It's not about the numbers for Derrick Rose right now.
Tom Thibodeau isn't worried about them. Neither is Luol Deng, or Kirk Hinrich or Taj Gibson. Sure, Rose's statistics through five games could be better, but right now the former MVP said he is feeling better every day and is beginning to round into form. Now he just has to get the results he wants.
Rose scored 12 points and handed out five assists in the Bulls' blowout win over the Jazz on Friday night. He only played 27 minutes and sat the final 14 minutes thanks to the Bulls' stifling defensive efforts and unselfish passing that led to 26 assists on 38 made baskets.
Beyond the basic numbers, Rose still struggled from the field, though his 3-of-8 performance actually raised his field-goal percentage from .313 to .328 -- the former number was the worst in the NBA for qualifying players entering Friday night's games. He also turned the ball over four times, all of which came in a second quarter when the Bulls coughed up the ball 10 times as a team.
So, no, the numbers didn't resemble Rose's 21-point, six-assist per game career average. And he still had flaws in his line, but the way in which in which he moved about the court, the decisions he made and the spaces on the floor he was able to maneuver within may have been the best the Bulls have seen from him all season.
"You don’t want to measure every play," head coach Tom Thibodeau said of his superstar. "Just for him, it’s a long layoff, each game he’s gotten better, each day he’s gotten better, and a big plus is he’s completely healthy. He’s explosive, so the timing’s going to come, it’s just a matter of time. And you can see it. Each day he’s getting better and better, he’s more comfortable, I think guys are getting used to playing with him."
Rose took a season-low eight shots, and only two came outside the paint. The first was a corner 3-pointer on the Bulls' second possession that hit nothing but the bottom of the net to give the Bulls a 5-0 lead. The second came off a second-chance opportunity, again early in the first quarter, when Rose was off-target from the 3-point line on the left wing. So in the final 24 minutes Rose was on the court, not once did he attempt a shot outside of the lane.
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Much was made this offseason about how Rose's jump shot would be much improved because of the limited movement he had recovering from ACL surgery, but the more indicative measurement of Rose's health and success is how frequent he's able to get into the lane. Entering tonight, Rose had taken 54 percent of his shots in the paint (36 of his 67 attempts). Tonight, that number jumped to 75 percent (six of eight), and even though Rose was just 2-of-6 when he got inside, he said it's a positive that he's beginning to get his explosiveness and speed back.
"It’s going to happen. I’m not worried about it. I can’t force anything. The worst thing you can do it go out there and really try to force it. It’s just not my game," Rose said of the looks he saw tonight against the Utah defense. "I’m going to let it come to me naturally and do what the team needs me to do; play the way that I normally way.
"And trust me, it’s going to come."
Deng already sees the actions, moves and cuts Rose, (who had more assists than turnovers for the first time) is making as a real positive, noting that shots will start falling eventually for the Chicago native, a career 46.2 percent shooter.
"Derrick has been out for such a long time and he’s going to just keep getting better. I’m really surprised how well he’s doing," Deng, who missed a triple-double by one assist, said. "A lot of shots that are not going in, but his movement and everything, for someone who’s been out that long. We’ve got 77 more games and he’s going to keep getting better. He’s putting the work in every day and he’s moving a lot better than I’ve seen him before. So everything is going to come together for him."