Derrick Rose was anointed the savior of the Chicago Bulls from the moment he was drafted last year. Rose has been a success at every level he has competed at.
He led his high school, Simeon Career Academy in Chicago to consecutive state titles in his junior and senior seasons. He led Memphis to only its second appearance in the NCAA Championship game and only its third Final Four ever. Now, he will try to lead the Bulls back to success that only the Boston Celtics have seen in NBA History.
Its appropriate that the Bulls and Celtics would play in the first round. They are first and third all time in NBA Championships. Michael Jordan scored 63 points to set the all time NBA playoff record against the Celtics in 1986. In spite of that record, the Bulls still lost that game in double overtime on the way to a Celtics series sweep.
Entering this year's first round series, the Bulls have never defeated the Celtics in the playoffs. That's not just never in a series, that's never in any playoff game. The Bulls were 0-10 entering this year's matchup. On top of that, the Celtics are the defending NBA Champions.
The Bulls caught a break when its was announced on the eve of the playoffs that Kevin Garnett would likely miss the entire postseason. Garnett is the heart and soul of the Celtics and the best interior defender.
His absence meant that the lanes getting to the basket would be more open. The Bulls lack a true low post scoring option. Rose and Ben Gordon are the the players the Bulls rely on to get the hoop and to carry them when they need scoring. Without Garnett to stop dribble penetration, Rose and Gordon's path to success became easier.
Even the most optimistic of Bulls fans couldn't have imagined what was coming next. What Rose accomplished in his first career playoff game surpassed every great in NBA history except Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Rose drived, dashed, floated and shot his way into the NBA record books. His 36 points tied Kareem's 39 year old NBA record for most points by a rookie in his playoff debut. His 36 points led the Bulls to a surprising 105-103 overtime victory to take game one of the series. Rose's 36 set a Bulls rookie playoff record, surpassing Jordan by one point. Jordan's 63 points came in his second season in the NBA and his sixth career playoff game.
In his first career playoff game, Jordan had 23 points, four rebounds and 10 assists. LeBron James had 32, 11 and 11 in his debut. Kobe Bryant scored only four points in his first career game.
In the 11 years since Jordan left, Chicago fans have not had much to cheer about. The latter half of this decade have seen good but not great teams. The lack of a superstar have meant the Bulls have been barely noticed by the national press.
Rose has Bulls fans believing, he added 11 assists and four rebounds. He scored 23 of the 36 in the second half.
Rose is going to be the player to lead the Bulls into the future. He is wise beyond his years. The performance he put on against the Celtics in game one was amazing by veteran standards. The fact he did it in his first ever playoff game was beyond historic.
Bulls Head Coach Vinnie DelNegro who was also making his playoff debut as a Head Coach, was more impressed with Rose's ability to run the team than his 36 points. "His 11 assists are more impressive to me than his 36 points, just because when he is making plays like that, the flow of our team is so much better."
As long as Rose remains a Bull, their future is bright. Surrounding him low post scorers and shooters will be important to maximizing his potential. The first step that John Paxson needs to take is re-signing Ben Gordon. Gordon and Rose have the potential to become one of the most dynamic backcourts in the NBA.
Rose's performance against Boston will go down as the first signature game of his career. He will likely be named the NBA rookie of the year later during the postseason. Michael Jordan also had his first signature game against Boston in 1986 and won the ROY in 1985. These will be the first of hundreds, if not thousands of comparisons to MJ.
This Bulls playoff run is reminiscent to the 1989 Bulls. That team upset Cleveland (the shot) and New York as a six seed before losing for the first of three consecutive years to Detroit. If the Bulls can upset Boston, they will truly have made a statement.