2013--14 RECORD: 48--34 (2ND IN CENTRAL) COACH: TOM THIBODEAU (5TH SEASON WITH BULLS)
How's the knee, Derrick? Expect any limitations, Derrick? Do you understand if fans are skeptical, Derrick? More than three years, and two knee surgeries, removed from an MVP season, point guard Derrick Rose felt like a rookie again as the Bulls' season opened. "I'm going to have to answer questions for the rest of my career," says Rose, 26. "The only way to answer all the critics is to be playing."
The questions persisted even after Rose played in Spain over the summer, suiting up for USA Basketball's gold-medal-winning team in the FIBA World Cup. On the one hand, he averaged only 4.8 points on 25.4% shooting, including 1 for 19 from three-point range; on the other, he did appear in all nine games over 16 days, averaging 17.1 minutes, without a setback. "My confidence in my body is very high," says Rose, who has been sharper during the preseason.
A career 20.8-point scorer and a preeminent isolation player, Rose—if healthy—fills a huge need for the Bulls. Last year they finished 27th in offensive efficiency and mustered just 9.8 fast-break points. In Rose's last full season, 2010--11, Chicago was 12th in points per possession and generated 13.5 points on the break.
Rose hopes that by shooting more floaters and pull-ups, he will absorb less contact at the rim and have a better chance of staying in the lineup. "I'm not going to try to overuse myself," says Rose. "I'm going to try to make the game as simple as possible."
15.9 PPG; 4.3 APG; 35.4 FG%; 34.0 3FG%
13.1 PPG; 4.9 RPG; 39.7 FG%; 28.3 3FG%
11.3 PPG; 4.2 RPG; 43.0 FG%; 38.0 3FG%
17.4 PPG; 9.7 RPG; 3.4 APG; 48.0 FG%
12.6 PPG; 11.3 RPG; 5.4 APG; 47.5 FG%
13.0 PPG; 6.8 RPG; 1.4 BPG; 47.9 FG
26.7 PPG; 7.0 RPG; 52.6 FG%; 44.9 3FG%
‚Ä†ROOKIE (STATS AT CREIGHTON)
Rose's offense balances a smothering defense, and Chicago gets its first post-MJ Finals trip.
With Rose diminished, the Bulls are consigned to being scrappy playoff underdogs.
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE BULLS
If Derrick Rose regains his explosiveness, the team is a championship contender. The Bulls won't have those long scoring droughts or problems producing at the end of the shot clock. They can give him the ball and know that something good will happen. The defense doesn't drop off with his return [from right-knee surgery], either, because he is tough to beat off the dribble.... Joakim Noah is an excellent passer from the elbow or the post. If you pressure him, he is so quick that he will drive around you. You invite the jump shot, but he has gotten better at hitting it.... With his quickness and length, Noah's pick-and-roll defense is second to none. They don't have to send help in those situations, leaving everyone else in position to close out on shooters.... Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler are two more guys who don't need help defensively. Gibson has improved his midrange shot. Butler needs to pick up his offense after slumping last season. Playing with Rose will get him easier looks.... A change of scenery will benefit Pau Gasol, another big man who's an outstanding passer. His Lakers were a mess the last two years, but a chance to win it all will motivate him. Gasol isn't a great defender, but he's long, and it's not as if he's replacing a stopper in Carlos Boozer. They're so organized defensively that Gasol will be fine.... Rookie Doug McDermott's shooting will open up room for slashing from Rose and Butler. People talk about McDermott's iffy defense, too, but Tom Thibodeau's sound scheme is the great equalizer. The Bulls keep the ball out of the paint, challenge threes and force long twos.
GARY DINEEN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
A move East will be beneficial for Gasol.
GARY DINEEN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
THE COMEBACK 2.0 Rose has played only 10 games since 2012, but his return and Chicago's off-season roster upgrades have the Bulls thinking big again.