Derrick Rose Isn’t Back, But He Has A Starting Point


Derrick Rose isn’t back. Sure, he scored 12 of his 29 points on Thursday night in the fourth quarter and carried the Chicago Bulls to the finish line. One great fourth quarter doesn’t erase the rest of his ghostly performances this season. However, Thursday could be an early turning point for Rose and the Bulls.

The term “must-win game” is an overly-used phrase in sports. Teams are trying to win as much as possible in every sport. But on Thursday night, you could say that the Chicago Bulls needed a win in more ways than one. The Bulls were flat-out embarrassed by the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday night and they needed to make a statement to themselves and the rest of the league on Thursday against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Not many would argue that the biggest takeaway from the Bulls’ fourth win of the season (and second over a legitimate title contender) was the second-half play of former MVP Derrick Rose. After missing eight of his first nine shot attempts in the first half, Rose caught fire. Not only did Rose make 11 of his final 16 shot attempts, the league’s youngest MVP dished out seven assists and pulled down five rebounds in the 104-98 victory for the Bulls.

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In the early part of this season, you never know what you’re going to get with Rose. He missed all but one preseason game after taking an elbow to the eye in the opening practice of training camp. Rose had only played in one preseason game before playing 32 minutes in the season opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

When Rose spoke with the returning Craig Sager after Thursday’s game ended, Sager asked Rose about his struggles in the previous three games. In games against Detroit, Orlando and Tuesday against Charlotte, Rose scored a total of 18 points on 29 attempts from the field. Rose scored 29 points on four less attempts on Thursday night alone.

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“Those games don’t define me as a player for one, I work extremely hard. It’s all about timing and rhythm. When I was out those two weeks [after facial surgery], I wasn’t able to do anything,” Rose said after the win. “Now it’s starting to come back to me and take it one day at a time, one shootaround, one game, one practice at a time, and it’ll come to me one day.”

The most curious response from Rose during his interview with Sager was one of the looming topics off the court for Rose. Over the summer, a woman claimed that Rose and two associates sexually assaulted her in 2013, which has led to a case to take place in late 2017. On top of that issue was the rumor from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst on a potential crack in the foundation for Rose and the Bulls that could lead to Rose playing elsewhere in the future.

“I’m so numb to it, man,” Rose told Sager in the interview. “I try to stay away from it. I know who I am as a person and as a player. I know how hard I work. I know how much I dedicate my whole life to the sport.”

So basically, in the last six months, Derrick Rose has been rumored to not get along with his newly-paid backcourt mate Jimmy Butler, committing a serious crime, and he’s supposedly on the way out the door in Chicago as a Bull.

You can sense we’re getting off track, right? Good. Let’s get back to the things that have happened, like actual basketball, which Rose can still play pretty well when he gets going.

There’s no question about it: Rose was sensational on Thursday night. It’s become a common trend for Rose to play well on a bigger stage. The last time Rose scored 29+ in the regular season? It was a February game right before the NBA’s All-Star Break against Cleveland. Rose dropped 30 points in his match-up with Kyrie Irving and the Bulls won a big game before the break last season.

Will Thursday become a common trend? No.

Simply put, here’s why:

Since his MVP season in 2010-11, Derrick Rose has played in just 106 games. He’s not the same explosive player he once was. That’s no fault of his own. Sometimes, the basketball gods are quite cruel and some suffer. Rose is one of those players. But, the beauty of Rose’s attempts to find his former self is that it has allowed the Bulls an attempt to put help around him. Rose doesn’t need to score 25+ every night anymore.

The Bulls have a two-time NBA Champion, a former defensive player of the year, last year’s most improved player, and one of the brightest International stars in the game today. Derrick Rose doesn’t have to be “MVP Derrick Rose” every night. Is it fun to see Rose go off for 12 points in a fourth quarter of a big game? Absolutely. He’s been through a lot and he’s just 27 years old.

This part from Vincent Goodwill’s column on Rose after Thursday’s game was quite good:

"Because Jimmy Butler spent so much energy chasing around the baddest man on the planet [Kevin Durant] this side of LeBron James, and because Rose was getting the better of [Russell] Westbrook, the player many prop up as the antithesis of everything they believe Rose to be.“For him to have a game like this I know is a huge confidence booster,” Hoiberg said. “Our guys are very happy for him because they know how hard he worked in the offseason and how much time he has put in to get back after the injuries.”When Rose looks at Westbrook’s blinding speed, power and force, he doesn’t see a facsimile of what he used to be. Similarities, maybe, but that’s it. Westbrook’s critics want him to play more under control while Rose’s want him to play as reckless as his counterpart.Funny how that works, eh?"

Think of all the other times you probably thought he was “back”. Remember the game-winners against New York and Cleveland? There’s been moments where it was a possibility that the old Rose could be back and better than ever. Thursday night felt like one of those nights. But, until Rose proves that he can stay healthy most importantly and find consistency in his game on a nightly basis, there’s no need to declare he’s back.

Next: Bulls-Thunder: Three takeaways from a bounce-back performance for the Bulls

However, what might be back is Rose’s sense of humor (if he ever had one). I don’t know if he did. He never has a different expression on his face. Think back to Game 3 against Cleveland. He looked like a British Royal Guard after hitting the biggest shot of his career.

But, this was quite comical:

Rose even sent out where you can purchase the shirt of his son’s hilarious facial expression from last year’s playoffs on his personal Twitter account:

That’s funny.