The preseason isn’t over yet, but it’s not really a question or a doubt anymore. Derrick Rose is back, maybe even with some sort of vengeance, which means that the Chicago Bulls just might be the team to watch out for in the Eastern Conference. It also means that Rose just might be quite quickly back to where he left us off at: The best point guard in the NBA.
Getting Reggie Jackson, who actually did a pretty good defensive job on Rose during the first half, twisted to the point of confusion isn’t the only indicator of Rose looking like he hasn’t missed a beat these last 18 months. Just as a reminder – he was physically ready to start playing last season, so it’s not like he’s just now gotten back to practice and similar team exercises.
Rose finished with 26 points and 6 assists, playing for 35 minutes as the Chicago Bulls beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 104-95, both teams taking the game or at least it’s closing moments quite seriously.
Rose didn’t have the best time shooting the ball early on and finished the game with a 6-of-15 from the field, but he was strong, alongside Luol Deng, in the finish, including knocking down 10-of-10 from the line.
The interesting thing about Rose is that he seems a lot more confident driving to the basket than you’d expect from someone who has just gone through such a long period of recovery and rehabilitation from a knee ligament tear. The thing that scares him the most seems to be taking jump shots and scoring from long range, although it has gotten better as the preseason went along, with Rose not relying only on what he knows best. He hit four three pointers in the game, hitting 50% of his shots.
Deng, who might be beginning his final season with the Bulls (contract expires at the end of the season) had a big game with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and although the Bulls did play with Joakim Noah who took a night off to give his injury a bit more time to heal, they looked good offensively, especially when Rose was on the floor, next to Jimmy Butler, Carlos Boozer, Deng and Taj Gibson in the lineup as well.
It’s good to remember that in 2011-2012 the Bulls finished with the best (tied for with the Spurs) regular season record for a second straight year. While records don’t always tell the whole story, as some teams take it easy before the playoffs, Rose had the Bulls averaging the most points per possession when he was playing (which wasn’t much, missing almost half the season). He’s that good, and this team is that much better with him healthy and playing again.
It’s hard to say whether or not the Bulls re going to be the main contenders in the Eastern Conference to the Miami Heat or even the best team there before we see Rose taking the intensity of the regular season head on. But going undefeated in the preseason does serve as a warning sign for the Heat, Pacers and the Knicks, that with Rose on the floor, Chicago are going to be a much better team than what they put on last year.