Why the Injury to Derrick Rose Will Make the Bulls Better
The loss of Derrick Rose to a torn ACL felt like the loss of a relative. The pain was exacerbated by both 1) Rip Hamilton’s “back from the dead” performance in game 1 which made one think the Bulls might have had that elusive second offensive option, and 2) the fact that, just hours later, Lebron and the Heat completely annihilated the Knicks 100-67 in what was one of the most embarrassing defeats in Knick history.
After much soul searching, my fixation on “what could have been” with the 2012 Bulls has given way to a rationalization that some may fine less intuitive. Rose’s injury will make the Bulls a better team. Here’s why:
ROSE WILL BECOME A BETTER PLAYER
While its unclear if the torn ACL will diminish Rose’s athleticism, the uncertainty as he recovers will force Rose to rely less on his athleticism, improve his shooting, and rely on other parts of his game. That is not to say Rose’s shooting has not improved, but keep in mind that in his best statistical season he had a 44% field goal percentage (33% from 3-point range). His injury plagued 2011-2012 regular season saw those numbers decline a bit. Rose needs to reach a point where defenses respect his shooting ability which will create more opportunities to drive or dish. In last year’s eastern conference finals, as well as the Bulls early season loss to the Heat this year in Miami, the Heat contained Rose at the end of games by forcing him to beat them with his jump shot (which he missed at the end of regulation every time).
Besides jump shooting, relying less on athleticism would allow Rose to make more out of an aspect of his game that goes under appreciated: his mid-range game. I haven’t seen any guard with such a diverse array of methods to score from within eight feet than Rose. He can float it, bank it, dunk it, and tear-drop it while pulling up or going to his left or right. There is no reason why Rose can’t post up most small point guards in the NBA (e.g. Mike Conley, Baron Davis, Ty Lawson) and score all day by creating space at mid-range or dishing when double teams come.
Not only will an improved jump shot and mid-range game make Rose better, it will prolong his career because basketball players relying solely on athleticism have a much shorter shelf life than skilled players (think Tracy McGrady, and John Starks compared to Ray Allen and Tim Duncan). If there is any player that provides Rose with a blue print to come back from an ACL tear, its Chris Paul who controls games with his basketball IQ, passing, and diverse scoring skills. If I’m Rose, I’m watching every Clipper playoff game and taking notes!
BEING WITHOUT ROSE IN THE PLAYOFFS WILL SHOW THE BULLS’ TRUE COLORS
I can hear it already, Bulls fans pointing to the great record the team had during the regular season when Rose was out of the lineup. Newflash for Bulls fans: playoff games are a whole other beast than the regular season. Unlike most NBA teams that pace themselves through the regular season, the Bulls are coached by a man who demands so much from his players that they fear disappointing him and overachieve.
The Bulls dreadful 109-92 game two loss to the 76ers illuminates how one can’t rely on data from the regular season to evaluate the Bulls’ roster because at the end of the day, you want to depend on players who have proven their worth in the playoffs. With that said, the Bulls 2012 playoff run without Rose (however long that may be) will tell the Bulls coaches and management precisely what they can and cannot rely on for a serious title run next year.
1) The 2012 playoffs will erase any fraction of doubt that the Bulls need to amnesty Carlos Boozer
The absence of Rose will place pressure on Carlos Boozer to finally put up or shut up. For too long, the scoring of Rose and Deng, along with the upstanding play of Taj Gibson and Omer Asik, have hidden the fact that Boozer has been an overpaid liability for this team. Even if the Bulls can’t find a major upgrade, they are better off with a platoon of Gibson and Asik who can provide what Boozer does at just a fraction of the cost (I’m personally praying for a Kevin Love early contract termination in Minnesota).
2) The 2012 playoffs will teach the Bulls how they should build around Derrick Rose
Let’s face it, the regular season doesn’t matter that much, especially considering that nearly half of all NBA teams make the playoffs. Remember all those years Cleveland had the best record in the league with Lebron? What did that lead to? The biggest mistake the Bulls can make is to use the regular season as the primary measure of their success, as it will only continue signings of sub par players (ala Boozer) who will help them maintain dominance during the regular season but ultimately fall short in the playoffs. We all remember how Lebron’s relationship with his hometown Cavs played out right? Don’t think for a second that Rose will stick around after his contract expires for the Bulls to build a real team around him. He is 23, with four years left on his contract extension, setting up the potential for a Lebron-esque move at the age of 27. Don’t forget that!
3) The 2012 playoffs will teach Coach Thibs to chill out during the regular season.
With that said, I hope this teaches Thibodeau to chill out during the regular season mainly because of his health. I had the opportunity to see a Bulls game with seats close to the Bulls bench and even when the cameras are not on Thibs is relentless. The man practically operates on a lost voice all season because he is constantly yelling. Even during the broadcasting of the eastern NBA all star team practice, Thibs was yelling at stars like Melo and Lebron to run drills correctly. We’ve seen great coaches burn out, such as in college football with folks like Urban Meyer at Florida. I’d hate to see that happen for such a great basketball mind like Thibs.
4) The 2012 playoffs will tell the Bulls who are their real character guys.
When the going gets tough, who is going to step in and be that emotional leader to rally the troops? Who is going to be barking orders on the court and picking guys up? Noah fits that role a bit, but can he make his teammates better? Observing who steps up their leadership abilities, as well as observing how players respond to it, will tell the Bulls management who they need to keep around next year.
Another downside of playing well in the regular season is the absence of hard times. Besides last year’s loss to the Heat, this Bulls team hasn’t encountered much adversity. The 2012 playoff run is going to show what players like Korver, Watson, Deng, and Gibson are really made of. Or… this is everything I’m just telling myself to make me feel better.