Derrick Rose is healthy, then he isn't. Then he's back, only to get hurt again. This has been the story of his season. It's been a continuous struggle to get him on the floor, but the Bulls still managed to go 50-16. No problems there right?
Well... Let's not be too hasty. Rose played in only 39 games this year, and honestly the Bulls didn't exactly miss him. Everyone else on the team stepped up and played amazing team basketball. John Lucas III completely revitalized his career as his replacement, and they started relying on other players.
When Derrick Rose plays, the offensive game plan is largely "give Derrick the ball and get out of the way". It's not exactly easy to switch back and forth between styles, especially in a lockout year where things like chemistry mean so much more.
And what happens if Rose gets hurt again in the playoffs? Completely changing your game plan in the middle of a series, especially against a team like Miami, is pretty dangerous.
So, here's what I think the Bulls need to do. They need to spend the first two rounds adamantly refusing to play one-on-five with Rose. They need to slowly reintegrate him into a team focused offense and limit his shots.
As we saw last year, if the Bulls play Rose-on-five against Miami they will lose. They need to use Philly and Boston as something of a warm up for the Heat series. Whatever system they plan to use against Miami should be what they use early in the playoffs because they have to make sure Rose is completely up to speed.
The biggest key for Chicago is defense. We don't know how well the Bulls can score right now, but we do know that they can play defense with anyone. If I were Derrick Rose, I would focus on just playing the best defense possible.
I think the Bulls actually lucked out with the Rose injuries in a way. They needed to learn not to be so reliant on him for points, and while that problem isn't exactly solved, they're definitely in a better situation than they were last year.
Now that they've proven they can win without Rose, they may be able to reel him in and force him to focus on a team style. Scoring 35 points looks good in theory, but if you do it on 39% shooting (as Rose so often does) it really limits what your teammates can do.
For the Bulls to play at their best, Rose should aim for a stat line of around 20 points on 50% shooting, 10 assists and two steals. In other words, Rose should only take high percentage shots and look to set up his teammates.
Reintegrating a player is hard, especially when it's an MVP who needs the ball so much. If the Bulls let Rose play the style he's used to it could undermine all of the confidence and experience they gained when he was out. If they can find the right balance between Rose ball and team ball, they'll be in great shape to steal the Eastern Conference crown from Miami.