(Written by Julian Kenner)
October 5th has come and gone. There were numerous top 25 matchups in college football, people were preparing their starting lineups for NFL fantasy football, and others probably worked through the weekend. But what were most Chicago Bulls fans doing on this day?
Watching the return of our beloved superstar Derrick “Pooh” Rose.
This summer I had the job of a lifetime for a basketball fanatic: I worked at the Nike/Jordan Chi-League Pro-Am at Whitney Young High School, where twice a weekend I got to watch and spend time with current and former NBA and Division I players (i.e. Antoine Walker, Shawn Marion, Ryan Boatright, Jabari Parker and many others). One Saturday evening around 6:00 pm, you heard rumblings from the crowd, and when you looked to the entrance, Derrick Rose made his slow, deliberate, MVP type walk towards the VIP section behind the scorer’s table.
Although there were talks of him playing in the summer league, the ultimate decision was for him not to for obvious reasons. How exciting would it have been for Derrick Rose, NBA MVP, to not have played one NBA game all season but appear at a summer Pro-Am and dominate his old teammates and rivals?
Last Saturday night in the Bulls 82-76 win over the Indiana Pacers, D. Rose ended with 13 points on 5-12 shooting plus 2 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals in just 20 minutes of action. The stat line is not what most astute Chicago Bulls basketball fans were observing. They wanted to see him make sharp cuts and use that blazing speed to get past defenders, as well as his explosiveness to finish at the rim as they were so used to seeing throughout his career prior to the injury.
After watching the Bulls play the Pacers, I have become more enthusiastic about the upcoming season, because I saw a healthy Derrick Rose on the basketball court. In case you forgot, before last season the Bulls earned the best record in the Eastern Conference two years in a row.
After missing the whole year due to an ACL tear, we all knew there would be some rust in his game but the speed, quickness and strength were all evident on Saturday. There were a few times that he lost the ball while trying to attack the basket, because either he was moving too fast, or he wasn’t used to the strength of the defenders. As the preseason goes on, he will begin to clean up his game through repetitions, as well as being more aggressive.
Derrick Rose, even through his grammar school days at Beasley Elementary and his high school years at Simeon Career Academy, was always clearly his team’s best player. Further than that, though, he was always a team first player. With Jimmy Butler coming into his own as a formidable NBA player and Luol Deng’s improvement from last year, the Bulls’ new offense consists of everyone being the “point guard” on fast breaks. This allows Rose to get out in transition, fill the lane and finish on the break.
In the 2nd quarter after a Kirk Hinrich rebound, Rose took off full speed on the wing and seamlessly was able to gather himself and acrobatically finish at the rim over former teammate C.J. Watson off a nice Hinrich assist. That is the speed and excitement the fans of Chicago were used to seeing out of #1. About 3 minutes later, after a rebound and outlet from Carlos Boozer, Rose was able to take the ball the length of the court in three dribbles and split two defenders at the rim for an “and-one”. That is vintage Derrick Rose. This showed me that he obviously has not lost a step, because I can remember him doing this many times over the course of his young career. We even saw him in the 3rd quarter get the second of his two steals, take the ball on the break and finish with a patented Derrick Rose slam.
Bulls fans caught a scare later in the 2nd quarter, though, when Rose got fouled hard by Pacers’ guard George Hill. After coming up limping, he went to the free throw line, made both free throws and continued playing as if that did not affect him.
Rose did not play extensive minutes due to it being a preseason game but the fans got what they wanted to see. They saw a fearless, attacking Rose with good confidence as he went against one of the premier defensive big men in the NBA, Roy Hibbert. In the first quarter, a cutting Rose got the ball at the free throw line, took one dribble towards Hibbert, hoisted up a wild lay-up, and with no hesitation, got to the other side of the rim, and exploded back up to the rim quickly for an offensive rebound and a put back. That is the Derrick Rose that Bulls fans knew before his devastating injury.
After scoring his first two points of the night, it was pretty safe to say, Derrick Rose looked like his old self and not just a shell of himself.
Overall, I was not only impressed with Rose, but the Chicago Bulls as a team. It was good for the fans to see for themselves and make their own judgment on how Derrick looked; I do not think my two eyes deceived me. The Bulls are still a juggernaut defensive team and with the hopeful reemergence of a top 10 player in the league, this could be one of the more anticipated seasons in Chicago history.
Derrick Rose is ready to make another run at MVP and help the Chicago Bulls make a deep run in the playoffs. There are seven more preseason games before D. Rose and the Bulls are ready to start their regular season against the back to back NBA Champions, and arch rival, Miami Heat.
Come Tuesday, October 29th in the American Airlines Arena at 8:00 pm ET, I will know one thing: POOH WILL BE READY, and I will be here to cover it with an update.