Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden is shaping up to be a solemn reminder for the Garden crowd of their squad’s rather low ceiling this season. The Chicago Bulls are itching to get after it in the new season and unfortunately for New York, they are first on the Bulls’ hit list.
In addition to their reinforced supporting cast, the Bulls have their superstar back. Their savior. The man who carries with him the team’s hopes and dreams. Derrick Rose will return on Wednesday as the city of Chicago holds its collective breath once again.
Rose has played just ten regular season games in the past two seasons and has undergone two knee surgeries. But in his absence, the Bulls have refused to slip quietly into lottery pick-inspired mediocrity. Instead they chose to weather the storm – finishing in the middle of the East playoff pack each year – and waited for their tornado of a point guard to recover.
As a reward for fending off averageness, the Bulls now find themselves as perhaps the only worthy adversary to LeBron’s Cavs in the new Eastern Conference. Needless to say, the Bulls are poised to make a harsh statement at the expense of the Knicks and their new triangle offense.
So assuming the Knicks will be starting the new campaign at 0-1, what can we expect from Rose in (hopefully) his final “return” to the floor?
In a recent ESPN The Magazine piece, Wright Thompson describes Rose as having changed from the reckless attacker he was before his surgeries. Thompson says that Rose has come to understand the fragility of his career and the fact that he is not unbreakable.
“Every dunk costs something, a debt that will demand payment months, even years, from now,” says Thompson.
And that’s the biggest thing to remember when you think of Derrick Rose 2.0 – or 2.5 or whatever. Aside from seeing more lay-ins rather than thunderous slams on fast breaks, you might also see a higher number of pull-up floaters as opposed to explosive slashes to the basket.
Assuming Jose Calderon, who is battling a strained calf, will start at point guard, it’s likely that the Knicks will give Iman Shumpert the task of guarding Rose. It will be telling how Rose goes at the Knicks’ best perimeter defender particularly in the first quarter.
Will he confidently step in to threes when his man slides passively under the ball screen? Absolutely. How much will he limit his penetration, though? Will it be noticeable?
At least on Wednesday night, I think it will be. This is a guy who puts more strain on his legs than arguably any other player with his sharp and explosive cuts. Rose knows that and he likely won’t go pedal to the metal until his body feels ready. Expect Rose to get his teammates involved and take his shots as they come to him, likely from mid-range and out.
Rose needs to rely more heavily on his outside shot at this point in his career given that he is prone to injury. Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry explored a quite simple yet pivotal question last month – “Can Derrick Rose Shoot?”
There is no question that Rose is a capable shooter, but Goldsberry’s analysis showed that the frequency with which Rose jacked up threes skyrocketed in his 2010-’11 MVP season after he stayed almost entirely inside the arc the previous year. During his MVP season, Rose shot just 33 percent from deep despite taking nearly five per game.
In his very limited action since that season, Rose continued that trend – taking a bunch of threes and not making quite enough of them to warrant the volume. My guess is that Rose will continue to spend a decent amount of time out there this season while limiting the number of times he’s knocked down on his way to the rim.
A commercial for Wednesday’s game came on during the Cowboys-Redskins Monday night game and showed Rose dunking with authority. False advertising?
No, of course not. Assuming he stays healthy, Rose is a freakish athlete and he’ll impress us with his fair share of dunks even if he’s performing at 75 percent of what he was in 2011. He will still attack the rim with gusto, but I expect him to pick his battles a bit more carefully.
Maybe he’ll forego chances to challenge physical big men at the rim during not-so-must-win games in December and January. Getting hip checked to the floor by behemoths such as Marcin Gortat are the beatings Rose needs to avoid.
As for Rose’s first game, the Knicks’ Tyson Chandler-less front line certainly won’t scare him enough to deter his drives.
Still, I expect Rose to tread carefully in the early stages of Wednesday’s game. He’ll be testing whether his legs are up to unleashing the mayhem he has waiting for the Knicks.
For the Knicks’ sake I hope Rose doesn’t go from zero to 100 too quick, but I have a feeling he’ll be raring to go when his team needs him.
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