We’re now two games into the preseason, and it’s becoming clear that Derrick Rose hasn’t lost much athletically, even after coming back from his ACL tear. He’s still rusty — more on this in a minute — but he is BACK, and it feels so, so good.
So, the Chicago Bulls blew out the Memphis Grizzlies last night in St. Louis. Lots of things happened — almost all of them happy ones — so let’s figure out what we learned.
1) DERRICK ROSE DERRICK ROSE DERRICK ROSE.
Look, his stats don’t look great. He’s still trying to get his floater back, and he missed at least one shot at the rim, and his free throw stroke went MIA for the first half or so. He’s shooting 40 percent from the field, although it’s a tiny sample size. But I’m willing to chalk all of that up to rust.
He didn’t turn the ball over much last night, and he finally showed a bit of the increased range he’s spoken so often about. He’s attacking the basket like a madman — 10 free throw attempts in just over 20 minutes is borderline insane — and again, he looks like himself.
His defense also seems to have taken a step forward. He’s working his butt off on defense, rotating all over the place, getting over screens and playing the passing lanes in a way we’re not really used to seeing from him. He had three steals last night and just missed a fourth right before coming out of the game for the last time. For all his athletic gifts, defense never seemed like his thing. But he looks great on that end now.
In short, I’ve seen nothing from two games of Rose to make me worry at all about his prospects. He’ll get his in-between game back eventually, or so I’ve convinced myself, and his finishing is still there.
Honestly, I’m just really, really, really, really, really happy he’s back.
2) Taj Gibson might well be a god, for all we know.
For all of you who scoff at that, I invite you to prove to me that he’s not.
In all seriousness, in two games he’s shooting 67 percent from the field, averaging 16.5 points and 9 rebounds and two blocks. In the first game, he went into the post, where he got and converted a number of good looks. Last night, he went into the post, where he used his increased strength to bull his way to the line. His jumper still looks solid too, which will be big for the Bulls’ spacing once the games really matter. His defense is as great as it usually is, so no worries there. He’s also been playing mostly with Erik Murphy and Carlos Boozer, which means he’s defending centers most often, and I haven’t seen any problems at all on that front.
3) Marquis Teague deserves more burn.
I know it’s really silly to get even a little upset about preseason rotations, but I still feel like Marquis Teague should be playing more. He played about five minutes in the fourth quarter on Saturday and a little under seven in the fourth quarter last night. My supposition is that Tom Thibodeau just wants to make sure he sees everything there is to see from Tony Snell before he gives him the traditional Thibs Redshirt when the games actually matter, but I really don’t know.
When Teague did play, he produced. He found Taj under the basket for an and-one — although the pass was a little late, sadly. He hit a floater. He got a really nice layup off a pick and roll that looked absolutely Chris Paul-esque: He came around the pick hard, saw the defender in front of him, slowed down just enough to get him to relax, then turned on the jets again and got to the basket without any problem.
I continue to feel, as I have since the beginning of the offseason, that Teague should be getting a good chunk of the backup point guard minutes, with Kirk Hinrich playing mostly off the ball. Thibs may well disagree, though, so we’ll see.
Speaking of Kirk…
4) Kirk Hinrich is alive?
Captain Kirk is a big preseason guy, apparently, as this is the second consecutive year where he has lit it up in the preseason. He scored 15 points in 18 minutes, got to the line six times — although three of those came on a bizarre end of the quarter heave where one of the Memphis players was dumb enough to foul him — and went 2/3 from deep. The hope this year was that a smaller role would keep him healthier and more efficient, and that seems to be more or less true so far.
All right guys, we just have to hold out until Saturday, when we’ll get to see the Bulls again. They’ll be in Brazil, taking on the Washington Wizards. Here’s to more D-Rose excellence.