks’ happiness is translating into production. And with the Bulls setting their sights on a title run in the spring, it’s not going to happen without him.

 

Sean Highkin covers the Chicago Bulls for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @highkin

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Derrick Rose Leaves Chicago Bulls vs. Denver Nuggets Game Due To Hamstring Tightness

According to Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago, the Chicago Bulls PR has announced Derrick Rose will not return tonight after leaving the Bulls game vs. the Denver Nuggets due to left hamstring tightness on Tuesday night. Rose was playing in his 2nd game back after missing four consecutive games.
The former MVP has not played 40 or more games since his MVP season in the 2010-2011 season. The Bulls will hope this is a minor injury and Rose will be able to return in the next game vs. the Boston Celtics on Friday afternoon.
The post Derrick Rose Leaves Chicago Bulls vs. Denver Nuggets Game Due To Hamstring Tightness appeared first on Basketball Bicker by Joey.

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Statistic about Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler very revealing

Before this season, Derrick Rose had missed all but ten of the previous 164 regular season games the Chicago Bulls have played, dating back to the beginning of the 2012-13 season — just months after his 2011-12 season ended due to an ACL injury. The lockout-shortened 2011-12 season also doubled as Jimmy Butler’s rookie year,
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Tom Thibodeau: Derrick Rose must ‘get out there and play’

 
 

 
 

 
 

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose returned to the floor Monday night in a 97-95 win over the Utah Jazz after missing the previous four games because of a strained left hamstring.
Rose went 5-for-10 from the field with 18 points, five assists and three rebounds in 25 minutes. Coach Tom Thibodeau wants to see Rose “string some games together.”
“Oh I don’t know. Jesus. He’s got to get out there and play,” Thibodeau said, via ESPNChicago.com. “I thought he did a lot of good things. You could see he’s not real comfortable with the ball yet, but that will come. When Derrick strings some games together, he’s going to take off. He’s got to go. That’s the bottom line. He’s got to go.”
Rose understands that Thibodeau is frustrated by his on-again, off-again health status.
“It’s been time,” Rose said. “To me, it’s been time. Every injury is a setback a little bit, but as far as emotions and everything, h

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Tom Thibodeau: Derrick Rose must ‘get out there and play’

 
 

 
 

 
 

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose returned to the floor Monday night in a 97-95 win over the Utah Jazz after missing the previous four games because of a strained left hamstring.
Rose went 5-for-10 from the field with 18 points, five assists and three rebounds in 25 minutes. Coach Tom Thibodeau wants to see Rose “string some games together.”
“Oh I don’t know. Jesus. He’s got to get out there and play,” Thibodeau said, via ESPNChicago.com. “I thought he did a lot of good things. You could see he’s not real comfortable with the ball yet, but that will come. When Derrick strings some games together, he’s going to take off. He’s got to go. That’s the bottom line. He’s got to go.”
Rose understands that Thibodeau is frustrated by his on-again, off-again health status.
“It’s been time,” Rose said. “To me, it’s been time. Every injury is a setback a little bit, but as far as emotions and everything, h

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Bulls Injury Update: Pau Gasol and Derrick Rose could return for tonight’s game against the Jazz

Chicago Bulls stars Pau Gasol and Derrick Rose are both expected to return to the court tonight during the team’s contest in Utah against the Jazz. Gasol will likely start barring a setback in warm ups, while Rose will test his injured hamstring prior to the game as well.Rose has missed four consecutive games after injuring his left hamstring on the 13th in the fourth quarter of a game in Toronto. Gasol strained his left calf the following game, when the Bulls battled the Indiana Pacers on Saturday the 15th. While originally thought to be a more serious injury, Rose’s hamstring strain was simply diagnosed as ‘mild’, and the point guard was only thought to miss a game or two. This was not the case however, and after missing the past four games Chicago’s assist leader has now missed eight of the Bulls’ 13 games on the year. Gasol’s injury was more surprising, because of the fact that the seven-footer from Spain had never missed a game due to a calf injury in his career. The Spaniard’s absence was even more cr

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What Derrick Rose does off court matters most

Chicago Bulls helps depressed neighborhood by supporting after program for kids

      
 

 

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Taj Gibson Following the Derrick Rose Plan with Latest Ankle Injury

PORTLAND, Ore. — Taj Gibson is no stranger to ankle sprains, but the walking boot he was wearing in the Chicago Bulls’ locker room on Friday night was an unfamiliar sight.

“I didn’t even want to wear crutches,” he laughed. “Doctor’s orders.”

Gibson re-injured his left ankle midway through the third quarter of the Bulls’ 105-87 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. It was the same ankle he sprained against the Cleveland Cavaliers in October, although this one came at a much more inopportune time.

Midway through a seven-game road trip, the Bulls are without two starters (Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol) and two vital bench contributors (Gibson and Kirk Hinrich). And although Gibson has been known throughout his six-year career as one of the toughest players in the NBA, someone who has played through injuries year after year, he might not be back on the court for a while.

“I have to just be smart,” Gibson said. “I have to really get it strong. It hurts my athleticism, not being able to do certain things. I have to just be smart, try to get healthy and be there for my teammates. But it’s frustrating. Everyone knows how I am. It takes a lot to have me sit out.”

If his words sound familiar, it’s because they’ve been heard often from another voice in the Bulls’ locker room. Rose has battled serious knee injuries for two consecutive seasons and is currently sitting out with a strained left hamstring, and throughout his conservative treatment plan, his mantra has been the same: Just be smart.

Rose was one of the first people Gibson spoke to Friday night after returning to the Bulls’ locker room, and he’s going to follow the former MVP’s lead in taking his time coming back from this injury.

“Derrick asked me, ‘Is it the same ankle you hurt before?’” Gibson said. “And I said yeah. And he was saying to me, ‘You’ve got to be patient. You’ve got to stay on top of that. It’s a long year. You can’t sprint to the finish.’”

It’s an approach that’s alien to Gibson, who is just starting to come around to the idea that his long-term outlook is more important than playing tomorrow or the next day.

“I have to stop trying to run back out there, stop trying to play through these things,” he said. “We have a long season. But it’s just the dog in me that always wants to be out there and play. I have to learn from this.”

Meanwhile, as the injuries keep piling up, the schedule isn’t slowing down for the Bulls. This is far from their first time playing shorthanded. But considering how well they’ve played in the handful of games where they have had everyone healthy, it’s hard not to get frustrated at the constant parade of setbacks.

“It sucks that guys get hurt,” said Joakim Noah. “But you’ve got to keep moving forward because the games keep coming. Nobody feels sorry for you, so you’ve got to keep going and keep getting better. Hopefully Taj will be alright.”

With so many of their most important players out, it’s unclear what the rest of the rotation will look like. Rose, Gasol and Hinrich are all day-to-day, but with the high-altitude Utah-Denver back-to-back next on the schedule, followed by a trip back east to play the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets, it’s not likely any of them will return this week.

The Bulls’ front office may look to fill the final roster spot if the injuries linger, but this is going to be a challenging stretch either way. There’s going to be a lot of Tony Snell and a lot of E’Twaun Moore in the rotation. Even 16-year veteran Nazr Mohammed, who was signed strictly as a veteran locker-room presence, got first-quarter minutes on Friday.

It will be a valuable learning experience for the Bulls’ younger players, but that will also likely mean some ugly wins and even uglier losses.

The next two weeks are going to look a lot like the Bulls’ last two years, scrapping for wins short-handed and relying on toughness to push through. At least this time, none of their stars’ injuries are career-threatening. 

Gibson hopes to keep it that way, which is why he’s taking a page from Rose’s book.

“I’ve got to trust the doctors and do this the right way, instead of just saying ‘patch me up, coach’ and throw me back out there.”

 

Sean Highkin covers the Chicago Bulls for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @highkin

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Bulls Injury Update: Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol, & Kirk Hinrich out for tonight’s game vs. Blazers

The reeling Chicago Bulls will be without one more player tonight as their annual Circus Trip continues. Guard Kirk Hinrich joins Derrick Rose & Pau Gasol on the sidelines for tonight’s game in Portland, per the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson.Hinrich, Gasol and Rose all out vs. Portland.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) November 21, 2014Hinrich is sitting out with a chest contusion, suffered in Thursday night’s loss to the Sacramento Kings after he took a charge from Kings center DeMarcus Cousins. Hinrich had x-rays after the game that came back negative, according to ESPN Chicago’s Nick Friedell.For Derrick Rose, tonight’s game marks the fourth straight contest he will sit out after suffering a strained left hamstring November 13th versus the Toronto Raptors. Pau Gasol has missed every game of the Circus Trip that began on Monday due to a strained left calf. Friedell says that Gasol was hopeful on Thursday he would be able to return quickly but is taking caution for the injury to fully heal

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Do Chicago Bulls Really Need Healthy Derrick Rose to Contend for NBA Title?

The Chicago Bulls can be a dominant two-way force without a fully healthy Derrick Rose.

But the line separating really good teams from full-fledged contenders is one Chicago can only cross with the former MVP at his best.

After getting only 49 games out of Rose the past three seasons, the Bulls have learned to live without him. Thanks to a combination of internal development and external acquisitions, they have even started to thrive in his absence.

They are 8-3 on the season, having scored four of those victories while Rose was sidelined by ankle and hamstring injuries. They are one of only four clubs—one of only two in the Eastern Conference—with top-10 rankings in both offensive (eighth) and defensive (seventh) efficiency.

Those are the tell-tale markings of an elite NBA team. The fact that those numbers have largely been compiled without Rose’s assistance highlights the tremendous depth on this roster.

“They may have two or three All-Stars minus Derrick,” Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, per Bleacher Report’s Josh Martin, “so they’re a good basketball team.”

And Rivers’ praise came before the Bulls, missing both Rose and Pau Gasol (calf), reeled off a double-digit road victory over the Clippers.

The Bulls have both star power and a deep supporting cast.

Gasol, the prized piece of Chicago’s offseason haul, has seamlessly transitioned into his new home. The skilled 7-footer leads the team in rebounds (10.6) and blocks (2.5), while ranking second in scoring (18.6).

Chicago’s only player pumping in more points is fourth-year swingman Jimmy Butler. The Marquette product, who is slated to hit restricted free agency at season’s end, has exploded out of the gate. He currently holds career highs in points (21.3), field-goal percentage (50.8), rebounds (6.2), assists (3.9) and player efficiency rating (22.5).

“Jimmy Butler, what can you say?” coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters after Butler tallied 22 points, eight assists and six rebounds against the Clippers. “When that game was on the line he made big play after big play. He’s playing great basketball.”

Center Joakim Noah, an All-Star in each of the last two seasons, has been rounding into form after undergoing left knee surgery over the summer. Learning to play alongside a low-post weapon like Gasol has been another adjustment Noah has had to make.

The high-motor big man has dished out six assists in five straight games and grabbed 12-plus rebounds two of his last four times out. As a defensive cog and offensive catalyst, he positively impacts the game in so many different ways.

Those are Chicago’s stars. Add Rose’s name to the mix, and it becomes an embarrassment of riches.

But the supporting cast might be equally impressive.

Taj Gibson remains one of the league’s top reserves. He’s shooting a career-best 56.9 percent from the field and has matched his previous high with 13.0 points a night. His energy level on both ends of the floor is as high as it’s ever been, and his importance to Chicago’s success hasn’t diminished a bit despite all the new weapons around him.

“Taj is probably the most selfless player in the NBA,” Noah said, per Bulls.com’s Sam Smith. “A guy who is depended on all the time and never gets the credit he deserves. I appreciate everything he does. We can’t get to where we want to get to without Taj.”

Decorated rookie forward Nikola Mirotic has only found 12.1 minutes a night, which speaks volumes about this team’s talent.

Ditto for rookie sharpshooter Doug McDermott and his 12.5 minutes per game. It’s hard to find him time when veteran sniper Mike Dunleavy is converting his long-range looks at a 40.4 percent clip.

Kirk Hinrich is a pesky defender and a major three-point threat (39.5 percent). Aaron Brooks is a wildly effective scorer (19.4 points per 36 minutes on .483/.469/.789 shooting) and willing passer (6.3 assists per 36 minutes). Tony Snell adds to Chicago’s collection of shooters and provides another athletic presence on the perimeter—if he’s able to make it off the crowded bench.

With Thibodeau at the helm, the Bulls are always going to play a relentless brand of defense. And with all this added firepower, they can now frustrate their opponents on either end of the floor.

“We’re scoring a lot of different ways,” Noah said, per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. “I remember when the score was 81-76, just fiending to get a basket. Now we’re scoring 100 every night. And I feel like it can get better.”

That’s where it all comes back to the 26-year-old face of the franchise.

The Bulls are showing how good they can be even when Rose isn’t a constant presence in the lineup. But greatness only comes within the realm of possibilities once he can start logging significant minutes.

“As stacked as Chicago’s roster may be,” Martin wrote, “this team would hardly have a prayer of competing for the franchise’s seventh championship without a healthy and effective Rose leading the way.”

There have already been signs of the impact Rose can make.

Individually, he has appeared understandably rusty. The career 46.0 percent shooter has hit only 43.3 percent of his attempts and just seven of his 24 threes. His 18.0 scoring average and 5.4 nightly assists trail his career numbers (20.8 and 6.7, respectively), but that decline has been a direct result of logging a career-low 28.0 minutes a night.

While Rose has had some issues with his shot, he has not had any trouble leading his team.

On the season, the Bulls have outscored their opponents by 6.4 points per 100 possessions. That’s good enough for the sixth-highest net efficiency rating in the league. With Rose on the floor, that number jumps to 15.4, which easily tops the Dallas Mavericks‘ top mark of plus-12.6. Without Rose, the Bulls have a plus-3.3 net rating, which would check in at 10th overall.

And for the Rose haters conspiracy theorists out there, no, Rose hasn’t planned his absences around avoiding the toughest tests. The five teams he has squared up with have a combined record of 27-31, a .466 winning percentage. The six games he missed came against clubs with a 23-43 record, only a .348 winning percentage.

Rose helps Chicago put constant pressure on a defense. He’s still lightning-quick off the dribble and a devastating finisher at the basket (career-high 68.8 percent conversion rate inside of three feet).

He was a willing passer before he had help. In 2011-12, when Rose averaged 21.8 points and no other Bull topped 15.3, he had a 40.3 assist percentage. Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, who has had a wealth of scorers around him, has never done better than 39.9.

The Bulls have other weapons, but they all become more powerful when Rose is involved.

Chicago needs Rose to make a championship run. He’s a necessity, not a luxury.

That being said, the Bulls don’t need him on the floor until he’s physically and mentally ready to return. They have more than enough to keep pace in the Eastern Conference without him, especially with the Cleveland Cavaliers struggling to create any chemistry.

Chicago’s depth doesn’t make Rose expendable, it allows this team to play things as safe as it can with regard to his health.

“Everybody on the team, from subs to starters to stars, can play key roles this year,” wrote Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes. “In the early going, depth and Thibodeau‘s ‘we have enough’ attitude can carry the load so the bigger names can rest and recover. As the season progresses, the rotation will shrink and the marquee players can start to take over.”

The supporting cast is growing without Rose, and he is taking every step to put himself in the best possible position.

“[I'm] just trying to do everything right,” he said, per ESPN Chicago’s Nick Friedell. “Eat right, hydrate right, stretch right, work on my flexibility, just trying to put everything on my side so at the end of the day I’m just trying to get better.”

It’s hard to ask for more patience from a franchise that has already spent two years waiting for his return. It’s no easier to avoid thoughts of despair every time his body forces him off the floor.

Still, there’s a chance this all works out for the better.

The Bulls are a two-way wrecking ball, destroying every team in their path regardless of who’s sitting at the controls. The pieces are in place to contend for a title. If this rest period aids Rose in his recovery and helps develop the players behind him, Chicago’s ceiling could continue to climb.

But Rose must be involved to help this team fulfill its massive potential. As has been the case for the last several years, Chicago’s success once again hinges on his health.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

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