Rose displaying unselfish play, trust in teammates

637460.png

Rose displaying unselfish play, trust in teammates

By Christopher Cason
CSNChicago.com Contributor

The maturation of Derrick Rose has been on full display during these first few games of the season.

Winning last seasons MVP, Rose knew that coming into this season, opposing defenses were going to key in on him even more so and while he talked openly about improving his conditioning, adding a post game and fine-tuning his shooting; the one thing thats been evident in the Bulls 8-2 start is a more balanced floor game and his trust in his teammates.

Hes turning into one hell of a point guard, said a delighted Carlos Boozer when asked about his Roses patience on offense this season. Last year, he would take on the double and triple team and he would score most of the time. This year, hes doing a great job of trusting us. Hell see a double team and hell pass the ball to the right person and let them make the play and I like it when hes aggressive but hes playing incredibly smart. His assists are going up every game, hes doing a great job of getting everyone involved and hes kind of maturing right in front of our eyes.

Rose is averaging 20 points and 8 assists. His field goal attempts are their lowest since his rookie season (14.9) and while hes seemed more passive offensively to most, for opposing teams that has only made him even more of a threat.

Hes just picking his spots and that can be even more dangerous because hes less predictable, Detroit Pistons guard and former teammate Ben Gordon told CSNChicago. The thing Ive definitely seen from him is the maturation of his game from the standpoint, where hes picking his spots and trying to be more efficient. He doesnt have to shoot the ball 30 times to get his numbers and when he doesnt do that, hes even more of a handful because you dont really know when hes about to pick his spots.

The Bulls are second in assists per game at 22 per contest.

The ball movement has not only created easier shots for Roses teammates but has also kept them more engaged offensively which has caught opposing defenses, whos game plan is to stop him at all cost, off guard.

As spectacular as his exploits were last season, Rose appeared to tire in the postseason as the burden of carrying the offense fell on him even more so with Boozer playing through a turf toe injury.

He came back this year a better point guard, said Boozer. And I think his scoring ability isnt going anywhere and we know in the fourth quarter, were going to go to him until defenses stop him which I havent seen in my two years here. It is pretty amazing to be so young and learning how we can win games easier. I think its also less wear and tear on his body.

In just his fourth year, the thought of competing for a title is a very real one for Rose and the Bulls and to reach those heights, hes going to have to conserve his best for when its needed most.

Something it seems, he realized after his struggles in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat, a series in which he has taken all the blame for.

President Barack Obama, a well-known Bulls fan, welcomed the Dallas Mavericks to the White House on Monday and while he congratulated the team for their accomplishment, he let them know who he expected to be welcoming next year.

This was a remarkable run, a great victory," by Dallas, Obama said. "It's too bad that next year, it'll be the Chicago Bulls here.

When told of the Presidents comments, Rose grinned and replied;

Thats my guy, said Rose of President Obama. If we make it to the Finals, he promised me that hell be there so Im going to hold him to that promise.

As if he needed anymore motivation.

Fast Break Morning Update: Bulls trade Gibson, McDermott; Blackhawks beat Coyotes

Fast Break Morning Update: Bulls trade Gibson, McDermott; Blackhawks beat Coyotes

CSN to carry live coverage of Class 1A-4A IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships

CSN Chicago expands regional broadcast plans for Fire

Patrick Kane nets hat trick as Blackhawks cruise past Coyotes

NBA Trade Deadline: Bulls deal Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott to Thunder

White Sox will retire Mark Buehrle's number in June

Why Joe Maddon sees Kyle Schwarber as the leadoff guy in Cubs lineup

Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Coyotes: Nick Schmaltz shines on 21st birthday

NBA Buzz: In wake of trade deadline, Bulls again caught in the middle

Braves Way: How Cubs are still focused on next wave of young talent

What the Bulls are getting in point guard Cameron Payne

NBA Buzz: In wake of trade deadline, Bulls again caught in the middle

NBA Buzz: In wake of trade deadline, Bulls again caught in the middle

Thursday's trade with Oklahoma City points out the problem with trying to stay in playoff contention while also rebuilding the roster with more young and athletic players.

The Bulls obviously hurt their postseason chances by dealing locker-room leader and rock-solid pro Taj Gibson and their best 3-point shooter in Doug McDermott. And, at first glance, the players they got back don't look very impressive.

Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson made it clear that one of the objectives in Thursday's deal was to free up playing time for his last two first-round draft picks, Denzel Valentine and Bobby Portis. He also made it clear that newly acquired point guard Cameron Payne would play a lot over the final 25 games of the season.

So, how does Fred Hoiberg now deal with an unwieldy number of players expecting to get minutes? If Payne is going to play, that probably means Rajon Rondo is out of the rotation. But will Rondo sit by quietly so the Bulls can preserve his $14 million salary slot for possible trades this summer? Or will the front office be forced to offer him a contract buyout?

And what about the other two players acquired in the Oklahoma City deal? Long-range specialist Anthony Morrow is suffering through one of the worst seasons of his career, hitting just 29 percent of his attempts from 3-point range. Will he get the minutes previously given to McDermott, or is he a candidate for a buyout? Paxson cryptically said Morrow's role is "still to be defined."

Joffrey Lauvergne, a 6-foot-11 center, has some ability, but he's a restricted free agent at season's end and it's hard to project him getting any meaningful playing time behind Robin Lopez and Cristiano Felicio.

So let's add it all up. Hoiberg now has four point guards — five if you count Isaiah Canaan — and three centers to juggle, plus he'll have to find minutes for Valentine, Morrow and Paul Zipser at the wing spots behind Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade.

How will Portis fare as the new starting power forward? And what to do with Nikola Mirotic? His fading confidence is probably at a new low after the team's failed efforts to find him a new home before the deadline.

It will be fascinating to see if this team can manage to hold onto a playoff spot after losing Gibson and McDermott, to say nothing of the maddening inconsistency we've witnessed over the first 57 games of the season.

Good health will be critical, with the team's two best players, Butler and Wade, each enduring some bumps and bruises in the final weeks leading up to the All-Star break. We've seen what the Bulls look like without Butler, and it's not pretty. They're 1-5 in the games Butler missed because of illness and a right heel contusion.

The story is different when Wade has been out. The Bulls are 5-4 in the games he's missed because of illness, injury or just plain rest. Still, the 12-time All Star has shown the ability to raise the level of his play when the games matter most, and you can expect he'll be a big factor for the Bulls down the stretch. Don't forget, Wade almost single-handedly took an undermanned Miami team to within a win of the Eastern Conference Finals last season with a turn-back-the-clock playoff performance.

Hard to gain much from looking at the remaining schedule. Only 11 of the remaining 25 opponents have winning records, but we've all seen how that's gone in the past. If the Bulls can head into April around .500, they should be in position to make a strong closing run with a pair of matchups against the NBA's worst team, Brooklyn, along with games against the Pelicans, Knicks, 76ers and Magic to close out the regular season.

Of course, since Hoiberg has been told to give significant minutes to Portis, Valentine and Payne the rest of the way, it's possible making the playoffs isn't quite as important as it was at the start of the season. Questions about Butler's future will start up again as we approach the NBA Draft in June since Paxson wouldn't commit to trying to build around the three-time All Star, and if Butler goes, it's a pretty safe bet that Wade follows him out the door.

Life's never easy in the NBA when you're stuck in the middle. Maybe the trade with Oklahoma City is the signal we've been waiting for that a full rebuild is on the horizon.

[MORE BULLS: What the Bulls are getting in point guard Cameron Payne]

Here are a few stories from around the Association that have caught my attention.

Off to see the Wizards

The Wizards have been on fire since Dec. 12, putting together a 25-12 record. In case you haven't noticed, fourth-year forward Otto Porter is among the league leaders in 3-point percentage, shooting 46.5 percent to go along with 14.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. It's going to cost the Wizards a small fortune to sign the restricted free agent this summer.

Washington's backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal is finally starting to reach the potential everyone saw when the Wizards upset the Bulls in the first round of the 2014 playoffs. The two are combining for an average of 45 points and 14 assists per game, with Wall now a perennial All Star capable of taking over games with his scoring and playmaking. Beal probably should have made the Eastern Conference All-Star team as well with his 22.2 points per game scoring average, shooting 47.3 percent from the field and 40.2 percent from behind the 3-point line.

The Wizards also made an under-the-radar pick-up, getting Bojan Bogdanovic from Brooklyn for a first-round pick in this summer's draft. You probably haven't watched a lot of Brooklyn Nets basketball over the last couple years, but Bogdanovic is a good 3-point shooter who can also score off the dribble, averaging 14 points a game this season, while shooting 44 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from 3-point range. Bogdanovic will be a major upgrade for a Wizards bench that's struggled this season.

Moving to Canada

Toronto made two good moves before the deadline, acquiring a starting power forward in Serge Ibaka and a backup small forward in P.J. Tucker. Ibaka's ability to block shots and stretch the floor from the 3-point line should help the Raptors on both ends, while Tucker gives them another strong perimeter defender to go along with DeMarre Carroll in a possible playoff series against LeBron James and the Cavs.

LeBron loading up

Speaking of the Cavs, they're expected to add former Illini star Deron Williams to their bench once he clears waivers and completes a buyout with Dallas. Williams gives Cleveland the additional playmaker James has been demanding for the last couple months and sets up a potentially epic Finals matchup against Golden State. Williams gets a chance to compete for a championship late in his career, and he's still capable of being a difference maker in big games, averaging 13 points and seven assists per game. Cleveland is now loaded in the backcourt with Kyrie Irving, Williams, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and swingman Kyle Korver.

No luck for the Celtics

The one contending team that didn't make a move at the deadline is Boston. Danny Ainge talked trade with the Bulls about Butler and with Indiana about Paul George, but in the end he wasn't willing to give up those precious Brooklyn first-round draft picks he's been hoarding for years. Keep in mind the Celtics reportedly love University of Washington guard Markelle Fultz, who's expected to be the No. 1 pick in this year's draft, and they'll have enough cap room to make a run at free-agent swingman Gordon Hayward, who played for Brad Stevens at Butler.

Even with the addition of Butler or George, the Celtics might not have been able to take down King James and the Cavs in this year's playoffs, but they are still lurking as the rising power in the East. Now, we'll all have to wait to see what Ainge does in the days leading up to the draft.

Quote of the week

Gibson gave the Chicago media one last lengthy session before boarding a private jet with McDermott to their new home in Oklahoma City.

On his time in Chicago: "Every day I came to the locker room just seeing my name on the back of a Bulls jersey was a dream come true."

So what will it be like to join a new team after eight and a half seasons in Chicago? "I'm like a kid going to a new school. I don't know where to sit on the bus."

Something tells me Russell Westbrook and the Thunder will let Gibson have any seat he wants.

Good luck in Oklahoma City, Taj (and Doug). You will be missed by Bulls fans and media.