Forget making a blockbuster deal for Dwight Howard, and forget about missing out on LeBron and D-Wade two off-seasons ago. And FORGET that every journalist and analyst is telling you that the Heat will win it all this year. Everyone seems to overlook the Bulls, and the MVP of the league, Derrick Rose.
In Englewood, Illinois born and raised, basketball sensation D Rose snagged the MVP last season by a landslide. This season, Bulls fans have yet to see him at his MVP level of play because of the turf toe and back spasm injuries.
Entering the second half of the season, the Bulls are playing fantastic team basketball. The defense is stifling despite all the injuries. The big guys are killing it — over the last ten games: Taj Gibson-21.1 PER, 8.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, Joakim Noah-22.9 PER, 12.4 ppg, 11.6 rpg, 1.6 bpg, Carlos Boozer 21.8 PER, 17.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg, and Omer Asik 5.6 rpg (ESPN.com). Luol Deng just became and All-Star. Best of all, we have barely seen free agent pick up, Richard Hamilton who will fill the black hole at the two guard spot that we had last year. No offense to Keith Bogans, he did exactly what he was brought in to do; spot up threes, two to three times per game and play solid defense. That being said, Hamilton presents a serious offensive upgrade with championship experience. He also steps into the starting role, moving Ronnie Brewer back to the bench mob, which, let’s be honest, has not been the same without him. This will give Luol more of a break and everything should be more fluid. Most importantly, Hamilton also has the ability to put up 20 points a night and keep Dwyane Wade chasing him around screens for 30-40 minutes.
ALL of that being said, Derrick Rose has not been himself at all this year. His scoring, rebounds, free throw attempts per game and free throw percentage are down. His field goal percentage is slightly up but his shots per game are down. It is evident that Derrick is making an attempt to carry less of the offensive load, as that was his only criticism in last year’s playoffs.
Look for a healthy Derrick to rebound from a sub-par first half of the season and take it upon himself to lead the Bulls to number 7. That being championships. In order to do so, several things need to happen.
- Stay healthy! I cannot stress this enough. While the Bulls boast a 27-8 record, 2nd place in the East, having Derrick in the rotation is absolutely essential. He makes the game so much easier for everyone around him and not having him on the court entirely eliminates our chances; Like I need to say that.
- Get back to last year’s level of play. Despite what people are saying Derrick needs to carry the offense. It will make the Bulls more dangerous down the stretch because it will force teams to trap and double him. This will open up space for Rip, Luol or Boozer to make some offensive noise. It sounds oxymoronic but the more scoring Derrick does, the less scoring he will have to do.
- That being said, he needs to play balanced, smart basketball. Limit the turnovers, don’t force shots and don’t be afraid to go to Boozer early. It will help increase the team’s confidence in each other.
- Derrick, just be Derrick. You’re good, real good. Do your thing and let the game come to you. You’re everything a role model should be and it is great for the Bulls and the game of basketball as a whole.
- Lastly, remember the heartbreak that was last year’s Eastern Conference Finals. Use it as fuel and get hungry.
The Bulls certainly have championship pieces including mental toughness, defensive intensity, a solid supporting cast, and coaching staff. Now, Derrick needs to make the next step as a player to win a championship and achieve basketball greatness.