The 12 Days of Bullsmas. Day 1: Derrick Rose

Posted: December 13, 2011 by Mauricio Rubio Jr. in Basketball, NBA
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Moe Rubio is going through the gauntlet and will post a Bulls related post every day for 12 days.

It’s funny to think about the Bulls franchise before the 2008-2009 season. It’s tough to go back and remember that Larry Hughes started for this franchise, that the Ben Wallace money was still haunting them, that Scott Skiles once had success here even with his particular brand of cut throat coaching and it’s especially hard to think of a time when Derrick Rose was not a Bull.

For me the collective basketball years of 1999-2008 have become a blur, a brief hiccup in the middle of two superstars. That is what Derrick Rose has become in his short career in the NBA, he has transcended my expectations of him as a player and exploded onto the scene with such force and fury that it’s impossible to avoid hyperbole when talking about his game.

When I was watching the finale of the 2008 NCAA finals, I was doing so to forget about a flat Bulls team that so thoroughly disappointed, I needed to resort to the college game to preserve my basketball sanity. This was the Kirk Hinrich and Loul Deng led team that “played like a college team.” They moved the ball around and hit the jumpers. They gave a scare to the Detroit Pistons in the playoffs the year prior. PJ Brown scored 20 in a half for that team. They were picked by many to be the #1 seed behind a defensively minded coach in Scott Skiles and a no superstar team that was supposed to be greater than the sum of it’s parts.

Of course it’s the NBA and of course the team failed. They had a history of starting slow early in the season and we all kept waiting for that run to happen, we kept waiting for this team to start hitting those jump shots and for Ben Gordon to have a crazy 3 pt. shooting 4th quarter and bail this team out.

It never happened, and for all intents and purposes, the Bulls were in NBA hell. They weren’t bad enough to hit rock bottom and get the number one pick, but they would never be good enough to rise above the 6th seed and become a real threat in the East.

I turned my attention to this:

I became a Memphis fan because they had a kid from Simeon. The south side of Chicago has it’s own particular brand of basketball that is a true testament to “Chicago Tough,” even if I believe it’s a myth. Games of 21 is murderball, you need to avoid contact to score because you will not get the call. You have 6 other guys blocking the paint waiting to absolutely beat your brains in as you try to guide your body through the arms and legs and torsos to the ultimate goal.

It was pretty clear Rose was used to that. The snakey moves to the cup that were invented out of self preservation rather than style showed me that. It became clear during March Madness that he would become a lottery pick, and as much as I would wish for a great story, the Bulls would have virtually no chance to get him.

Well, they had exactly a 1.7% chance to draft Derrick Rose. That percentage was so low that the Bulls sent Steve Schanwald to the Draft Lottery selection, then the Bulls VP of Business.

Yeah, that’s the guy.

I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing during this particular moment. I was in the darkroom at Columbia College, processing film, hoping the Bulls would move up to maybe #5, and hopefully OJ Mayo will still be there.

That’s when the entire landscape of the NBA changed forever as the course of two franchises who’s potential storied rivalry is still in the works completely turned on their heads.

Perhaps fate had dictated that Rose would end up in Miami with the other Chicago kid, Dwyane Wade, as the Heat were the favorites to get the #1 pick. It was clear that David Stern had other Ideas as the Bulls got the #1 pick, and for all intents and purposes, Derrick Rose.

I don’t have to go into the poorly thought out Beasley vs. Rose discussion.

You idiots who wanted this hot garbage know who you are.

Even then, however, it was hard to imagine what was to come. The untapped potential within Rose in that first year is astounding in retrospect. The Bulls had made a bone headed coaching hire in Vinny Del Negro, they were bringing back a veteran team and it was uncertain if Rose would start over Kirk Hinrich to start the season.

Yep, think about that, Rose vs. Kirk was a real discussion amongst Bulls fans in the early days of what must now be considered the Rose era. Rose is a violent player. It looks fluid from certain standpoints, but when you start dissecting his game he is much less a ballerina floating to the hoop and more a missile bearing down on it’s target, accelerating right before it makes an explosive impact.

To watch Rose then wasn’t exactly artistry. It was more blue collar than that. It was more akin to seeing a craftsman learning on the job. For all the explosiveness and the fluidity, there was a certain flavor there that while not pretty, was damn impressive to witness in it’s own right.

The artistry would come later, but the raw product far exceeded expectations. He would be named Rookie of the Year.

His deficiencies as a player were pretty well known. Considering that he possesses an elite level of athleticism, his defense at the time was poor, and it brought into question his coaching, which was pathetic. His outside jumper wasn’t there quite yet, and he could not hit a 3 pt. shot. Teams would sag off him in those early years and dare him to shoot.

The rookie season culminated in an exciting 7 game series with the Boston Celtics.

Some would start to see it then, including myself. It was after this series and Rose’s amazing rookie debut that I began to realize that Derrick Rose is a lot better than I thought he would be.

The NBA, like all professional sports leagues, forces you to adjust. When you first appear, your natural athleticism will take you only so far before the league figures you out. At that point, it’s up to you to hit the gym and create a move. Then a counter move and so forth.

No one was quite sure where the ceiling on Derrick Rose was, and to a large degree we still don’t. The leap from year 1 to year 2 was astounding, but it was still largely a lost year. The Bulls showed marginal improvement but were still hamstrung by the Ben Wallace money that would finally come off the books. They were summarily dismissed by the LeBron James led Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round as it became clear that in order for Rose to fully realize his potential he would need a teacher.

You rang?

And this is where the full scope of what really happened when the Bulls won the draft lottery would start to come into focus.

Remember, before the MVP award, before the 62 wins and the countless highlights, there was the summer of LeBron. It was his ultimate decision to join Bosh and Wade in South Beach that cemented the legacy of that draft. Who knows what the NBA looks like if the Heat win that lottery and draft Rose, rather than Beasley who is languishing in Minnesota for a franchise that will never win.

We have this version of the NBA, however. The questions still remain for James and Rose, can they be the best players on a championship team? It almost seems certain for James, but Rose still has work to do. Granted, his ceiling is much higher than I or damn near anyone else not in the Rose family could have predicted, but he’s still a 6’3 guard. Even with his sublime gifts, even at the height of his power, even with the simple desire to wee-un, the question is can he be the guy?

Rose’s game is a full on blood sport at times, a pure representation of south side Chicago ball, with moves born out of necessity and a little bit of flash. Yes, his jumper has improved and the tear drop is a pretty effective, but it’s a game built on collisions. He’s a basketball ninja when he launches an aerial assault on opposing defenses. His game isn’t meant to simply carve, it eviscerates as he dives into the teeth of the opponent and imposes his will.

The improvements have been many, and word is that he is working on his post game this season. He’ll need it, because the Heat are only getting better, and while the Bulls are looking to improve without shaking the core, the time might be coming near for the front office to gamble on a move to improve the franchise.

Derrick Rose has shown me that he has a killer instinct and a burning desire to win. He is the reigning MVP and is currently helping change the landscape of a league. He is the face of the Chicago Bulls, and the opportunity is there for him to do the unthinkable and endear himself to this city in a way Michael never could. Mike was a borrowed talent, Rose is all ours, born here, plays here, lives here and dies here as his tattoo says.

Balls in his court to ascend into something more than a superstar. The legend title beckons, and I believe he will answer the call.

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