MVP! MVP! MVP! Those were the chants that were raining down in the United Center. This was happening even though the last two MVP’s of the NBA were in the building, Derrick Rose (2011) and the two-time defending MVP LeBron James. King James is still in the race for his third MVP with Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant that will probably go down to the final game of the season. Derrick Rose on the other hand, we have to wonder if he can be MVP again…to the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls pulled an improbable comeback (based on the way these guys score) eliminating a 12 point lead in the 4th quarter to force overtime and win 95-88. In a game that Doug Collins said in the pre-game show that Lebron James would have his fingerprints all over the game, it turned out that Joakim Noah just snatched the game away with intensity and attitude.
With his Dad, former French Open tennis champion Yannick Noah in attendance, Joakim decided to show off. He scored 20 points 12 rebounds seven assists and five blocks. Couple that with some outstanding defense which included a one on one standoff with LeBron James in the first half that brought the United Center crowd (including Yannick while he was being interviewed) to their feet and a lot of trash talking to the Heat. Since this is a family article I will not say what he called Mario Chalmers that warranted him a technical foul nor will I mention what he was saying on the free throw line while in overtime to the Heat. What I will say is what it symbolizes. It symbolizes that the Bulls are not afraid of the Heat. It may sound cliché but there are a lot of teams that just show up praying that they won’t be blown out by 20 points. The Bulls have disdain for the Heat for which I haven’t seen since the Bulls vs. the Detroit Pistons Bad Boy days in the early 90’s. Joakim Noah and crew know that they have to get through Miami to get a title and this game was a major step forward in achieving that goal.
With all of the accolades that Joakim Noah is rightfully getting, soon the Bulls organization is going to have to deal with the proverbial elephant in the room. How will Derrick Rose fit in with this squad? There is something that is starting to bother me, Why are people acting like D-Rose will come back and play like he did in 2011? Now before I start getting these ridiculous comments about trashing the “franchise” player, I have this to say…Don’t waste your time. You are wrong. I’m almost certain that Rose has been a professional rehabbing his knee and trying to get back on the court. I’m also proud that he learned from last year and kept out of the limelight about the details of his return. If he returns this year for the playoffs (which I really hope he doesn’t) or next year, should he take a backseat to Noah the new leader of the Chicago Bulls?
Seniority and entitlement has always annoyed me. Derrick Rose obviously has the big contract, the endorsements and the fan base that fills the seats of the United Center and his bank account. But is he the reason why the Bulls have won for the last two years? Let me answer that for you real quick…no. Here’s a stat for you Coach Tom Thibodeau has coached 130 games that Derrick Rose has played. The game with Miami will mark the 164th game without D-Rose. While Derrick Rose has been out of the line-up, it has been Joakim Noah that has filled the leadership role creating a tough defensive identity that the Chicago fans love. What does this tell us Pippen Peoples? It tells us that there is an evolution going on with the dynamics of the Chicago Bulls. Let’s break it down shall we?
Joakim Noah is the undisputed leader in the locker room.
Let me use a boxing theme here. The boxing championship is broken down to the WBA, WBC and IBF titles. Joakim has all of them. The top of the food chain is Tom Thibodeau, the coach. Next up is Joakim Noah. These two are just like Bill Belichick and Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. These two have combined to create a culture of hard work, no-nonsense, no excuse brand of basketball that has kept the Bulls in this improbable playoff run. His enthusiasm is undeniable and the team had better have the same level of passion. Ask Tony Snell when the didn’t reciprocate the celebratory body bump last week. It could have been real easy for Joakim Noah to go nuts and hold the franchise hostage when Luol Deng was traded, but he has put his head down and kept grinding away. If that ain’t leadership, I don’t know what is. Derrick has a voice but being away from the team for a while rehabbing his knee has to lead to a certain disconnect.
The offense has changed dramatically
When Derrick Rose was playing, the offense was entirely dependent on Rose’s dribble penetration to open up opportunities for his teammates. Now that he’s been sidelined, Thibodeau has changed the offense to run through Noah in the high post. The motion allows Noah to read the defense and make the proper play. He has improved his jumper out to 15 feet so he’s a threat out to the key as well. This offense has been wildly successful because now Noah has turned into a triple-double machine as of late. Right now he has more triple-doubles than any other player in Bulls history not named Jordan or the guy this website is named after. Derrick Rose dominates the ball and needs it to be effective. Something has to give in the future if this team will continue its upward climb among the league’s elite.
Rose still has to change his game
If you have played basketball for a lengthy period of time in your life you know this for a fact. Your knees will eventually betray you the older you get. Oh and that’s without a major knee injury. Derrick Rose never looked comfortable this year when he was on the floor. He shot 35% from the field. Couple that with 34% from the land of three and we come to this conclusion, it was a struggle. Sometimes in basketball you have to sometimes slow down to speed up. What that means is Rose is going to have different speeds to his game as opposed to the reckless take the ball to the basket and explode like he did three years ago. Yes it’s 2014! His apex at the time was 2011.
The future of the Bulls will be answered with a question. Who will lead this team going forward? It might not be an issue now, but it will be soon.