Chicago Bulls fans have long been clamoring for something to wrap their hands around with assurance. Not since the last shot that Michael Jordan took, pushing off Byron Russell more than 10 years ago, has the city seen a player like Derrick Rose.
Like Jordan early in his career, Rose has had to put the team on his back at times when games get close. Reminiscent of the late-'80s Bulls, his supporting cast can be counted on, but mostly in the first three quarters. Rose has to be the hero when the game is on the line.
That alone puts him in the driver’s seat for regular-season MVP.
When the season started, the league was moonlighting in Miami and the Lakers were the chosen ones. The Bulls got a new coach in Tom Thibodeau, a new free-agent scorer in Carlos Boozer, and a new mindset that they were contenders and not just an obstacle for Boston to get around.
Lucky for Thibodeau, he didn’t take the job he was offered in Washington. Lucky for Chicago, they found the defensive-minded coach they needed.
Many fans saw the moves as a big step forward for the team. Chicago really wasn’t whole for a big chunk of the season, with Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah out for long periods of time.
That didn’t stop Rose from showing the league that it was his time, no matter who was beside him. Even though the Bulls didn’t have all their weapons, Rose kept them viable through injuries and the dreaded “Circus Trip.”
With his explosiveness, court vision, killer cross-over, an actual floater and an instinct in the clutch that other MVP candidates seem to be lacking, Rose has to be a shoo-in for the award.
What doesn’t receive as much credit as it should is his ability to penetrate and kick. Rose would lead the league in assists if the perimeter scorers were knocking down more of their shots. He puts average scorers in great positions on the floor.
Sometimes, he should just keep the ball and get to the line more.
Rose is a high-percentage free throw shooter. If referees are waiting to give him calls like other superstars, the time is now and should have been months ago. When Rose gets to the line at least eight times, the Bulls have only five losses!
Getting to the foul line in crucial situations is how Michael and Kobe made long playoff runs and became legends.
When the Bulls have played premier teams this season, Derrick Rose has shown leadership by example. When Rose takes questions just seconds after a game, he usually talks about the mistakes he made. Others would smile and want the spotlight.
It shows true maturation from a player who came into the NBA at a young age with so much pressure on him from the beginning.
The only thing holding Rose back from a title is his own team. If the Bulls are to make it in June, they have to get home-court advantage from the Celtics. All teams are better at home, but Chicago is another group at home on both ends of the floor.
The only way this season is not a failure for Rose is if it ends with him holding the MVP and Larry O'Brian trophies.