Derrick Rose is, without question, the best player on the Chicago Bulls when healthy. That's no small feat considering that every other member of the starting five is now, or has been, an All-Star. Will he be able to resume his MVP level of play when he comes back though? And what level will he need to play at for the Bulls to make the NBA Finals?
First, though, let's take a little walk down memory lane. There are those who have tried to suggest that Rose is not a top-five player, or that he was undeserving of his MVP. For those, I would like to point out one thing. In the history of the NBA, there have been three players who have had 2,000 points, 600 assists, 50 steals and 50 blocks in one season.
The other two were Michael Jordan (1988-89) ad LeBron James (2009-10). Even they only accomplished that once.
Whether he deserved the MVP is all a matter of opinion (and by virtue of the vote it's clear the majority opinion is that Rose deserved it).
What cannot be disputed, though, is that when you look at his ability to both score and facilitate, he has reached a level that only the most elite players in modern history have achieved.
And if that's not enough for you, there's this.
Will he need to return to the 25.0 point, 7.8 assist averages that he put up in his MVP season though? Not really. After all, the Bulls have established they can beat the East's best teams without him even playing.
However, what they have also established is that they can lapse into periods of ineptitude that would bemuse Inspector Cluzo. At times, their inability stop the opponent from scoring is exceeded only by their inability to score themselves.
Enter Derrick Rose.
What the Bulls need more from Rose that gaudy numbers is his absolute, unmitigated and passionate hatred for losing. Some players play to win; some play to not lose. The greatest don't just play not to lose. They revile losing. it makes them want to vomit. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant won rings because they hate to lose even more than they want to win.
I read an article once about how Troy Aikman dealt with his second postseason loss. After winning two Super Bowls, the Cowboys went to the Conference Championship where they lost to the San Francisco 49ers.
He said after the game he felt stick to his stomach, He wanted to hold onto that feeling. He didn't want to forget how it felt because he never wanted to feel it again, so he went home, wrote down the score, 38-28 and taped it to his mirror, so that every day he looked at himself, he would be reminded of how it felt to loss.
The Cowboys won the next Super Bowl.
We often hear in sports about "Who wants it more?" but sometimes that question isn't defined quite right. It should be: Who rejects the idea of losing more? Who is the most adamant? "Refuse to lose" means more than "will to win."
Derrick Rose is such a person. Against the Clippers in his MVP season, he missed a free throw that would have tied the game. He held onto that feeling for a year. And then, last season, he played what might have been the best game of his career against the only other point guard you could consider as the best in the NBA.
What the Bulls need from Rose more than gaudy numbers is that unyielding willingness to do whatever it takes, which ignites the team when they aren't playing well. With Rose, it's like he saves up all the arrogance deserving of his tremendous talent and oozes it on the court.
For a player so renowned for his humility, he is defiantly arrogant when it comes to the notion of losing. He despises it. He rejects it.
While it would be great if he could back and score 25 points a game, if he only averages 18, that's fine—depending on when they come.
What the Bulls need more than that is this guy.
And this guy.
And this guy.
That same resilience which he re-purposed in rehabbing from his injury must now be returned to its original focus. The "run-stopper" must make his return. If he is healthy, the Bulls can win the East.