Derrick Rose Waiting for his MVP and the Next Playoff Obstacle, the Atlanta Hawks

Derrick Rose will be the MVP. It’s still not official, but between Tom Thibodeau winning Head Coach of the year and tying a rookie head coach record for 62 wins and C.J. Watson tweeting stuff (Rose says Watson knows lots of important people), the hype during the latter part of the season and Rose’s numbers – 25 points and 7.7 assists per game while leading the Chicago Bulls to the best record in the league and their first division title since those Michael Jordan days, you can say it’s pretty much in the bag.

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Lets begin with negative stuff regarding winning the MVP – The last MVP winner to go on and win the NBA title was Tim Duncan in 2002-2003. Yeah, the award hasn’t been kind to the recipients for nearly a decade now. Kevin Garnett in ’04, Nash twice in a row, Nowitzki (first round exit in ’07), Kobe Bryant in (’08 – amazing Bryant has just one regular season MVP, but that’s another story and matter) and LeBron James the last two seasons. Except for Bryant in 2008, none of these guys even made the finals that year.

Back to Rose and his year – There are a few guys out there who can claim they deserve the award as well this season – LeBron James for example. The pure win-loss number he created this season – Leaving the Cavs after winning 61 games last season destroyed them. They won 19 this year. His arrival, along with Chris Bosh, improved Miami’s by 11. That’s a 53 game swing on LeBron’s shoulders. Still, despite his usual impressive numbers (26.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 7 assists) LeBron knew he won’t win the MVP a long time ago. I even read a piece about Blake Griffin deserving the MVP honor along with his rookie of the year award. While Griffin was the new refreshing thang this season or at least during a certain Clippers run mid-year, double doubles and high flying dunks aren’t enough.

Dwight Howard, Russell Westbrook and maybe I forgot a few guys. All had very good years, probably the best in their careers. None had the impact on games, especially during endings, like Rose had. Just look at the first round series with Indiana and Rose’s ability in game 1. MVP like indeed, with his 39 points. Dwight Howard broke records in the first two games in these playoffs but that was far from enough.

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The Hawks are up next for Rose and the Bulls, not a bad matchup again. Rose and the Bulls won the season series 2-1. It started with a 83-80 loss at Atlanta. Rose had a terrible night, going 5-21, scoring 12 points. He scored over 30 twice in the two wins, home and away. He needed only 29 minutes in the second game, a 114-81 blow out, to reach 30.

The biggest difference between the two teams in those games was the rebounding. Chicago out rebounded the Hawks by 22 and by 14 in those wins. The Bulls didn’t get too many points from their big men, they didn’t need too.

Atlanta decided to go big in the Orlando Series, putting Jason Collins in the starting lineup and dropping Marvin Williams. Zaza Pachulia got more and more involved to dominate the paint. They didn’t mind Dwight Howard scoring as long as he didn’t create too many second chance opportunities and points while having enough men to focus on Orlando’s outside shooting. Once the Magic couldn’t get any shooting game going for them most of the time, they were done.

A problem for the Hawks will be Kirk Hinrich’s injury. This will probably get Jeff Teague more involved and Jamal Crawford more than ever. Guarding Rose? I think Joe Johnson, averaging over 41 minutes in the post season so far, will be the man to attempt keeping Rose in check, at least in the beginning of games.

Both teams are coming in rested, which doesn’t always bode well, as the Celtics can tell after last night’s loss against the Heat. Too much rest might be bad at times. Still, Chicago’s closer in the Pacers series was more like it after struggling and chasing the Pacers during the first four games. Carlos Boozer has to start get going. He is suffering from some toe problems, but his struggles this post season made things a lot more complicated for the Bulls in the first round series. Some crowd and media pressure might follow if he continues his poor form.

A huge difference maker, as usual,will be Loul Deng. Quietly and efficiently, Rose’s side kick is there to finish off games and take it up a notch defensively. It’ll be interesting to see his match up with the uber-athletic Josh Smith. If Smith can manage to stop Deng and still enough in the tank to contribute offensively, the Hawks might have a shot of giving the Bulls some trouble.

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For the finish, there’s Derrick Rose. No matter who Atlanta put on him, he’ll manage to score. This isn’t the Chris Paul case, on which the Lakers did a great job in the closing games. Paul doesn’t have anyone reliable to help him score. Chicago have enough weapons, inside and outside, if the Hakws decide to focus their entire defense on Rose. There is a small chance for the Hawks, tiny, but they need a lot of things to happen and go their way. If Derrick Rose continues to play like the deserving MVP, there’s no chance at all.