The worries about Derrick Rose's health are a thing of the past.
Rose, who returned opening night for his first regular-season game in 18 months, is as fast and explosive as ever. He can plant off both legs, hurtle himself through contact and get off incredibly difficult shots. Minus the piece of tape adorning the back of his neck, Derrick Rose looks like...Derrick Rose.
Except the results.
The Chicago Bulls are 1-2 as they head to Bankers Life Fieldhouse. For a team that some enterprising chaps chose as the best in the Eastern Conference heading into this season, allowing 58 second-half points to the supposedly lowly Philadelphia 76ers isn't exactly encouraging.
Neither is the play of Rose, who has struggled perhaps more than he ever has as a pro.
The 2010-11 NBA MVP is averaging a meager 14.3 points, 4.3 assists and 3.7 rebounds per night—all down from his career averages. And that's just the start. He's giving the ball away just under six times per night, barely making over a quarter of his shots and generally looking abhorrent on the defensive end.
The Bulls are getting outscored by 10.2 points per 100 possessions with Rose on the floor this season. They're outscoring their opponents by eight points over the same per-possession rate. All of that comes from the defensive side.
When Rose has been on the floor this season, Chicago has given up 106 points per 100 possessions, equivalent to the sixth-worst rate in basketball in 2012-13. With Rose off the floor, that dips down to 87.1 points—a historically great figure over a season-long sample and better than the Memphis Grizzlies' current league-leading rate.
All of this acknowledges one thing: Rose has been bad this season.
Worse? The utterly asinine reaction in the Windy City. The city where steaming #HOTSPORTSTAKES like this from the Chicago Tribune's Steve Rosenbloom are getting bandied about:
But no. It isn’t happening. Rose isn’t happening. Rose is bad, and it’s impossible not to go back to his refusal to follow the plan. It’s impossible not to get angry about it all over again. I know it doesn’t do any good. I know it won’t change Rose’s lousy play this season. But it feels better to scream about it than try to bottle up the aggravation that Rose’s silly act prompted then and now.
I'll save you reading the rest of that column. It's the same stuff as last April, repackaged in a way that supposedly justifies irrationality.
Rosenbloom goes as far as to say Rose "played" the city of Chicago and the Bulls franchise and is doing so again. Apparently it was "silly" for Rose, the team's best player since Michael Jeffrey Jordan, to miss an entire regular season and playoffs to recover from an injury that threatened the very thing that makes him so spectacular—his otherworldly athleticism.
But we're not going all Fire Joe Morgan here. Rosenbloom's attitude represents that of many in Chicago.
Rose cozied himself into this bed himself by sitting out the 2012-13 campaign. Though patently unfair, he used the entirety of the goodwill and patience usually bestowed upon stars returning from injury. If Rose was anything less than his former self, if the Bulls were anything less than championship contenders, the resentment was bound to come cascading down.
The process behind the overreaction is apparent. But, again, for the sake of sanity, one must ask: Are we really having this discussion after three games?
If so, let's paint a picture:
Player B looks like he's having a better season, but not by all that much. Player B is also Kyrie Irving, who was considered the NBA's eighth-best player in ESPN's player rankings heading into the season. The Cavaliers are scoring 84 points per 100 possessions with Irving on the floor. Keep in mind that human work in progress Andrew Bynum has been getting some minutes with Kyrie on the bench.
The handwringing about Irving? It's nonexistent. Why? Because Cleveland has played four games and that's an inherently difficult sample to judge.
Because of his injury and because of his decision not to play last season, Rose isn't afforded the same leeway.
“I’m not worried about Derrick,” Joakim Noah said, via K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. “You know, his competitive nature and all that, we’re in this together. When he struggles, we all struggle. We’re all mad that we’re not clicking, but we will. I’m confident in this team.”
And, looking at a few underlying numbers, Noah has reason to be optimistic.
Evan Turner and LeBron James are the only two non-bigs who have shot more times in the restricted area than Rose. He's having plenty of success driving to the rim; the problem is finishing when he gets there. Among players who have attempted at least 10 shots in the restricted area, only Dion Waiters and Mario Chalmers have shot a lower percentage.
On film, it's blatantly obvious that he's pressing. Rose is playing a take-no-prisoners style and showing just as much athleticism as before. He's just been coming along slowly at picking his spots, oftentimes barreling into two and three defenders for no good reason.
As pointed out by coach Tom Thibodeau, Rose is also having a difficult time getting foul calls this season.
‘‘Next question,’’ Thibodeau said, via the Chicago Sun-Times' Herb Gould. ‘‘I’ll say this: I don’t know of anyone who drives as hard as he does. Nor as fast as he does. And I think sometimes he’s penalized for being a nice guy. I’ll leave it at that.’’
I don't buy Thibodeau's explanation for a second. Kevin Durant and Kevin Love aren't exactly the rudest human beings on the planet, and both are averaging double-digit free throws per game. Xavier Henry is nearly averaging eight per night.
Rose isn't getting calls because the referees understand the difference between a player who was hit and one whose own warp-speed, out-of-control motion sent him sprawling to the floor.
And that's what Rose is at this point. He's out of control, he's rusty and he's pressing. That's how you end up with a PER of 1.89.
That's the beauty of the 82-game schedule. Rose has the time to figure it out. Now everyone needs to just calm down and let it happen.
*All Stats via NBA.com unless otherwise noted.
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