Robert Zeglinski, November 20th, 2014
Derrick Rose has never been shy. Modest and humble maybe, but confidence has always flowed well through the 26 year old star of the Bulls.
An example of that quiet confidence shined through on preseason media day in 2010. Rose declared himself a viable contender for MVP. Of course he went on to win the MVP and lead the Bulls to the #1 seed in the East.
And why not have this confidence? This man literally exploded onto the scene. No one had ever seen such a combination of proficiency and explosiveness at the rim like Derrick Rose. After adding a consistent midrange jumper and a decent 3point shot (still could be better), he evolved into one of the toughest defensive covers in the league for a good 3 year stretch.
Sure, the well publicized torn ACL suffered in the 2012 playoffs took away a lot. People thought Rose would never be the same physically and be able to pull off the same kinds of acrobatic drives. There was too much explosion and body contortion and control involved. If you maintain a different perspective though, and if you watch Rose through the first several games of this season, the concern was always completely different.
Rose is a hard worker at his craft so no matter the long term injuries he’s suffered in the past 2+ years, there was no reason to think he couldn’t come back to the same level of athleticism and play. In fact at a per 36min rate (Rose is mostly on a minutes restriction that’s give or take for now) Rose is playing at a very efficient elite rate. While it is a small game sample, his TS% (True Shooting Percentage) is the highest he’s had in his career. I think that points to excellent developments in Rose’s game.
He’s still capable of bursting in transition and finishing well over 7-footers, but his game is played at a more controlled level. I don’t think it’s easing his game back because he’s afraid of his knees or any injury. I think it’s a combination of a lot of different things.
I think it’s Rose displaying better court vision.
I think it’s him playing at a pace that allows him to score in high efficient volumes (no longer a shot chucker, getting to the free throw line at a higher rate than MVP season).
You see more aggressive on defense and playing more intelligently on the defensive side. While Rose isn’t the best defender, the opinion of him being bad defensively is just wrong. He more often than not exudes very high level stretches of play on defense (See Irving, Kyrie).
And I think it’s him understanding when to push that pace and break down defenses for things like passes he’s never made before.
In fact if you watch a Bulls game now, the Bulls are indeed very capable of playing well without Rose considering their depth and roster balance (see blowout of Clippers Monday night). It’s the best Bulls team cohesion and talent wise since the Jordan era.
It’s STILL a night and day difference (I know shocking, right?) when Rose is on the floor and that not only makes me a very happy Bulls fan, but basketball fan as well. While the Bulls have been a tremendous offensive team this season with or without Rose (7th overall efficiency rating), there is about a 5-6 point negative differential for when Rose isn’t in the game and when he is.
That’s remarkable. And while he hasn’t been able to light it up consistently statistically yet as he hasn’t been able to get into a true groove, you see stretches of play where Rose has complete command of the game like any top 5 player.
Considering all that Rose has been through these past couple of years, I am amazed at his resolve and new mentality. You don’t often see a player actually become better coming off two knee injuries.
You do instead see timid and loss of confidence. Which also isn’t the case with Rose.
Small note: There’s a running joke among my buddies. If you haven’t noticed Rose has his hair longer than normal. This would be considered a reach of an observation if serious, but we say it points to something else as “kind of” a joke.
You see something like the hair and it’s almost as if Rose came out of a metaphorical coma and he’s still dealing with some kind of mental fallback and trauma from everything he’s been through, which the funny thing is, he actually has been through a lot obviously. More so than most. And instead of being a lost “soul” out there on the floor, he’s taking it to opposing players.
You see more emotion and fire coming from Rose.
While before he would celebrate a big time game deciding shot or something along those lines, it’s escalated even further. When you watch Rose playing now it’s not just against guys and rivals on the other team. He’s like the angry displeased father that all of his teammates must work to please or feel the wrath of his discipline.
The smallest mistakes that “just good” teams make have infuriated him as he’s striving for greatness for his team. It’s nothing excessive but he’s taking control of his roster and it’s nice to finally see Rose become the true quote un quote captain of the Bulls. Joakim Noah was just keeping the seat warm for him. If Rose wants to assert himself which he does, Noah takes a step back, and the Bulls become even more dangerous for it in reaching their true potential.
He still has the forthright anger to take his frustrations out on opposing point guards if they mouth off to him (see Brandon Jennings, Brandon Knight) or if he feels slighted somehow (the great ones are always disrespected over the smallest things). The best thing is that he’s still capable of putting them in their place as his game is more than intact.
He’s been able to consistently play at a confident high level and now he has the pieces to complement him.
Obviously Rose will still be a question mark considering the nagging injuries his body is still going through but I think those concerns fade away as he becomes more re-acclimated to the NBA regular season. And it’s not a physical adaptation.Rose hasn’t played through a grind of games in a long time (other than a 10 game sample) so for him any minor strain still may seem like the worst news, and who can blame him.
With a more precautionary and smart Bulls team (Even Tom Thibodeau pulled back the reins by taking Rose out of a game that still may have been in doubt), Rose’s frustrations and fears will be ironed out in time.
You can’t be the dominant alpha dog player we’ve seen Rose evolve into if you aren’t wholly confident in your body and that’s the greatest positive indicator. As he’s eased back in and managed well, I think you easily see Rose play in a minimum of 60 games and be the full fledged “Derrick Rose”.
With a better team (again the best roster in basketball 1-10 other than San Antonio) to open things up offensively and constrict on defense, Rose has all the tools to help him get back into his true groove.
Having support for Rose from all angles like the newly developed dangerous shot creator Jimmy Butler give him unbelievable options to work with.
It’s time we stop saying “If Derrick Rose is healthy, I think the Bulls have it all together for the title”.
If If If…..
The past trials are over. It’s not If with Rose anymore. It’s Is. The NBA is on notice.
Successful June basketball awaits these Bulls.
(Photo Credit: Toronto Sun)
Robert Zeglinski is an aspiring sportswriter who absolutely loves all the nitty gritty that comes with pro sports. He is currently attending Aurora University in Illinois. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigZags82 or reach him through email (firstname.lastname@example.org) for questions or feedback.