The Chicago Bulls continue their preseason schedule by beating the Memphis Grizzlies 106-87, as the issue of Derrick Rose and his adaptation to the NBA game once again stands in the focus of their preparation for the next season. So far, it seems to be going quite well.
In his second game back from injury, Rose scored 13 points on 3-of-8 from the field, finishing with 6-of-10 from the line and adding three assists, playing for 23 minutes. What was evident in comparison to his comeback game was his attempt to blend his tendency to play at full throttle from the first minute with the need of the team, which is for him to slow down, at least for now.
He hit his first three pointer of the preseason, but what really made the United Center crowd happy was his coast-to-coast drive during the first quarter, ending in a spinning layup. The Bulls had quite a few things missing last season due to his absence, and that explosive ability, making him almost unstoppable when he’s healthy, might have been the biggest thing they needed for him.
I wasn’t winded. That’s one of the reasons why when I got the ball I was just trying to push it every time, and I’m surprising myself. I guess I’m in a little bit of conditioning. And having to guard Mike Conley chasing him around the whole court all the time, I think I did all right. Tonight I think the first half was kind of jittery. I missed a lot of free throws in the first half, but that’s something that could easily be fixed. The second half felt much more relaxed and just trying to improve every game, just trying to get my rhythm back, my timing back, running the game, running the show and really trying to control the game. I could always play more. I think I condition myself to play more, but I have to understand that the training staff is doing everything for my best interest. So I believe in them — the training staff, the coaching staff — to really manage my minutes.
Tom Thibodeau isn’t going to give Rose more minutes than that, but it’s not just about keeping him from getting injured. It’s about giving Rose enough time to mesh in with his teammates, so opening night doesn’t look like one glitch infested program launch. Individually, it doesn’t look like Rose has been away for the last year and a half. The speed, the strength, the bravery in his drives to the basket.
But the Bulls need more than just one on one ability. Rose was the best point guard in the NBA because he combined that scoring ability with being a team player. As athletic as Russell Westbrook, only better at almost anything else, not to mention trying to get his teammates involved when he’s at his best. For that, even with the fear of him getting injured again, playing consecutively without too much rest is the only solution.