Chasing Down The Latest NBA News
The Chicago Bulls were one of the six teams dragged through the circus that surrounded LeBron James this off-season. They were one of the teams that James had a sit down meeting with and he was supposedly interested in playing there. There was folklore that anytime that LeBron went to Chicago, he would sit at the same table in the same restaurant that Michael Jordan would go to after his home games. Going to Chicago meant LeBron could chase Jordan’s legacy, make the Bulls champions again, and thrive with a talented core that consisted of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng.
In the 11th hour, Chicago signed Carlos Boozer to entice LeBron with another intriguing piece. It wasn’t enough.
LeBron didn’t want to have any part in having to play in Jordan’s shadow and knew he couldn’t become a global icon in MJ’s city. Instead, he chose to go to Miami to play in Dwyane Wade’s shadow and to become a global icon known for taking the easy way out.
Photo Credit: Matt A. Brown/Icon SMI
Wade was also someone the Bulls had a shot at getting this summer. Chicago apparently put together such an impressive pitch to Dwyane that it warranted an infamous second meeting that ended up getting the Bulls no closer to acquiring a superstar with all of their available cap space. Wade coming to Chicago was a better story than James, at least for the folks in the city. Wade was born in Chicago and had the most Jordan-like performance we will likely ever see in the 2006 NBA Finals (even though the refs played a big part).
He decided to stay in South Beach in an act of loyalty to the team that drafted him and to the city he won a title for. Certainly, Bulls’ fans could be upset but not angry at Wade for wanting to show that there still was such a thing as repaying the team that had housed you for your entire career by sticking around.
In the aftermath of all of this mess, Chicago seemed to be pretty distraught over missing out on LeBron and Wade. Throughout the whole process, I was adamant that adding one of those guys was unnecessary for the Bulls to become a championship caliber team. This was crazy talk for Bulls’ fans during their period of mourning but now, after having a few weeks to think about it, I hope to convince Chicago fans and the rest of the NBA that not all is lost just because LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh decided to play together in Miami.
Not all is lost because there is a kid, born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, that went to high school at the Simeon Career Academy, a public school located on the south side of Chicago, named Derrick Rose that is not only committed to winning, but he’s infatuated with doing so for one team: the Chicago Bulls.
Derrick made that much clear a few days ago after a Team USA Basketball practice session in Las Vegas, Nevada, when speaking with our friend Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com: “I’m never [leaving],” he said, before punctuating that statement a few seconds later. “Never.”
Rose is just 21-years of age and in just two years in the NBA, we have already seen flashes of a player capable of carrying a team to a championship as the best player on the team. You can say he’s never gotten passed the first round and you can say he plays in the league’s lesser conference and both things are true. But in his two playoff stints, Rose has averaged 20 points, six rebounds and six assists on 49% shooting (in seven games against Boston in 2009) and 27 points, seven assists and three rebounds on 46% shooting (in five games against Cleveland in 2010) and has played with a team that has had very few if any consistent offensive options to help out Rose on that end of the floor.
The Face of Chicago Basketball, Photo Credit: Christophe Elise/Icon SMI
And those numbers and his play don’t satisfy Rose. Every summer going back to his rookie year, I’ve met up with Rose at USA Basketball training camps, and each time he tells me there’s something new he’s working on. Last summer, it was getting the base on his jumper right. He needed to get his form corrected and wanted to get comfortable with the way he shot the ball. Additionally, he worked on how to control his body when taking step back or fadeaway jumpshots. This summer, he’s continued to spend hours in the gym doing nothing but shooting. But this time around, after shooting just 24% from three during his first two seasons, Rose has expanded his range and has improved the confidence he has in his shot from long range.
Rose has the devotion to be one of the best players in this league and he is already up there with the best point guards in the league. He’ll never say that but Derrick has made himself into a top five point guard thanks to both his God given ability and the hours and hours he’s spent in the gym during the summer.
Derrick needs the ball to be effective, which is why a pairing with he and James or Wade would be odd. As its been brought up multiple times in reference to Wade and LeBron playing together, there is only one basketball and Rose would need it just as much as those guys if they were on the same team. That being said, Derrick isn’t unwilling to pass the basketball. It may appear that way but when you consider that Rose has not played with an elite shooter or a big man that he can dump it down to, its not hard to understand why he’s willing to take a jumper each time he gets or creates an opening.
One of the knocks on Rose has been his low assist numbers (six per game in two years). With Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Rajon Rondo are all hovering around 10 helpers per contest, Rose’s six assists don’t look great in comparison. However, with the Bulls adding offensive talent like Carlos Boozer, who will give Rose one of the best pick and roll/pop partners in the NBA, Kyle Korver, whom Derrick will find wide open on the wing for three’s anytime he dribbles drives, and C.J. Watson, a point guard that can play alongside Rose and add another shooting threat, Rose should see a boost in his assists numbers.
Derrick’s other weakness is his defense. Despite his six-foot-three frame and tremendous amount of athleticism, Rose hasn’t been the defensive player that he should be. He only averaged one combined steal and block last season and posted a below average defensive rating. Obviously, improving your defense is all about committing to doing so, being in the right shape to fight hard on both ends for the duration of your time in the game, and understanding the schemes that your team has in place. This is where Derrick’s participation with USA Basketball will help his development as an NBA player. The staple of Team USA will be defense. With versatile athletes throughout the roster, getting stops and fueling the break will be key. If Rose comes back to the States with a better understanding and commitment to getting stops that end of the floor, there is no telling how much better he will be next season.
On top of the extra time and focus he will be putting on his defense during international competition this summer, the Bulls also have a new head coach, Tom Thibodeau. Thibodeau was essentially the Boston Celtics’ defensive coordinator for the past three seasons and the C’s were always in the top five defensively (in the NBA) over that stretch. If you combine that great defensive mind that helped mold Rajon Rondo, who was named to the First-Team All-Defense team this season, into the player he is, with an athlete and competitor like Rose, Derrick’s issues on that end of the floor should go away quickly.
Rose has carried the Bulls to the playoffs in the first two seasons of his career with minimal talent around him. This off-season, despite missing out on the two big names of the free agent class, Chicago added some very talented players to their roster. Carlos Boozer is one of the best power forwards in the game that has a post-game Rose and Thibodeau to rely on. Plus, Boozer has tons of experience in the pick and roll with Deron Williams and will likely reproduce the success he had with Deron while playing with Rose. The three man combination that the Bulls have with Rose, Boozer and Joakim Noah will create an array of options on the pick and roll with the second big man waiting on the baseline to cut to the basket.
On the wings, the Bulls signed Kyle Korver, who led the league with his 54% three-point success rate, to be their designated shooter for Rose to get the ball. C.J. Watson will play a similar role when he is on the court at the same time as Derrick. Ronnie Brewer will come in and defend, giving the Bulls a defensive specialist. He may not be someone you describe as a stopper but his role is defense and he has no trouble playing it. Kurt Thomas was also signed to do the same things he did in Milwaukee last season: rebound and defend when he sees the floor.
Things look pretty good for the Chicago Bulls right now. They have added key pieces this off-season, they’ve hired a new coach who’s biggest strength is defense and their young star is committed to bringing a championship back to Chicago. With Rose as the centerpiece, the Bulls now have a core group that consists of Boozer, Noah, Korver, Deng, Taj Gibson, Watson and Brewer. That eight man group has two all-stars (Rose/Boozer), three all-star level talents (Rose/Boozer/Noah), the league’s most deadly three-point shooter and a sophomore coming off a rookie campaign in which he averaged 12 points, 10 rebounds and 1.7 blocks PER 36 minutes that will now back-up Boozer (Taj Gibson).
Everything is going to be all right, Chicago. LeBron may not have wanted to bring a title to his hometown and Dwyane Wade may not have wanted to return to Illinois to bring the Bulls their first title since MJ retired, but don’t worry, Rose does want to do those things. Derricks wants to win a championship for his hometown team and he wants to bring Chicago their first title since Michael left.
Rose isn’t scared to step into the shadows that Michael Jordan casts over every player that suits up for the Chicago Bulls. He’ll never be Jordan, nobody will, but he’s got a darn good shot at becoming the next best thing in the city he was born and raised in. Chicago.