What Did the FIBA World Cup Teach Us About Derrick Rose?

Derrick Rose made his return to the court during the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain, helping Team USA to a gold medal. What did the tournament teach Chicago Bulls fans about the status of their young superstar?

Nate Duncan of Basketball Insiders joins Stephen Nelson to offer his take in the video above.

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Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose Wins Gold And His Confidence

Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose Wins Gold And His Confidence
By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…
The 12 man USA Men’s Basketball Team has won the FIBA World Cup gold medal. Excellent job by each player, but this is about Derrick Rose. With a healthy Derrick Rose the Chicago Bulls are 1 of 2 teams (Cleveland) that are likely to win the Eastern Conference. Rose wasn’t elite in the tournament and was the 3rd point guard and the 4th or 5th guard in their rotation, but him playing healthy and staying healthy is bigger for Derrick Rose than winning gold, although he won’t admit it. Rose has won his 2nd gold medal, but he has gained something far more vital, confidence.
He only averaged about 5 points and 3 assists per game and his jumper is off, but he proved that he has the athleticism and quickness that made him League MVP 3 seasons ago. He has the it factor again, which he lacked in the 10 games he just played for the Bulls. His athleticism and his ability to get where he pleas…

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The Good, the Bad and the Hopeful from Derrick Rose’s FIBA Appearances

 

Derrick Rose is going through growing pains. The Chicago Bulls’ star point guard has begun his return to basketball with Team USA in Spain as a part of their roster in the FIBA World Cup, and he’s shooting a paltry 21.6 percent from the field thus far.

This could have been expected. When Rose returned last fall, after missing the entirety of the 2012-13 season recovering from a tragically torn ACL, his numbers were similar. He tallied a career-low 35 percent shooting and tied a career-high 3.4 turnovers per game over 10 contests before tearing his meniscus and missing the rest of the year. 

Now, like then, Rose is showing his body has recovered to full explosive capacity. He’s got the speed, hops and singular instincts he’s always had. But the finer points of his game aren’t there yet. 

At his best, Rose is an auteur of dynamic layups, making shots at breakneck speed, from difficult angles, often using the backboard in unique ways while doing so. He hasn’t been able to regain that game-changing skill set since he tore his ACL. Doing so, hopeful Bulls logic says, will require a lot of floor time. Rose will need dozens of NBA games to play through his mistakes and become the MVP-level offensive force we remember him as.

The flip side to the Rose conundrum isn’t as bad as it may seem. It’s possible that he’ll never become the player he was before. His body simply may not allow him to play at the pace that made him famous for a full season. Whether it be from injury or not, we may never see the same Rose again.

But the Bulls are unquestionably due for a major upgrade at point guard this season, regardless of how long Rose takes to redevelop his game. He’s moved the ball very wisely with Team USA, finding ace shooters like Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry for open three-pointers. Despite his shaky shooting percentages, Rose still knows how to demand the defense’s attention and make them pay for it—in fact, he looks better at it than ever.

A more patient Rose has emerged. He doesn’t look frazzled, he’s rarely in a rush. He’s let the game come to him and swung the ball around wisely. When he sees an opening toward the lane, he takes it and gets to the rim. In time, he should be able to convert from there.

His defense will probably come along, too. Rose has struggled to cover his man at times in Spain, but his mistakes aren‘t physical as much as mental. He’s lost track of the endless subtleties and nuances that go into the complex chess match that is guarding professional basketball players. He allows his man angles he usually wouldn’t, and he gets slightly lost in defensive rotations.

No talented player who’s got Tom Thibodeau at his daily disposal can keep making those mistakes. Rose will fit into the Bulls’ steely defensive strings just fine—anything else would be a surprise.

In any event, Rose’s time with Team USA can only be seen as a positive. Unless he gets injured, he’s on the floor making progress, getting his legs under him and becoming more ready for the upcoming season. Per Blog a Bull’s Ricky O’Donnell:

It is September, and so it would be very silly to get too concerned about Rose just yet. Even if this is a sign that he may not hit the ground running at the start of the season for the Bulls, there’s nothing wrong with idea of him using the first few months to get back his feel for the game and his comfort with the ball in his hands. Sometimes, these things take time.

The most likely scenario involves protracted struggles from Rose, amounting eventually to his return as one of the most impactful players in the game. He could always get hurt again, but if not, the most rational result is the one Bulls fans are hoping for. They’ll just have to wait for it.

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Should Bulls Fans Be More Excited About Pau Gasol or Worried About Derrick Rose?

If the Chicago Bulls are using Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol‘s FIBA Basketball World Cup performances to preview their season ahead, chances are their feelings are somewhat mixed.

Gasol has looked like a new man with Spain. The 34-year-old is averaging 20.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks through six games. As he prepares for his first season in Chicago, the four-time All-Star is picking up where he left off after finishing the 2013-14 campaign in top form.

For the season, Gasol tallied 17.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 31.4 minutes per contest with the Los Angeles Lakers. But his numbers improved as the season progressed. After a sub-par November and December, Gasol averaged 20.8 points in January and made at least 50 percent of his field-goal attempts in January, February and March.

The FIBA production—which includes converting on an impressive 64.4 percent of his field-goal attempts—suggests that Gasol’s late-season ascendance wasn’t an anomaly.

He’s playing his best basketball in years.

And he’s even doing it against top-shelf competition.

As Sports Illustrated‘s Jeremy Woo notes, “A 26-point, 9-rebound game against Brazil’s NBA-quality set of bigs was vintage Pau, and the Bulls will hope he’s the missing piece in a balanced Eastern Conference as they gear up for another playoff run.”

Indeed, Gasol scored 12 of his points in the first quarter against Brazil, making an early statement that could foreshadow the kind of aggressiveness he’ll display with Chicago this season.

After doing his best in head coach Mike D’Antoni’s helter-skelter offense, the Bulls’ approach should be a welcome change of pace—and it should come with plenty of opportunities.

“[Gasol is] someone that I knew I could play with,” Rose told reporters. “You think about Pau, him now being in the East, what he’ll be able to achieve with the way we play, the way we dump the ball in the post a lot. It could be great.”

Head coach Tom Thibodeau‘s commitment to an inside-outside strategy will preserve Gasol’s rhythm.

The rest is up to him.

“I turned down bigger offers, and I prioritized being on a championship-caliber team and being in a position where I can hopefully put that team over the top with my game, as well,” Gasol explained earlier this summer, per ESPNChicago.com. “I felt that here, I was going to have that opportunity, and now it’s just a matter of getting to work.”

Suffice it to say, Gasol has already gotten to work—even if it’s in the context of trying to win a gold medal with Spain.

The Bulls will take it. If the summer version of Gasol is any indication of the player Chicago is inheriting, the organization is getting a huge upgrade over the amnestied Carlos Boozer.

Meanwhile, the Bulls are almost certainly hoping the summer version of Derrick Rose is anything but a harbinger of things to come.

Through six games, the former MVP is averaging just 4.5 points and 2.7 assists in 17.5 minutes per game. The most troubling sign of rust is that he’s made just 21.6 percent of his 6.2 field-goal attempts per contest.

Rose’s touch has eluded him from all over the floor—from perimeter jumpers to layups around the basket.

The struggles probably aren’t reason to panic. The 25-year-old played in just 10 games last season and has played in only 49 over the last three years. It was never realistic to expect he’d come out of the gates with guns blazing.

To the extent there’s been disappointment regarding Rose’s play at the FIBA Basketball World Cup, the early reviews of his performance at training camp may be partially to blame.

“I think he’s exceptional in every way,” Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski exclaimed to reporters after practices in Las Vegas earlier this summer. ”He went right at it. The first defensive exchange in the camp, he was all over the ball handler, moving his feet, attacking him. There was a buzz right away because it was basically his saying, ‘Look, I’m not just back. I’m back at a level that’s elite.’”

Krzyzewski added, “Derrick was sensational the whole week. He really did that every day, how fast and strong and decisive he was. He really created an air of excitement for the team because we all were anxious to see who he was right now.”

The air of excitement quickly turned into some much-needed patience once tournament play actually began. Krzyzewski’s raving was replaced by cautious optimism.

I think basically we’re waiting for Derrick to have kind of a bust-out game,” USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo recently suggested on ESPN, per the Chicago Sun-TimesJoe Cowley. “And if that were to happen, I think he’d take off from that point.”

Team USA has the depth to withstand Rose’s struggles at the World Cup, and fortunately Chicago has some time on its hands—including a few preseason games in which its star point guard can continue his reclamation project.

And to be fair, Rose may be making more progress than meets the eye. That’s certainly how he sees it.

His coach is on the same page, with Thibodeau telling reporters: 

There’s nothing negative about this. This is all positive. As I said, the more he practices, the more he plays, the better he’ll get. He’ll be fine. Just take it day by day, keep doing the things that he’s doing and get ready for training camp when we get there. When you’re off as long as he’s been out, I mean there’s a lot of plays where he blows by everyone and he’s not finishing. To me, that’s timing. He hasn’t done it in a long time. The more he does it, the more comfortable he’ll get, the more he’ll get into a rhythm … Each day he gets a little better, gets a little more confident. 

Thibodeau‘s tone is a reasonable one to be sure, but it may not be especially reassuring to Bulls fans awaiting their game-changing, would-be savior. Chicago hasn’t been to the conference finals since 2011, and two of the subsequent three campaigns resulted in opening-round postseason defeats.

The franchise needs Rose at his best to turn those fortunes around, but there’s really no telling when he’ll return to form.

The Memphis product made just 35.4 percent of his field-goal attempts during his brief stint last season, and similar numbers may be in the offing early on in 2014-15. It may be a matter of weeks or even months before Rose looks like an All-Star again.

While there’s some silver lining in the fact that Gasol already looks like an All-Star, there’s little doubt the Bulls are only going so far as their floor general takes them.

The good news is there’s plenty of time between September and April. Bulls fans just have to practice a little patience in the interim.

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Derrick Rose continues to struggle at World Cup

Rose missed all five of his shots Saturday and is shooting just better than 20 percent

      
 

 

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Can Chicago Bulls Still Rely on Derrick Rose as Their Franchise Building Block?

The Chicago Bulls are deep enough into their design that they can’t swap out the centerpiece now.

Their linchpin, Derrick Rose, remains their ultimate source of optimism, their key to joining the uber-exclusive fraternity of full-fledged NBA contenders.

As the former MVP goes, the Bulls will follow. That portion of the program hasn’t changed.

Yet Chicago’s foundation is frighteningly flimsy. As good as this house looks from the outside, its main support beam has already faltered twice. The Bulls can hope that Rose’s knee problems—first a torn ACL in his left one, then a torn meniscus in the right—are behind him.

They bet the farm on that fact before knowing this was a battle he would fight. And outside of crossed fingers, well-wishes and all the patience they can muster, they have nothing to help him wage that war.

It used to take something special from Rose—a killer crossover, a rapid-fire offensive outburst, a Tom Thibodeau-approved highlight hustle play—for the Windy City to erupt. Now he can spark mass hysteria simply by stepping inside the lines.

After watching him log just 50 games (regular season and playoffs) the past three years combined, hoop heads are just happy to see him in any type of action. They can look past the rust (5.4 points on 25 percent shooting through five games at the FIBA World Cup), sweat out his injury scares and buy every last bit of his hype still up for sale.

When Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski tells reporters how Rose has shown his teammates he’s “back at a level that’s elite,” fans can take his comments at face value and start counting down the days until Rose’s real return (Chicago’s season opener on October 29).

The Bulls don’t have that luxury. They are far too invested in both his present and future to hear that he’s back and immediately subscribe to that theory.

Fans and analysts alike want to stretch out the small strides he’s made into something bigger than they are. The Bulls just hope that each baby step can be followed by another.

“We just want to keep building, just daily improvement,” Thibodeau told reporters last month. “That’s what he’s concentrating on.”

Rose might not have a choice since he’s peppered with questions about his health on a daily basis. 

As he should be. It’s not as if his play on the international stage has really answered any on its own.

Some nights, he has looked like that athletic superhero NBA fans remember:

On others, he has seemed to be locked in a battle with his body:

With rust to shake off and fuel tanks to fill, these inconsistencies will likely persist. And so will his media-administered medical checkups.

“I know the questions are going to come and they’re going to be there the whole year,” Rose said, via ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. “So I can’t get tired of it.”

The Bulls can, though.

Every inquiry made is a reminder of their franchise face’s fragility. It’s also a suggestion that the Rose coming back to Chicago may not be the two-way force who had the entire basketball world in his palm just a few years back.

Realistically, when a 25-year-old player whose game depends on explosiveness undergoes two knee surgeries in 19 months, perhaps the best isn’t yet to come,” wrote David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune.

There is no way to know for sure whether his best days are behind him. That answer will come with time.

The Bulls have hinged their hopes on a full recovery. Despite parting with Thibodeau-favorite Luol Deng last season, they stopped short of holding an all-out fire sale. They entered this offseason fully embracing the buyer’s market, trading up on draft night for Doug McDermott, inking free agent Pau Gasol to a three-year deal and importing draft-and-stash prospect Nikola Mirotic.

Combine that with the key returning pieces—All-Star center Joakim Noah, perimeter stopper Jimmy Butler, super-sub Taj Gibson, rising swingman Tony Snell—and this looks like the recipe for a contender.

It should be one if Rose is healthy enough to lead the way. As ESPNChicago.com’s Mike Wilbon noted, it’s hard finding certainty with this type of recovery:

His second injury makes you reconsider everything … such as, maybe D-Rose simply can’t play the game the way he wants to play it, maybe he can’t explode and cut with the ferocity he has until now. Maybe it isn’t advisable he come back firing fastballs, but instead rely for the first time on changing speeds and sleight of hand.

Can Rose still be as effective as he was if he changes his style of play? Can a career 31.2 percent three-point shooter afford to stop attacking? Does he even have off-speed stuff in his arsenal?

These are the questions the Bulls need answered. There is no reliability in their world or in his. Two seasons (essentially) lost to injury can have that effect.

But at this point, what else can the franchise do other than hope its brightest star can realign himself? The Bulls’ base is unnervingly wobbly, but attempting to remove it will only bring their foundation crashing down.

There is no way to recast his role. There are maybe a handful of players who can match his talent, and perhaps none are better suited for this supporting cast. Even if a better fit for this roster existed, he wouldn’t be available on the trade market.

And while Rose hasn’t played consistently well on the international circuit, he has said he’s pleased with the stuff that doesn’t make the stat sheet:

Considering Rose’s age, his obvious ability and what this team can potentially accomplish if he’s right, the Bulls have no option but to proceed with him as their primary building block.

Their road ahead is lined with uncertainty, but it’s the only one available that might lead to a world title. As long as that remains true, there is no other choice worth considering.

 

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Is Derrick Rose the Most Scrutinized Superstar in the NBA Today?

Unlike LeBron James, this player never thought to forsake the franchise that drafted him. Unlike Kevin Love, he hasn’t plotted to buy his ticket out of town. Unlike others, his face hasn’t appeared in court rooms or above police booking numbers.

Unlike scores of his basketball brethren, this man’s fall from limelight had nothing to do with coach beefs or bad decisions.

Yet somehow—despite a meteoric rise typified by brilliance on the hardwood and humbleness off it—Derrick Rose has become the most closely scrutinized player in all the NBA.

Of course, the speculation surrounding Rose has more to do with genuine concern than pointed criticism. Which, by one way of thinking, is bound to happen when you miss the vast majority of the past two seasons recovering from a pair of knee injuries.

The relationship we’ve forced with Rose, and especially those of us in the media, has been one of protection, rooted in a genuine worry that this physics-defying basketball maestro might be taken from us—formally and finally—far too soon.

Thankfully, the past month has been something of a refresher on Rose’s ultimate potential, centering around the Chicago Bulls point guard’s participation with Team USA as it vies for gold at the FIBA World Cup in Spain.

For a while, it looked as if Rose might even usurp the starting spot from a training-camp crop that included Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry, John Wall and Damian Lillard.

Rose’s play was so strong, in fact, that it prompted Team USA head coach to tell ESPN Chicago’s Nick Friedell, “I think [Rose] is exceptional in every way…There was a buzz right away because it was basically his saying, ‘Look, I’m not just back. I’m back at a level that’s elite.’”

But as the team’s inter-squad scrimmages gave way to friendly tune-ups for FIBA, Rose’s rust began to show through. The floaters sailed a bit wide, the lead-ahead passes were just off-stride, and the aerial acrobatics—a Rose signature for as long as he’s donned NBA garb—noticeably ill timed.

On August 26, Krzyzewski officially tapped Irving as the team’s starter for its final pre-FIBA friendly against Goran Dragic and Slovenia. Since then, the media microscopes have only become more intensely trained, much to the chagrin of Rose himself.

Just how tired is Rose of the constant check-ins? According to ESPN.com, Krzyzewski has ceased asking for updates, saying that he sensed “a part of [Rose] that’s like, ‘Quit asking me how I feel, I’m good.’”

To be fair, Rose has seen plenty of action (17.5 minutes per game, compared to Irving’s 23.5), owing in no small part to a helter-skelter tournament structure whereby teams are forced to play five round-robin games in six days.

The production, on the other hand, hasn’t exactly been encouraging.

But the spotlight set about Rose goes well beyond Team USA’s gold-medal gambit. In three short weeks, Chicago’s floor general will arrive at Bulls’ training camp awash in expectations of a different sort: parlaying the acquisition of Pau Gasol, Euroleague superstar Nikola Mirotic and sharpshooting rookie Doug McDermott into the franchise’s first Finals appearance since 1998.

The Bulls didn’t make these moves to improve by a handful of games or a seeding spot; they made them because they still believe—as do most of Chicago’s fans—that Derrick Rose is still a cornerstone-caliber player.

Viewed from this perspective, it only makes sense that the attendant scrutiny would be so searing. When it feels like your best player is perpetually one freak play or bad landing away from another disaster, an air of doubt-ridden doting is bound to arise.

Writing at Lake Show Life, Valarie Morales poetically captures how a looming sense of dread from fans has begun to color not just how they feel about Rose, but how they watch him:

Fear weighs a ton. What surrounds the United States World Cup team, what is hamstrung around their precious necks choking off oxygen has nothing to do with how good this team may be. Or if Spain playing on Spain soil is better because of home country advantage. That is a secondary story in the United States, nationalism be damned. Occupying the World Cup narrative is the appearance of Derrick Rose.  How does he look? How will he play? Will he…get hurt?

This naturally invites the question: Is it fair? Even granting society’s built-in connectedness, where everyone and everything is subject to exposure and scrutiny almost as a matter of fact, how much is too much?

For many a Bulls fan, however, the questions have to do less with the facts of Rose’s health than some weirdly-held belief that their star point guard—a kid as tough as the South Chicago neighborhood from whence he came—missed an opportunity to return from what was, by all accounts, a much more minor torn MCL last season.

Needless to say, it’s a barb Rose has no choice but to ignore.

“I can’t get mad at that, man,” Rose recently told ESPN Chicago’s Nick Friedell during. “People are going to say anything. For me, just try to take and try to use it when I work out. Use it as motivation, and try to prove people wrong. I know how special I am as a player. And I know what I still can do.”

It’s the only response worth offering, really, even if it masks an all too human hurt, wrought from the knowledge that the same fans to whom you’ve given so much have—out of sheer lack of patience and prudence—taken to looking a gift horse in the mouth.

Just don’t expect FIBA to be his point’s proving ground; the stateside stakes are simply too high for Rose to let his run with Team USA define his next trajectory, noble as the podium pursuit may be.

Instead, Rose should state his case the only way he knows how—by being so impossibly good that the only question left for us to ask won’t be why or where or when, but the one that meets the best of basketball feats: How?

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Derrick Rose Primed to Take Jimmy Butler’s Game to the Next Level

Chicago Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler had friends in high places as soon as he was drafted into the Association.

Fresh off winning the 2011 MVP award, Bulls point guard Derrick Rose quickly welcomed the Marquette product to the family.

“He actually texted me when I was in the Houston airport getting ready to come here,” Butler told reporters at his introductory news conference at the time. “And he said, ‘Congratulations. Welcome. Maybe come by tonight and just chill out and get to know each other.’ And so, that was that.”

And what did the bonding consist of?

“We went to his house and just watched the BET Awards for the most part,” Butler added. “And just talked about basketball, [about] my life.”

It was an important moment for Butler, whom Chicago selected with the No. 30 overall pick. Before he’d ever set foot in an NBA game, he was developing a rapport with one of the league’s very best players—and the face of a Bulls franchise seemingly destined for big things.

“It’s crazy,” Butler then explained. “I used to watch him on TV. Now I’m a teammate, but I try not to let that show too much to tell you the truth. He’s a good dude. He’s just like me for the most part and he just wants to win.”

But the on-court relationship between the two never quite materialized.

Over the course of Butler’s first three seasons, Rose played in just 49 games due to a torn ACL in 2012 and a torn meniscus in 2013. The setbacks derailed the floor general’s meteoric ascendance and limited Chicago’s postseason exploits.

Butler’s development would have to occur alongside reserve point guards like Kirk Hinrich, D.J. Augustin and Nate Robinson—all forced to adopt more significant roles in Rose’s absence.

To be sure, the 24-year-old has quickly turned heads nevertheless.

After a rookie campaign in which he was sparingly used, Butler started 20 games during his sophomore season and earned minutes from head coach Tom Thibodeau on account of his stout perimeter defense. Last season, he averaged 13.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.9 steals in 38.7 minutes per contest.

By now, Butler is a central fixture in Chicago’s rotation and figures to remain a prominent contributor even with rookie Doug McDermott, veteran Mike Dunleavy and second-year man Tony Snell competing for minutes on a deep wing.

Still, Butler is another step or two away from All-Star honors. He made just 39.7 percent of his field-goal attempts last season, including an even more troubling 28.3 percent clip from beyond the three-point arc.

Some of those efficiency problems can be attributed to the pressure placed on Butler to create shots in an offense with few playmakers.

With Rose in the fold, that could change. Instead of desperation heaves and forced drives to the bucket, Butler should discover more quality touches with a premier distributor at his side. Whether he’s getting open spot-up looks on the wing or benefiting from Rose’s ability to orchestrate the fast break, there will be plenty of opportunities to improve that field-goal percentage.

At the very least, Rose’s ability to break down defenses and draw attention should give Butler some space to work with.

This has been the hope for some time.

On the brink of the 2013-14 opener—when Rose was ostensibly in store for a full season—Bleacher Report’s Kelly Scaletta wrote, “The anticipation of seeing the two working together is positively electrifying, whether you’re a Bulls fan or just a lover of basketball.”

Of course, things didn’t exactly work out as planned. Through Rose’s only 10 games, he averaged just 15.9 points and 4.3 assists in 31.1 minutes per game. He made a mere 35.4 percent of his field-goal attempts, showing every bit of the rust that had accumulated during his season away from the floor.

With a more sustained return to action, Rose figures to be far more effective—and is thereby positioned to help Butler continue his evolution.

It doesn’t hurt that the former MVP is getting his feet wet with FIBA Basketball World Cup play this summer. In advance of the NBA’s preseason action, Rose is returning to game shape and attempting to regain at least some of his All-Star form.

“I know the questions [about health] are going to come and they’re going to be there the whole year,” Rose recently told reporters. “So I can’t get tired of it. I’m feeling good right now. Just trying to get in better shape, get in better condition, so that when I do need to score the ball, then it’ll be there.”

The New York TimesHarvey Araton described Rose’s participation with Team USA as a “no-lose proposition,” noting, “He can shake off rust, re-establish a rhythm [and] get comfortable with an altered NBA role and reality.”

Rose’s return is more than an X’s and O’s advantage for someone like Butler.

It’s the kind of development that will translate into all kinds of intangibles—improved chemistry, composure and a collective belief that the Bulls can again vie for a championship.

For his part, Butler is exuding the confidence you might expect from a guy whose team is finally at full strength. Even the new and improved Cleveland Cavaliers—with LeBron James and Kevin Love—aren’t testing his faith.

“They’re just another force we’re going to have to go through,” Butler recently told CSNChicago.com’s Mark Strotman. “I don’t think anybody plays this game to lose, that’s for sure. I think we can beat anybody at any given time and I’m excited, I’m looking forward to it.”

“We’re ready for whatever,” added Butler. “As long as we play the type of ball that we’re capable of playing, and just stick to how hard that we play, I think we’re going to be great as long as we stay healthy.”

Rose sounded a similar tune when faced with the question of Cleveland’s overnight improvement.

“For us, I think it wouldn’t change anything,” Rose told reporters. “We know that no matter who we play that we have a legit change to beat anyone in the league. But at the same time, we know it’s not going to be easy at all because guys are getting better.”

Despite three seasons of limited action, Rose is no stranger to the threat James poses in the Eastern Conference. His Bulls lost to James’ Heat in five games during the 2011 conference finals, the season before Butler entered the league.

As much as Rose will do for Butler, Butler will likely return the favor with his stifling defensive presence on the wing—a presence that can at least slow James down in a future postseason matchup.

Indeed, this should be a relationship that cuts both ways now that it may finally come to fruition.

It’s been three years since Rose and Butler became fast friends, and the rest of their respective careers could very well depend on one another in important waysways that should become evident enough in the season ahead.

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Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol Providing Valuable Tape

Some were skeptical that it was a good idea for Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol to attend the FIBA World Cup.  Don’t count the Chicago Bulls among them.
Tom Thibodeau and coaching staff getting extended look at future pairing
One of the reasons Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau joined the U.S. basketball team as an assistant coach, aside from helping them win a golden medal, was to get reacquainted and back in rhythm with Derrick Rose.  The star Chicago point guard has missed almost two full NBA seasons dealing with knee injuries.  His hope is that playing in the world championships will get him better prepared for the coming season.  The added advantage is it will give Thibodeau a front row seat to see how Rose progresses, what he can do and what he needs to work on.  So far the results are mixed.  At times Rose looks extremely explosive, showing his old ability to knife through a defense to the rim.  Other times his shot appears erratic and he struggles at the free throw line.  So far he’s averaged 7 po

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Pau Gasol or Joakim Noah: Which Bulls Big Will Click Better with Derrick Rose?

Derrick Rose will have to develop some chemistry with Joakim Noah and former Los Angeles Laker Pau Gasol, and I can only wonder which one will click better with him.

Logic would dictate that Noah has the edge considering that he’s been Rose’s teammate since the 2008-09 campaign. Familiarity certainly helps, but it’s hardly the lone component working in Noah’s favor.

At the height of Rose’s powers, Noah was a terrific pressure-release point when teams trapped Rose. The former league MVP would swing the ball over to Noah and watch him create for the Bulls.

Noah’s playmaking alongside Rose was one of the major reasons the Chicago Bulls advanced to the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals at the peak of Rose’s dominance, despite an average offensive cast.

Interestingly enough, Noah’s improved on this front during Rose’ two-year absence (because of knee injuries), and opponents have noticed.

“He gets people involved,” said the Indiana Pacers’ Roy Hibbert in April, per USA Todays Jeff Zillgitt. “He’s their floor general out there even at the center position and you don’t see that a lot.”

The 29-year-old reigning Defensive Player of the Year is a good ball-handler and incredibly skilled passer as evidenced by his 4.8 assists per 36 minutes over the last two seasons. By setting up Rose and others, Noah will make Rose’s life much easier, which in turn will make them a good tandem.

As impressive as Noah was as a playmaker, his biggest contributions will primarily come on defense. Noah has always been a defensive beast because of his quickness and length.

At 6’11’’, he can switch onto perimeter players and hold his own. He does a great job of contesting shots and is a marvel in pick-and-roll coverage.

He traps, hedges or concedes the jumper while still making it a difficult proposition. As a result, Rose never got embarrassed off the bounce when playing with Noah because the center was always lurking in the shadows to thwart opponents.

Rose has never been particularly good at staying in front of players, but Noah helped contain some of the penetration with his help defense, which greatly benefited Rose.

To be fair, this is how things used to be. It’s entirely possible that Rose will be incredibly limited from a mobility perspective after two knee surgeries. He’s looked fine while playing for Team USA during the FIBA World Cup, but Rose could wear down.

As a result, it seems likely that he will have to recalibrate his game to better fit with Noah. Let’s not forget, Rose’s time away from the Bulls these last two years may have completely destroyed whatever chemistry he had developed with Noah.

Thus, Chicago’s free-agent acquisition (Gasol) has a legitimate shot to become a better fit with Rose.

Gasol, age 34, is a far more accomplished offensive player than Noah. The Spaniard provides the same kind of pressure release as his counterpart because he’s on par with Noah in terms of ball-handling and passing (both are averaging 3.3 career assists per 36 minutes).

This is the lone area where these big men are even offensively. Gasol has evolved to the point that he’s made 10 of 26 (38.5 percent) of his corner threes in the last three campaigns, per NBA.com.

Gasol’s is a low-volume long-range shooter, but the threat of him hitting jump shots will give Rose some much-needed space in the half court. That’s fantastic news for head coach Tom Thibodeau, and it only gets better.

Gasol’s a stud low-post player, which means the Bulls will remove some of the burden on Rose’s shoulders. Chicago will be able to throw the ball inside and get high-percentage scoring opportunities, and the Bulls’ best player certainly seems to welcome that.

“You think about Pau, him now being in the East, what he’ll be able to achieve with the way we play, the way we dump the ball in the post a lot,” Rose said in July, according to the Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley. “It could be great.”

In addition, Gasol is talented enough to warrant a double-team, and that will free up Rose to attack rotating defenders.

In the event Rose is physically compromised, this will be a great way to help him create his own offense without worrying about help defenders. In the same breath, a healthy Rose who gets to catch the ball with a head of steam is going to create highlights.

Granted, it’s fair to assume that most sound defensive clubs will rotate to Rose in this scenario. That still works for the Bulls because he is a willing passer just as well. When players flock to Rose, he will gladly hit open teammates for quality looks.

Thibodeau will be able to stretch the floor because of the cumulative passing effect of Gasol and Rose (when the play originates from post-ups), which will give Rose wide driving lanes.

The same is true in pick-and-rolls, where Gasol is terrific at reading defenses. He will alternate between diving to the front of the rim or floating out to the elbows to provide space for his ball-handler. If the opposition corrals Rose, it’s an easy pass to Gasol for a mid-range jump shot.

Gasol will be a great addition for the Bulls because he enhances Rose’s strengths and addresses some of the team’s weaknesses (post play and secondary playmaking). In turn, the Spaniard should be a great fit, at least on paper.

There is an area of concern, though. Gasol’s is nowhere near the caliber of defender that Noah is, which means the Bulls might be at a disadvantage when he’s on the floor.

Gasol isn’t exactly a spring chicken, which means it might be difficult for him to consistently help and recover back to his man. Last season, he sported a defensive plus-minus rating of 1.20 (31st among power forwards) and allowed opponents to convert 54.6 percent of their field goals at the rim, per SportVU data tracking.

As a reference point, players only converted 46.8 percent of their shots at the rim when Noah was there to contest.

One could argue that Chicago signed Gasol specifically to complement Rose on offense, but let’s not forget that the Bulls identity stems from their vaunted defense. Thus, it’s certainly conceivable on some level that Thibodeau might ride Noah for longer stretches alongside Rose.

Keep in mind, Taj Gibson is one of the best interior defenders in the league (he’s tough as nails), and that will earn him some minutes at the expense of Gasol.

I believe that will be the key difference when it comes to which player has the best rapport with Chicago’s starting point guard. Both Gasol and Noah will develop synergy with Rose, but Noah will be the slightly better fit.

The fact that this is a discussion point certainly bodes well for Chicago.

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