Derrick Rose trade marks end of special time for Chicago Bulls fans

Derrick Rose is no longer a member of the Chicago Bulls.

Let that sink in for a minute. As a Bulls fan, I’m still processing it.

We’ve been talking about this possibility for months—hoped for it even—and now the Bulls have officially pressed the rebuild button, shipping Rose to the New York Knicks along with Justin Holiday and next year’s second-round pick in exchange for Jerian Grant, Robin Lopez, and Jose Calderon.

After the disaster that was last season, the Bulls have been forced to accept that their championship window with this particular core of players has closed for good. With Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah all but gone already, speculation had been running rampant that either Rose or Jimmy Butler would be dealt to the highest bidder as Chicago truly looked to the future for the first time since Rose was drafted.

Since the Bulls have been putting forward Butler as the new face of the franchise and the player they would prefer to build around at this point, one could see the writing on the wall concerning Rose for a while now. Instead of letting him walk for nothing at the end of next season—given his decline due to injury, the Bulls likely weren’t going to splurge to keep him—the Bulls did the wise thing by trading him, making up for a season and offseason rife with dysfunction and denial.

By moving on from Rose and letting veterans like Gasol and Noah—players who were supposed to be championship pieces—go, Chicago seems ready to embrace the abyss, even if they aren’t willing to say it publicly yet. After all, none of the players they received in this trade look like guys the Bulls will try to compete for a championship with.

Lopez gives the Bulls another big man, which is something they desperately needed, but he’s not a great offensive fit or a particularly stellar player. Calderon only has a couple of years left in his career as a low-minute, veteran mentor for whatever point guard eventually takes over as the starter. Grant is still trying to find his way in the league but might serve well as a backup point guard/wing-player with playmaking skills. Maybe if he proves better in Chicago than he was as a rookie with New York, he has the best chance to grow into a future role with the Bulls. But is he a special player? Nope.

That’s one reason I’ll be very interested in what happens in tonight’s draft. While the Bulls could certainly look in a few directions in the draft, point guard might have just jumped to the top of the list with Rose’s departure.

While Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine might be looked at as a more of shooting guard, he did play point guard his senior and would be a solid option if available at #14. Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson, while perhaps not projecting as being a starter right away, has athleticism and scoring ability that could help him develop into something more if the Bulls were interested in putting him and former Fighting Irish teammate Grant back together.

Maybe a draft day trade happens and they manage to steal a top pick like Kris Dunn to helm the ship.

The impact of this trade, though, is about more than just the Bulls trading someone away and having to replace his production somehow. It’s the end of a unique story that started back in 2008, when the ping-pong balls overcame 1.7% odds to allow Chicago the chance to pick a hometown phenom that immediately became the most electrifying basketball player we’d had here since Jordan.

Rose won Rookie of Year honors and promptly led the Bulls into the most epic playoff series Chicago had seen in years, which they eventually lost into seven games to the Boston Celtics. For many Chicago fans that had been out of touch with the NBA or had been languishing through the post-Jordan years, Rose got us excited about Bulls basketball, and basketball generally in my case, again.

After he ascended into the upper echelon of the league with his 2011 MVP campaign and led the Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals, which they lost to the LeBron James-led Miami Heat, it seemed like the Bulls were just getting started as title contenders.

Even Jordan himself told Bulls fans that we shouldn’t be surprised if they won a championship. The way they were playing at the time under Tom Thibodeau, we could feel the possibility. Rose could’ve been LeBron James: the home-grown hero that delivered his city a title.

Who knows what would’ve happened if Rose hadn’t done that ill-fated jump stop in Game 1 of the 2012 playoffs with the Bulls winning handily in the 4th quarter, shredding his left knee and setting in motion a roller coaster of injuries, weird press conferences, and uncertainty about where Rose’s loyalties lay?

What if Rose could’ve improved on that MVP season and continued averaging 25 points and eight assists a season?

What if, at the height of his abilities—keep in mind, he won that MVP when he was only 22 years old—he could’ve helped the Bulls somehow steal a trip to the NBA Finals from LeBron James (wishful thinking…)? Could we have been talking about a burgeoning Hall-of-Fame career at this point in time rather than what the Bulls’ outlook is now that they’ve traded him? How many more moments like this…


and this…

were we robbed of along the way? The questions we’ll never be able to answer are the most maddening.

Now it feels as if, even though he wasn’t even the best player on this team anymore, that era of championship hopes and dreams leaves with Rose. Maybe this move isn’t even the last play Gar Forman and Jon Paxson have in mind, and we could tune in tonight for the draft or wake up some time in the next few months to find out that Jimmy Butler will be playing somewhere else as well.

For what it’s worth, I support the Bulls moving on from Rose (and Butler, too, if the haul is good enough) because it tells me that the Bulls organization is finally ready to be realistic, something it has actively avoided being for some time now. That said, for part of me at least, it’s still going to take some getting used to.

In any case, thanks for the memories, Derrick.

Khari Thompson

I'm currently a graduate student studying biology at the University of Notre Dame that follows sports (especially the Bears and Bulls) less like a hobby and more like a second job. Also a fan of all things dinosaurs. And Tolkien. Twitter: @kdthompson5

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