Basketball fans who are excited about the return of Derrick Rose don’t have to wait until October to see the former Memphis Tiger perform competitively. The 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup gives hardwood enthusiasts worldwide the opportunity to see just how well the former MVP has recovered from two traumatic knee injuries that have kept him sidelined for just as many seasons.
Chicago Bulls fans have a vested interest in this international tournament. They know that any chance of their team hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June of 2015 depends heavily on Rose being present and able to perform; therefore, all eyes will be watching him intently.
Every move the Chicago native makes will be evaluated and analyzed several times over, then immediately used to gauge the success of the upcoming NBA season.
While it’s impossible to know exactly what each Windy City roundball aficionado is looking for, there are some common performance elements anyone looking forward to the 2014-15 campaign would like to see from their prodigal superstar.
Solid Perimeter Defense
Guarding well may seem like an easy skill to single out considering that the Bulls’ winning formula is predicated on effectively shutting down the opposition’s offensive schemes, but the relevance goes beyond adhering to team philosophy.
While it could take more than a few games to get into an offensive groove, Rose will be able to contribute immediately on the defensive side of the ball.
As the FIBA exhibition transpires, it would be encouraging to see him demonstrate a broader grasp of guarding the perimeter. This goes beyond the basic tenet of staying in front of his opponent. He should exhibit the ability to deny the ball, accurately track his assignment if in motion and play the passing lanes for easy steals.
These skills would carry over well and help take some pressure off of Rose to dominate straightaway while still allowing him to impact the most important phase of his team’s game plan.
Shutting down opponents seems to be high on his priority list. K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune (subscription required) quoted Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski saying that during practice Rose “...has gone after everybody and he really has gone hard. His movement on defense is spectacular.”
That certainly means tough times are ahead for Bulls foes. Other teams had enough to worry about when the plan was containing Rose if he had the ball. Possibly facing him with an improved ability to dominate at the other end of the court would probably be too much.
As great as it would be to see Englewood’s finest pester other ball-handlers, everyone still wants to see those spectacular scoring demonstrations as well. There are some offensive strides that should also be on display in this tourney.
Improved Outside Shooting
The only thing that would be better than seeing signs of the old high-flying, rim-attacking D-Rose during the FIBA showcase would be the evidence of evolution in his scoring catalog.
When looking at his shot charts from the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, the last full runs he made, it becomes glaringly clear that his outside shooting could use some work. Granted, this was when the team’s offense was severely hampered by a lack of consistent contributors, but those percentages are still paltry when considering how successful those seasons were.
It was the lack of efficient shooting that fueled Rose’s attack-the-paint mindset, forcing him to absorb copious amounts of contact and possibly contributing to his long list of bodily ailments, both minor and major.
Luckily, this is something of which he is well aware. In a piece written by Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk, the guard talks about how he plans on shooting “…a lot of floaters, a lot of pull-ups, stuff like that so you aren’t touched as much.”
There should definitely be indications that his shot mechanics and accuracy are better. Rose has practically had two years off with extensive rehabs and a very structured physical exertion regiment. Before being cleared to play after both major injuries, one of the few things he could do was practice shooting.
If Rose is going to help take his team from title contender to championship favorite, his game is going to have to expand. This world stage would be the perfect venue to broadcast to the basketball universe that stopping one the league’s best guards has become that much harder.
Sustained Effort and Ability
As impressive as Rose has been during Team USA’s practice sessions and scrimmages, it should be noted that he still has not played in a capacity that truly tests his abilities. He will be better gauged when the head-to-head competition begins.
The men’s team has four exhibition games scheduled between August 16 and 26. Being heavy favorites once the Basketball World Cup tips off, it could be playing almost daily for two weeks if it progresses deep into the bracket.
Over the course of this fast-paced action, fans need to see a consistent exertion of effort from Rose.
Sure, it would be nice to watch him going after the opposing team’s guard on both ends of the floor. Spectators would delight in his ability to regularly knock down outside shots. Bulls fans want to see if these, and other things, can be done day after day, game after game.
Conditioning will be the biggest determining factor in how successful Rose’s second return is going to be. All of the in-game improvements will mean nothing if he can’t maintain it over the course of the NBA's 82-game grind.
Given the praise that has come from Team USA coaches and players, Chicago fans are justified in their excitement about their squad’s immediate future. This global venture is not exactly like the competition that Rose is going to face when questing for the franchise’s seventh title, but it could be a great springboard.
There will be a variety of storylines on display during the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup. Rose’s narrative is one of the more interesting arcs and includes the interest of basketball fans everywhere.
A lot of Chicago residents and Bulls fans all over will be tuning in and watching, hoping for a sign that tells them their superstar has truly returned.