This still might be the preseason, but Derrick Rose is taking it quite seriously, considering he’s been off the basketball courts for so long. The Chicago Bulls are missing some key players on the final days of their preparation games, but still undefeated in them, mostly thanks to their returning point guard, who is playing with the same kind of intensity that separated him from the rest before his injury.
Rose finished with 24 points as the Bulls, playing without Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich, all left out for minor injuries, beat the Milwaukee Bucks 105-84. Rose finished with 6-of-10 from the field, including 40% from three point range, but his main way of getting points, as it was for Luol Deng as well, was going to the line. It seems teams aren’t quite ready to play in the same intensity as Rose when he drives to the basket, landing him either easy points or easy free throws, converting 10-of-11. The Bulls as a team shot 84.4% from the line.
The most important thing about this preseason isn’t the wins, although it’s quite nice going undefeated through the first six games, with two more (Thunder and Nuggets) left to play. It’s about Rose feeling confident about playing the same way he did before, which means driving to the basket while pushing the pedal to the metal, but still recognizing that no one on his team travels at that speed, and finding the right balance between playing a more traditional role as a point guard and going all the way, like a bull charging at a matador in the ring.
Thibodeau himself has constantly mentioned Rose playing too fast for everybody, or at least during his first two games back from the injury, but looking a lot more pleased with what he’s seeing from his point guard over the course of the last couple of weeks. Rose, unlike other players recovering from a serious injury, doesn’t seem to have a slower, more relaxed gear. The injury itself doesn’t seem to have curbed his aggression. He’s playing like he’s never left, and maybe with a bit of chip on his shoulder, trying to prove that his words from a few months ago about believing he is the best player in the NBA have at least an ounce of truth to them on some days.
There’s more than just Rose this NBA season. Jimmy Butler becoming a legitimate starting-five player is obviously the cause for plenty of attention, even though it’s in a position that might not be his best (shooting guard). That’s because Luol Deng, who scored 15 points in the win, is still their starting small forward, while the talks of a contract extension and potential trades still clouding what he’s actually bringing to the floor, which is quite a lot.
Rose thinks he’s more explosive now than he ever was, and that the injury hasn’t slowed him down in any way. The preseason isn’t usually the most reliable of indicators, but the Chicago Bulls should be quite pleased from what they’ve seen so far.