Rose Carries Bulls Future on his Shoulders

Last season, when Derrick Rose won the NBA regular season MVP award, he was earning around $5.5 million, one of the lowest paid MVP winners in recent memory. The Chicago Bulls decided to bind their future to Rose’s, giving him a five year, $98 million contract extension, starting from the 2012-2013 season.

Besides becoming one of the highest paid players in the league, with the extension immediately putting him among the top 10 best paid players, Rose is now expected, not just because of the big time money he’s going to get, to be an MVP caliber player most if not all of the time.

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There’s more than a few reasons that Derrick Rose got the MVP award last season, and quite a few of them are linked to LeBron James. James, statistically, was just as good if not better. Rose averaged 25.0 points per game, with 4.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game, all career highs. He also recorded career highs in steals per game and blocks per game. Still, it was more about what his ability meant in relation to the rise of the Bulls, unlike the rise of the Miami Heat.

LeBron James could have won the MVP based only on his +/- effect on the win columns of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Miami Heat. But LeBron was already a two time MVP, and everybody hated him, including league officials, who don’t like the power moving too much to the players’ side. Rose was leading the charge of one of the most important teams to the league, in the third biggest market, bringing back the ghosts and spirits of 1990’s Bulls, the most popular team globally for the NBA ever.

Chicago weren’t considered title contenders in the beginning of last season, simply evolving into the best team in the NBA (regular season record says so, 62-20) as the season went along, with everybody going along for the ride as time went by. They beat the Miami Heat each and every time, while the Heat struggled with inconsistency and hot&cold streaks. The West? No one can count on the Mavs to win anything, while the Lakers fell apart during the season.

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But then came the playoffs, and Chicago found out that making it past the first round for the first time with Derrick Rose in the driver’s seat ain’t that easy. They went through Indiana and Atlanta, but it was far from easy. The Miami Heat series for the Eastern Conference was a touch with reality, and how far the Bulls have to go in order to be truly the beasts of the East. Oklahoma went through the same thing against the Dallas Mavericks.

So Rose, despite being a positive figure in the league, has people waiting for him to fall. Why? Because they said so, and people like feeling good about themselves and being right. Derrick Rose doesn’t look like a guy to dominate the MVP position. Many don’t even regard him as the best point guard in the league, and last season’s was just a case of the right circumstances coming together. Repeating, or exceeding that season, is¬†unlikely, they say.

I think it doesn’t matter. Rose doesn’t have to score that much or show that kind of stat line every night. He can, but I’m not sure if it’s in the Bulls’ best interest to have Rose killing himself for 40 minutes trying to do it all by himself. He fell apart eventually in the Heat series, with everyone taking a step back in crunch time, hoping Rose can do it alone.

Carlos Boozer needs to show why he’s paid. Joakim Noah needs to be more dominating offensively. Luol Deng, Richard Hamilton and a great and deep bench. Chicago have the tools to help Derrick Rose be the leader they need to be, not an MVP player who’s exhausted when it’s time to pull through the trenches.

The big money? He deserves it. The MVP last season? I would have voted LeBron James, but I’m fine with Rose getting it. He doesn’t have to be the MVP each night. The Bulls are a deep enough team, with more playoff experience than before and a proven champion joining the effort. The future might be expensive, but the Bulls made the right choice by hanging on to Derrick Rose, the best point guard in the NBA.