New-Look Bulls’ Hopes Still Rest on the Knees of Derrick Rose

CHICAGO — Derrick Rose is only three years removed from his 2011 MVP campaign, but it feels like a lifetime—to fans and to the Chicago Bulls’ superstar point guard.

“It seems so far away,” Rose said Monday at Bulls media day, kicking off what he hopes will finally be the year he reclaims some of that glory. His first comeback attempt, following a torn left ACL that sidelined him for the entire 2012-13 season, lasted 10 games. Even that feels like ancient history now.

Indeed, a lot has changed for the Bulls since this time last year, when Rose sat at the podium on media day and answered question after question about his knees, his health and his mindset.

There are some high-profile new names on the roster, both veterans (Pau Gasol) and rookies (Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic). There’s a new balance of power in the Eastern Conference, with LeBron James and Kevin Love joining forces in Cleveland. Even the building in which he answered these questions is new, a state-of-the-art practice facility across the street from the United Center.

But after all this change, the central questions remain the same as they were a year ago: How healthy is Rose, and how far can he take the Bulls?

Rose is as tired as everyone else is of his knees being the story around his team. He’d rather focus on the lessons he’s learned in two years of rehab and on the depth and potential of the reloaded roster the Bulls front office has armed him with for his latest comeback attempt. But he knows as well as anyone the questions aren’t going away anytime soon.

“I know that it’s always going to be there,” Rose said. “I know I’m going to have to answer this question for the rest of my career. For the Bulls fans, I can sit here and say it a million times, but the only way to answer all the critics and everyone asking about me is to be on the court and to actually play.”

When Rose does return to the court with the Bulls, returning to form is going to be a process. Anyone who watched him last month during Team USA’s championship run in the FIBA World Cup tournament knows that his jump shot has a ways to go.

He shot an abysmal 25.4 percent from the field in the tournament, averaging just 4.8 points per game. He’s got a handful of preseason games over the next month before the games start to count, but as confident as he is in his own body and abilities, Rose knows that might not be enough time to make up for two years of injuries.

“I’m not going to sit here and just say that my shot is going to be fixed when the season starts,” he said. “I’m still going to shoot the shots that I normally shoot. If you leave me open, and the game is telling me I should shoot, I’m going to shoot.”

That’s all mental stuff. The good news this time is he has no hesitation with the physical part of his recovery. For as poorly as he played in Spain, he still played in every game without any setbacks, and everyone in the organization views the tournament as a resounding success.

“First of all, in that setting, he’s not taking a lot of shots,” said Bulls general manager Gar Forman. “You could see the reactivity, the explosiveness, I like to call it some of the old Derrick Rose moves. The way he would get into the lane, get to the basket. I know some people were concerned that he didn’t shoot a high percentage. That’s not a huge concern for us.”

“He hasn’t played for a long time,” added head coach Tom Thibodeau, who served as an assistant for Team USA during the World Cup. “Basically, when you’re off for two-and-a-half years, there’s going to be rust. But the good thing is, he got through the practices, he played five games in six days. He handled the physical part well. The shooting’s still not there. He’s done a lot of shooting, but it’s different when it’s body-on-body. He’s got to get used to that again, but it’s timing. That will come.”

What will also come for Rose is the adjustment to playing with new teammates in a different offense, which includes some badly needed outside shooting. 

The addition of Gasol in particular gives the Bulls a versatile offensive weapon to pair with Joakim Noah in the frontcourt. Gasol and Noah are both gifted passers who can score around the basket, which could lead to more open looks and less playmaking responsibility for Rose. He’s already begun visualizing his role in a more diversified offense.

“I automatically go to the fourth quarter,” Rose said. “I’m out on the perimeter, and I’m just waiting to get a set shot, but you’ve got Pau and Joakim on the other side cleaning everything up. I just see him in the post, I’m waiting for a jump shot and you pick your poison.”

All of that sounds great on paper, and if things go as planned, the Bulls will be competing with the retooled Cleveland Cavaliers in June for a shot at the NBA Finals. They’ve got the talent, the depth and the coach to compete with anyone in the league—if Rose can stay healthy.

Lately, that’s been a big “if.” It’s Rose’s job this season to turn that “if” into a “when.”

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Chicago Bulls Are Concerned About Derrick Rose’s FIBA Decline

After a great start to the FIBA World Championships this summer, Derrick Rose steadily declined. Reports are surfacing that the Bulls are worried.
Why Be Concerned?
Brian Windhorst, from ESPN, seems to think that “concerned” is the only word to use for the Chicago Bulls’ feelings on Rose thus far. Why? Let’s start with his 1/19 shooting from three-point range. Windhorst said he thinks the decline was because Rose showed up in better shape than most of the other NBA players due to his rehab training at the start, but then he slowly regressed. The numbers back that up.
Rose had 12 points in his first game with the USA, he only matched that one other time the rest of the tournament. His average FG% was only 25.4% and the only three-pointer he made was in his first game. It would appear that fatigue and strength throughout a full NBA season has the Bulls concerned.
What Does Rose Think?
Rose did a short interview with ESPN describing his feelings about the game and said he knows where he has to improve.

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If Superstar Derrick Rose Doesn’t Return This Season, Then He Never Will

Derrick Rose is one of the most overanalyzed players of his generation. The Chicago Bulls star means too much to his city and to the NBA world at large to not be talked about, so his game stays under the microscope even when he’s playing only 10 contests over two seasons.

This makes for some very hypothetical, theoretical conversation. Rose has become more of an idea than an actual human athlete since tearing his ACL in the 2012 NBA playoffs, and we’re at a bit of a loss with understanding who he is as a player anymore.

But the buck has to stop somewhere. And this, the 2014-15 season, is just where it will. The proving ground for Rose has arrived. If he doesn’t return to superstar form this year, it should be safe to say that he never will. Rose can still be an effective, useful point guard (a remade could’ve-been in the style of Grant Hill) but reaching the level he was at before his body broke down (twice) is another issue.

The most important factor in Rose’s return to prominence is still his health. Being robbed of his on-court continuity is arguably just as devastating to Rose’s career as losing two years in the prime of his youth. He can’t become one of the game’s best players again without a critical mass of continuous action. Playing through mistakes over and over is how anyone gets to be elite at what they do.

So long as Rose doesn’t have more hiccups in his process, he has the chance to be who he once was, again, this season. But if he goes down with a serious ailment again, the basketball jury will largely settle on Rose—once an MVP, he faces the realm of fleeting nostalgic legend if he can’t get another full season under his belt.

Rose’s singular, lane-penetrating moxie—the trait that, above all, makes him so valuable—will likely take time to return. From Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes:

Rose’s jumper won’t matter quite as much if he scores in transition and attacks the rim like he did three years ago. The problem: Chicago still doesn’t know if he can do those things. Deferential to a fault in the World Cup, Rose offered up only the briefest flashes of his old head-down, run-through-a-wall style. A little discretion is probably a good thing for a player coming off two seasons lost to injury, but even just one sustained stretch of vintage Rose would have eased the Bulls’ concerns about his physical health and mental state.

Rose’s ability to get to the rim before defenses have time to turn their necks can be as much mental as it is physical. Luckily for Bulls fans, the point guard looks to still have his extreme speed and acceleration. But seeing the holes in coverage and instinctively cutting through them is also a matter for master strategists, and we can’t call Rose that until he’s had the opportunity to go through the ceaseless mental gruel of the 82-game season again.

Patience is still the No. 1 virtue in Rose Watch. It could be well after Christmas until we’re able to say what kind of player he is in 2014-15. Regaining his edge will take Rose a while—through the World Cup tournament, he certainly looked hesitant at times. Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski even said as much, per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

He’s being very unselfish, trying to be a good teammate. It all comes from a good place. He knows the defensive ball pressure is there. He wants to distribute the ball. He’s in a lot of times when DeMarcus (Cousins) is in to try to get him the ball. We would like for him to look for his stuff as well.

Basketball is more complicated than it often looks, especially at the professional level. Derrick Rose was once one of the best in the world at it, but now he’s looking up a high mountain as he struggles back to its summit. If he can’t stay healthy and focused enough to go through some prickly trials and get there—or close to it—this year, we might be better off saying goodbye to our MVP vision of Rose.

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Derrick Rose Donates $1 Million to Chicago-Based After School Matters Charity

Bulls star Derrick Rose is giving back to the Chicago community in a big way.

According to a press release from the team, the three-time NBA All-Star is donating $1 million to the Chicago-based non-profit organization After School Matters. It provides “innovative out-of-school programs for teenagers” and was founded in 1991.

Rose, who grew up in the Chicago area, says he is giving back to the community which has invested so much in him. “To have a strong community of people who believe in your potential can make all the difference in the world, so many people have invested in me and I want to do the same for Chicago’s teens,” he said.

[Chicago Bulls, After School Matters]

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Derrick Rose Enters Next Season as Chicago Bulls’ Biggest Question Mark

The Chicago Bulls watched Derrick Rose play during the FIBA Basketball World Cup, but they still haven’t really seen him—not the way they need to.

So as training camp approaches and Rose tries to retake center stage, a Bulls team with title aspirations still has more questions than answers about its most important player.

 

Is He Healthy?

That depends on the definition of healthy.

Rose knocked out nine games in 16 days at the World Cup, a stretch of condensed action far more grueling than any he’ll face in the upcoming NBA season. That’s a positive sign on its face, as even the most optimistic of Rose’s supporters likely had doubts about his ability to simply stay on the floor.

At the same time, Rose wasn’t logging big chunks of high-intensity play. He averaged just 17.1 minutes per game, a great many of which occurred in low-leverage situations after the outcome was already decided.

And as good as the FIBA competition was, it still fell far short of what Rose will face with the Bulls this year.

The best thing you can say about how Rose fared in the World Cup is that he survived. Chicago will need him to do much more than that in 2013-14.

 

Can He Shoot?

Once upon a time, Rose could really shoot.

Per Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry, Rose’s 2009-10 season featured flat-out elite jump-shooting:

In that season, only three players attempted more midrange shots than Rose: Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Durant. But Rose outshot all of those hacks (jk, jk) in terms of field goal percentage in the midrange. Of the 25 NBA players who attempted at least 500 midrange shots that year, Rose ranked first in efficiency, knocking down 47 percent of his 794 midrange attempts.

In subsequent years, Rose phased out the mid-range shot and substituted triples. Per Basketball-Reference, only about 5 percent of Rose’s shots came from beyond the arc in his first two NBA seasons. Over the ensuing three campaigns, more than 25 percent of his field-goal tries were threes.

Analytically, threes are smarter shots to take. But Rose’s accuracy suffered immensely after the swap, and it hasn’t ever recovered.

Maybe the 2009-10 season was an outlier. Or perhaps Rose’s mechanics changed because of his increased three-point attempts. Whatever the case, D-Rose’s outside shot has been an issue throughout his lengthy rehab process.

All along the way, he’s claimed improvement. And even after struggling through a mighty slump in the World Cup, he confidently told reporters “I think I found it now, just changed one little thing” before the U.S. took on Slovenia on Sept. 9, per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

Rose would connect on six of his 10 shots in a blowout win over Slovenia, but he didn’t make a single one from outside the paint.

Whether Rose will truly rediscover his stroke for the Bulls this season—something he must do in order to keep defenders honest enough for him to get to the hole—remains a huge question. All we know for sure is this: Rose’s field-goal percentage has declined in each of the last four seasons he’s played, and he’s never shot better than 34 percent from long range.

The Bulls added shooting over the summer in the form of Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic, but they’ll still need Rose to be at least a marginal threat from outside the lane.

 

Can He Play Like He Used To?

Rose’s jumper won’t matter quite as much if he scores in transition and attacks the rim like he did three years ago.

The problem: Chicago still doesn’t know if he can do those things.

Deferential to a fault in the World Cup, Rose offered up only the briefest flashes of his old head-down, run-through-a-wall style. A little discretion is probably a good thing for a player coming off two seasons lost to injury, but even just one sustained stretch of vintage Rose would have eased the Bulls’ concerns about his physical health and mental state.

Still, the flashes were pretty cool.

Rose can’t be a facilitator who picks his spots if Chicago is going to make any real noise in the Eastern Conference. He has to be the primary weapon.

 

Can He Retake Control of the Bulls?

There’s a fascinating, under-discussed subplot to Rose’s impending return: The Bulls aren’t his team anymore.

Two years with Rose on the sideline created a leadership void in Chicago—one filled by a two-man committee of Tom Thibodeau and Joakim Noah. Thibs became the organization’s most iconic figure on the strength of his no-compromise approach and renowned defensive scheming. He got more out of the past two years’ Bulls teams than anybody had a right to.

Noah took over as Chicago’s heart—its emotional leader and most impactful on-court presence. He collected a Defensive Player of the Year award last season, an indication the NBA cognoscenti acknowledged his rise to prominence.

It would be a mistake to assume Rose will saunter back into Bulls primacy.

He’s been gone too long, surrounded by too many questions and never really had the outspoken, take-charge personality you normally associate with leaders. The Bulls should be somewhat concerned at the way Rose so willingly took on a secondary role in the World Cup, despite the urging of his coaches.

Per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski said:

He’s being very unselfish, trying to be a good teammate. It all comes from a good place. He knows the defensive ball pressure is there. He wants to distribute the ball. He’s in a lot of times when DeMarcus (Cousins) is in to try to get him the ball. We would like for him to look for his stuff as well.

That’s hardly a knock, but it’s cause for pause.

Because Rose is reserved by nature, he’ll find it hard to snatch back the reins he once held in Chicago. And if he plays in as subdued a fashion as he did in Spain, it may be impossible.

 

Will We Ever Be Satisfied?

There’s only one thing Rose can do to appease Bulls fans and the public at large: play exactly like the MVP he once was.

It’s amazing Rose is healthy after all he’s been through, and when he labels an underwhelming (but healthy) return to competitive basketball a success, maybe it’s a sign we should relax our own expectations.

Per Scoop Jackson of ESPN.com:

He gave himself an A, when asked how would he grade his overall performance during the FIBA Basketball World Cup. Despite the suspect assist-to-turnover ratio, the anemic outside shooting, the visible problems he had finishing, and the fact that once he lost his starting spot to Kyrie Irving he never got it back, Rose still personally won.

It’s not fair or realistic to always measure a player against the impossibly high standards he set in the past, especially when the circumstances that have befallen that player make a return to the pinnacle so unlikely. The Bulls may not take the same unrealistic approach to Rose’s return as most fans do, but the fact remains that—fair or not—Rose will have to be every bit as good as he once was in order to get the Bulls where they hope to go.

And Chicago simply can’t know if he’ll measure up until the season begins.

 

The Only Question That Matters

The biggest question of all is the only one with an answer.

If Rose isn’t his old MVP self, are the Bulls contenders?

No way.

Adding Pau Gasol and improving the team’s shooting on the wing makes Chicago better, but Rose’s ability to lead, to dominate, remains singularly important.

Can Jimmy Butler take the next step?

Will Noah remain healthy?

Is Taj Gibson going to be cool with coming off the bench again?

These are all pressing questions, but they impact the Bulls less than Rose, who is, at this point, nothing but a collection of questions himself.

The good news: Training camp is just a couple of weeks away.

The Bulls are about to get some answers.

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Questions Still Remain for Derrick Rose

When the stars began to walk away, one after another, from Team USA… …their were few bonafide stars that remained. James Harden remained and so did other rising talents like Anthony Davis, Stephen Curry, and Kyrie Irving; but the true top echelon of NBA stars were all, but gone. LeBron, Kobe, Carmelo, George, Durant, Dwight, LaMarcus Aldridge, […] The post Questions Still Remain for Derrick Rose appeared first on The Outside Analysis.

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Fans must temper expectations for Derrick Rose

One of the hardest things to cope with in sports is realizing that a beloved athlete may have lost his edge. It’s such a natural reaction to ignore all signs that indicate otherwise, especially when the athlete is a highly favored one. This is especially true in the case of Derrick Rose, who is certainly […] The post Tempering Expectations For Derrick Rose appeared first on The Sports Fan Journal.

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Bold Predictions for Derrick Rose’s 2014-15 Season

The Chicago Bulls phenom has played just 10 games over the past two NBA seasons, and his rust showed through the FIBA World Cup tournament, where he finished with paltry averages: 4.8 points per game, 3.1 assists, 5.3 percent from three and 25.4 shooting overall.

But such anemia could’ve been expected. Rose’s game is unique, and finding his footing again will take time. His singular touch near the rim doesn’t come easy—the shots he’s wowed us with in the past were acts of extreme subtlety, relying on complex use of the backboard and sudden releases at breakneck speed.

The good news is that Rose’s athleticism is still intact. He’s still fast, graceful and powerful enough to make the rest of the league watch him in awe and from a distance. You can’t teach ability like Rose’s; it’s a gift.

In time, he should be able to leverage his supreme talent into more MVP-worthy performances. But Rose’s 2014-15 season may be a little ugly in the beginning, with his numbers suffering all year as a result.

Let’s take a look at some predictions for Rose’s return campaign.

Begin Slideshow

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Derrick Rose’s Long Journey Back to Superstardom Is Only Just the Beginning

For Derrick Rose, winning a gold medal at the 2014 FIBA World Cup of Basketball came with a silver lining—and not the good kind, either.

Following a strong training camp that had even Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski declaring the Chicago Bulls star and former MVP had returned to being “elite,” per ESPN.com’s Nick Friedell, Rose’s tournament performance left us with far more questions than answers.

Chief among the latter: After sustaining a pair of knee injuries that kept him out for the better part of two full NBA seasons, Rose’s road back to superstardom is only just beginning.

Of course, that he’s even on that path at all is a testament to both the miracles of modern medicine and Rose’s own unimpeachable determination, facts that the three-time All-Star heartily acknowledged in a post-tournament interview with NBA.com’s Sam Smith:

I think this was just a preparation test for me. Just coming here, really learning my routine, becoming a pro. I’m going to transfer this onto the next season with the Bulls because I think this really helped me with recovery wise, taking care of my body, eating right…I still have to get my rhythm back. But as far as I’m concerned, I think performed good.

“Good” might be a bit of an overstatement: In eight FIBA appearances—all off the bench—Rose registered a mere 4.8 points and 3.1 assists on 26 percent shooting, hitting just one of his 19 three-point attempts in the process.

That’s not to say there weren’t bright spots. Rose was steady-solid in his team’s quarterfinals win over Goran Dragic and Slovenia (12 points on 6-of-10 from the floor), and for the most part, he seemed comfortable careening around the court in his typical frenzied fashion.

But with just two weeks remaining before the start of Bulls training camp, it’s become increasingly clear that Rose’s game is still very much a work in progress.

Luckily for Bulls fans, the pressure about the shoulders of Chicago’s resident Atlas stands to be measures more manageable with the arrival of a player for whom FIBA served more as a renaissance than a rite of recovery: Pau Gasol.

Gasol, who signed a three-year, $22 million tender on July 14, was easily one of the tournament’s most incendiary performers. And while Spain’s gold-medal gambit fell short in a shocking semifinals loss to France, Gasol—who averaged 20 points and 5.9 rebounds on 64 percent shooting—proved he remains one of the game’s elite big men.

To call Gasol an upgrade over the recently amnestied Carlos Boozer would be a criminal understatement. Indeed, pairing Gasol with Joakim Noah not only gives the Bulls one of the NBA’s most dynamic frontcourt duos, but it affords head coach Tom Thibodeau an offensive dynamism that was utterly lacking in Rose’s absence.

Recently, Bleacher Report’s Kelly Scaletta broke down the two’s considerable statistical upside:

The other thing, and perhaps the hidden beauty to the Bulls’ thinking here, is the pairing of Joakim Noah with Gasol in the paint. Among forward/centers last season, the two were first and third, respectively, in assists per game. That’s quite a passing tandem to have up front.

For all Chicago’s recent success, Rose has never had a sidekick as seasoned or as versatile as Gasol, who—even at a twilit 34—still remains a fantastic facsimile of his once dominant self.

By running part of the offense through Gasol, the Bulls would necessarily be sparing Rose the wear and tear of so many limb-twisting forays into the paint.

Shortly after Gasol’s signing, Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale underscored how the move served to both help Rose and hedge against his possible slide into replacement-level mediocrity: 

This is no longer a Bulls team desperate for Rose to be healthy. Well, it is and it isn’t.

Superstars like Rose are indispensable. The Bulls cannot replace what he does, the offense he brings, the hope he inspires. But increasing their Rose-less ceiling is the next best thing.

More than anything, that’s what Gasol does: improve the Bulls no matter what.

Parlaying FIBA legwork into improved NBA production the following season is, at this point, a time-tested tale. Gasol might not be the player he once was. But as a five-tool force whose game has never been the stuff of jaw-dropping athleticism, he’s eminently capable of playing a scintillating second fiddle.

As for Rose, the adjustments are sure to be both welcomed and challenging. Welcomed because his basketball immortality has already been laid bare. Challenging because recognizing one’s immortality is different than heeding it on the hardwood.

At this point in his career, it’s incumbent upon Rose that sheer athleticism becomes an element of his game rather than what defines it. This is what makes Gasol and Noah so crucial to Rose’s recovery. For it’s through them that reinvention becomes possible—even if the late-night highlight reels run short of dunks from No. 1.

No one expects Rose to morph into mid-career Steve Nash. What he can do, however, and what he should make his high-hung goal, is approach the next stage of his career less as a basketball berserker and more as a full-fledged floor general.

FIBA was the first in what’s sure to be a series of humbling episodes for the former MVP, glorified training camp though it may have been. Playing Team USA backup to Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry, with John Wall and Damian Lillard looming just beyond the shadows—the footsteps are there, booming forth with a force and confidence Rose has yet to fully rediscover.

To recapture that confidence demands Rose forge new footsteps of his own, even if the path on which they fall feels far longer than it should.

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Derrick Rose Should Have a Great Preseason

Chicago Bulls PG Derrick Rose says he’s ready to go. Not that it matters in the record books, but Derrick Rose should have a solid preseason for a number of reasons. Let’s take a look at a couple of the reasons here.
Opponents
Rose and the Bulls will begin their preseason at home against the Washington Wizards on October 6th. John Wall is a handful, but the crowd will be jacked up to see Rose play for just the second time in 10 months.
The next night, the Bulls head to Detroit. Despite the quick turnaround, the Pistons will be running out Brandon Jennings and D.J. Augustin. Jennings is very good defensively, but Rose should have a solid day if he shoots even 40% from the field. If Thibs is smart, he’ll keep Rose from trying to finish strong at the rim, due to Monroe and Drummond regulating the Pistons’ paint.
The Bulls then get a break until the 11th when they travel to the Chicago suburb of Milwaukee. This could be a game Rose really struggles in, depending on minutes and matchups. If Jason Kidd ke

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