The worst has happened! Derrick Rose has suffered a season ending injury. It is assumed by some to be one that might impact next season as well. Some say he may never be the same.
These sentiments are premature. Having torn my ACL, I have some experience with the situation. The first thing I would say is that today’s techniques for dealing with such things are superior to those employed when I first tore mine. In addition, Rose has every option open to him and the freedom to concentrate all his efforts to recovery. His well known work ethic and devotion to the game, and being the best at it, is all we need to know in order to feel confident that as fans, we’re likely to notice no discernible difference in his game upon his return. I would wager his opponents won’t notice much difference, either.
But what about now? Woe is us who expected the ultimate.
Some, even some Chicago sports writers (at least in the paper to which I subscribe), did not expect da Bullss to go all the way. I take it, given my limited ability to keep up with such things, that the big money was on a Heat/Thunder match up in the Finals. So, many already doubted da Bullss ability to get by Miami, and then, assuming they could, they doubted their ability to beat OK City. And that’s with Rose playing, so of course, without him, they have absolutely no chance to win anything, perhaps not even this series against Philly.
Nonsense. While their chances are indeed reduced without a healthy Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls embody not only Rose’s ethic, but coach Thib’s ethic as well. They have the experience of playing without Rose as he’s missed so many games this year. Their record without Rose, if extended to a full lock-out truncated season, would have put them fourth in the East. That still makes them a contender at the very least.
Not only that, but if I’m not mistaken, some of those games won without Rose were against top teams, the Heat being one of them.
It must also be remembered that in the last five or six games, we’ve seen Rip Hamilton find his rhythm, and Kyle Korver has been hitting shots like crazy. And while CJ Watson has been off his game shooting wise lately, he still has hit last minute three pointers in recent games to avoid losses. He and John Lucas III have each had multiple 20 pt games while Rose has watched from the bench. And of course, Luol Deng has continued his usual solid play. In short, the scoring that was lacking last year is not lacking this year. Rose is not the only offensive weapon like he was last year.
Of course the defense and rebounding is not affected by Rose’s absence. This will continue, and in fact, the teams dominance in that department is as much attributed to the bench players, and sometimes more so, than the starters.
There are two general areas of liability that I think need improvement regardless of Rose’s presence or absence: turnovers and free-throw percentage. If the Bulls take care of the ball and keep their turnovers to less than a dozen, they’ll reduce fast break opportunities for their opponents. Points off of turnovers are maddening and momentum busters. It gives the opponents confidence. Most of the turnovers that I’ve seen are of the weak passing variety. Passing must be crisp and quick, and it seems that too many passes should never have been made in the first place, but definitely not so nonchalantly.
As for free-throws, the Bulls often do not seem to get to the line as often as seems justified. But when they do get there, they need to drain them more often. I don’t believe they have more than two guys who average better than 90% and they’re both bench players (Watson and Korver). Hamilton might be over 85%, but I’m not sure, and I’m definitely not sure that we have anyone else. Pros missing free throws seems unforgivable. I understand the difference between scoring while running your butt off and standing still after getting hammered and expecting to hit a free throw. It’s like the difference between fielding a line drive and a pop-fly. You don’t have time to think about the line drive, but the free throw is like the pop up. You have time to think about perhaps missing. I don’t know how much time is devoted to practicing free throws, but somehow I get the feeling it ain’t enough.
Finally, there is the mere challenge of winning without Rose. This team has a lot of pride. They don’t like losing. From last season to this, the Bulls have gone over 80 games without back-to-back losses, coming close to establishing a new league record for the feat. This continued throughout the 27 or so games played without Rose. That’s a meaningful stat that says a lot about the heart of this team. I have to think that they do not want to be “the Jordanaires”, which was how the Bulls who played with Michael Jordan were regarded by some. It meant that without their star player, they were worthless. These guys are gonna be pumped. I predict they’ll finish no worse than last year, but won’t be surprised to see them go beyond.