Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose

Bulls in familiar position down the stretch

March, 4, 2015
Mar 4
3:05
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- With 21 games left in the regular season and a showdown with Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder on the horizon Thursday night, the Chicago Bulls find themselves in a familiar position. Their backs are against the wall and they are playing without key players because of injury. Derrick Rose (knee) and Jimmy Butler (elbow) are out at least several more weeks, and Taj Gibson (ankle) is out for a little while longer, although Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau did note after Wednesday's light practice that Gibson is out of his walking boot.

The broader issue for Thibodeau and his players is how similar this season is unfolding compared to the last two years without Rose. No team likes having its star players injured down the stretch, but the Bulls are probably better equipped to handle this situation than almost any other team in the league given what they've dealt with over the last few years. They know the schedule is about to turn tough -- with four of their next seven games against teams with winning records -- and they understand that while help may be on the way before the regular season ends, they're going to have to withstand the schedule without Rose and Butler for the foreseeable.

"I think you have to have great will, great determination, and you have to be together," Thibodeau said of maintaining the intensity without key players. "I think when you have a group like that that's committed to playing for each other, good things can happen. When you look around the league you see the teams that are tied together and play hard each and every night, play smart, you give yourself a chance to win. You don't get here by accident; if you're here, you have great talent. Then it's how strong can you play as a team? Everyone has to understand what their job is. It's five-man offense, five-man defense and working together. That's what it's all about."

The intriguing part of this stretch is that the Bulls will be leaning on several players who are new to this situation. Veterans Pau Gasol and Aaron Brooks are in their first year with the Bulls, while rookies Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott are still in their NBA infancy. The hope is that the new group will be able to dig down deep to find the fire that it takes to play short-handed night after night. Over the past few years without Rose, Butler and Gibson were the ones who helped light that flame game after game. Now it must come from a different place.

"We'll see," Gasol said when asked how the Bulls will be able to sustain the energy that comes with playing the way they did in a hard-fought win over the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night. "Obviously with our minds and our hearts into it a lot of things can happen, so we just bring our will every single night. Try to give ourselves a chance to win against whoever we're facing."

To that point, Gasol and his newer teammates will be able to lean on veterans Mike Dunleavy and Kirk Hinrich for guidance in how to deal with the annual setbacks that seem to come with wearing a Bulls uniform, but after being in the league for 14 seasons, it's not as if he hasn't had to play through injuries to teammates before.

The good news for the Bulls is that Joakim Noah seems to be playing his best basketball of the season. After struggling with the aftereffects of offseason knee surgery, Noah finally appears to be playing -- and feeling -- more like himself. Without Rose on the floor, and now without Butler and Gibson as well, the games become even more personal to the emotional big man. Like many of his teammates, he is at his best when he feels slighted, and his teammates thrive off the energy he provides.

Noah never wants to single himself out, but Brooks mentioned after Tuesday's game that Noah set the tone for the entire night with his energized play.

"Everybody's working hard," Noah said. "We've been working hard since the beginning of the year. A lot of ups and downs. We've just got to find a way to stick together through the good and the bad and know that we have a shot at this, and we can't take that for granted."

But this is where the real hurdles build up -- both mentally and physically -- for a short-handed team. The Bulls have to find a way to maintain poise as they wait for some of their top players to heal. How they fare in this regard will help determine how the rest of their seasons shakes out.

"That's the challenge," Dunleavy said. "That first game out after all the chaos has occurred, that first game is kind of the easiest because you know you're going to have emotion, you know you're going to have energy. But now we're going to have to settle in and play this role every night and hold down the fort for a few weeks. So that's the biggest challenge of it all, and we'll see what we can do."

Timeline: Derrick Rose's injury troubles

February, 27, 2015
Feb 27
12:54
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose underwent knee surgery, it was announced Friday. It's the next chapter in Rose's long odyssey with knee injuries, which stretches back to the 2012 NBA playoffs. There might be some cause for hope, however, as Bulls GM Gar Forman said he expects Rose to return later this season.

While Bulls fans prepare to see their homegrown superstar endure another cycle of rehab, here's a brief timeline of how we got here.

May 20, 2008: Bulls win draft lottery

The Bulls had just a 1.7 percent chance to land the No. 1 pick in the 2008 NBA draft lottery, but they came away with it and drafted Rose. The Simeon High School product was thrilled to be selected by his hometown team.

April 22, 2009: Rose earns rookie of the year award

Rose couldn't hide his excitement after winning the award.

"When I first came into the season, my biggest thing was to get this award," Rose said. "I was telling you all that I didn't care, but I did. You really do want this award. There was a lot of talent out there that I had to go against."

Feb. 14, 2010: Rose makes first All-Star Game

Rose scored eight points at Cowboys Stadium and was excited for his premiere on one of the league's biggest stages. As he walked out for warmups, LeBron James and several others watched on the enormous screens as replays of Rose's dunk over the Phoenix Suns' Goran Dragic played. Like the rest of the basketball world, they were in awe.

Sept. 27, 2010: Rose calls his MVP shot

After a summer that included winning gold for Team USA at the world championship in Turkey, Rose entered training camp feeling more confident than ever.

"It's high," Rose said of his self-confidence. "The way I look at it within myself, why not? Why can't I be the MVP of the league? Why can't I be the best player in the league? I don't see why [not]. Why can't I do that?"

May 4, 2011: Rose becomes youngest MVP in league history

Rose knew he could reach another level in his career -- and he did. He gave an emotional acceptance speech in which he tearfully thanked his mother, Brenda Rose, among others. Teammates and coaches filled the back of a conference room in a suburban hotel to celebrate with the 22 year-old star.

May 26, 2011: The Heat best Rose in Eastern Conference finals

The Bulls destroyed the Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference, but they dropped the next four as James and his teammates overpowered the young Bulls. James has been the Bulls' postseason kryptonite -- no matter which team he has been on.

Derrick Rose
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesRose's knee troubles began with an ACL tear in the 2013 NBA playoffs.
April 30, 2012: Rose tears his ACL

Rose dominated at times during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Philadelphia 76ers, but the entire tenor of his career changed late in the fourth quarter, when he went to the ground after a jump stop down the lane. Rose tore the ACL in his left knee, and his career hasn't been the same since.

Oct. 29, 2013: Rose plays first regular-season game in more than a year and a half

Rose took plenty of criticism throughout Chicago -- and the basketball world -- for not coming back during the 2012-2013 season despite being cleared to play in March 2013. Fast-forward seven months, and Rose plays poorly in a loss to the Miami Heat.

Nov. 22, 2013: Rose tears the medial meniscus in his right knee

In just the 10th game of his return, Rose injures his right knee in the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers. Yet another non-contact injury ends Rose's season. The Bulls go into an emotional funk immediately after Rose's injury but are able to bounce back before getting knocked out in the Eastern Conference semifinals against James and the Heat.

Feb. 24, 2015: Rose tears the medial meniscus in his right knee -- again

Although it remains unclear exactly when the latest injury occurred, Rose finds himself in the middle of another injury nightmare. Through 46 games in his second comeback season, Rose shows flashes of brilliance, but his consistency is not the same, as he continually settles for too many 3-pointers. Rose is currently shooting 28.6 percent from beyond the arc.

Bulls need more from Rose down stretch

February, 23, 2015
Feb 23
10:51
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose's past four games offer a case study in the highs and lows he's experienced over his first 46 games of the season. The former MVP had one of his best games of the year on Feb. 12 against the Cleveland Cavaliers, going off for 30 points (12-for-24 from the field), seven assists, four rebounds and just two turnovers in 41 minutes. He drove to the rim and dominated the game at various points in the night. Rose headed into the All-Star break looking a lot like the superstar player who set the basketball world on fire early in his career.

A week later, he looks like the same player who has struggled to find his way as he tries to make his way back from two serious knee injuries. Rose played one of his worst games of the season in a loss to the Detroit Pistons on Friday, scoring eight points (2-for-9 from the field), dishing out two assists, grabbing two rebounds and turning the ball over six times. After being so aggressive against the Cavaliers, Rose looked passive on the floor against the Pistons.

Compounding the poor performance was the fact that Rose missed Wednesday's first practice after the break because he didn't get back in time from a beach vacation. One night later, he scored 16 points, grabbed four rebounds and dished out five assists in a foul-plagued 25 minutes in a win over the Phoenix Suns. Rose looked to get everyone else involved early, but made several nice drives to the rim late in the game.

[+] EnlargeRose
Caylor Arnold/USA TODAY SportsWill Derrick Rose return to his former dominating ways with consistency?
In Monday's 87-71 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, Rose took another step back. He struggled all night trying to find his shot, going just 1-for-13 from the floor. He added eight assists, five rebounds and three turnovers in 33 minutes, but he couldn't find his shot, the same shot that has eluded him at various points throughout the year. Monday marked the first time in his career that he did not make a 2-point field goal, according to ESPN Stats and Info. His 1-for-13 performance also tied the worst shooting effort of his career. He went 1-for-13 in an April 12, 2012, win over the Miami Heat in which he got benched at the end of the game.

"For me, I'm just trying to ease my way back," Rose said recently. "I'm not trying to go out there and play all crazy, I'm trying to play under control, take my time, be patient. I took a lot of days off [during the All-Star break], the most days I took off in two years, so I'm just trying to ease my way into it."

Rose opened himself up to plenty of deserved criticism after missing practice Wednesday and following that up with a poor performance on Friday and Monday -- but getting back into a rhythm after the break is always tough for many players -- it's not a new trend. The bigger issue for Rose is that he never used to ease his way into anything. More than midway through the season, the broader is question is:

How should Rose be judged?

Should he continue to be judged as if he's the same explosive player that he was before the two knee injuries? Like the guy who dominated the Cavs a little over a week ago? Or should he be judged as a mentally-inconsistent player who continues to struggle to find a rhythm as was the case against the Pistons and the Bucks?

The answer is that he is somewhere in the middle. Whether Rose can return to being the dominant nightly force he was before the injuries piled up remains to be seen, but what remains evident is that his teammates continue to take their cues from him on the floor. When Rose plays with poise and purpose the Bulls believe they are unbeatable. When Rose struggles, the Bulls look disjointed offensively.

"He's a catalyst," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said recently. "Your point guard unites and inspires your team. So the more energy and pace he's playing with the better it is for us. But he's not the only one, everyone has that responsibility. So how hard you run the floor, how quickly you move the ball, all those things. Your ability to help, to do more than one thing so you can be a great defensive team, that requires great effort and you have to be able to sustain that effort over a long period of time, and that's our challenge."

Rose has used the word "facilitator" more this season and discussed how he wants to find a way to get his teammates involved early -- does he see that as being one of the biggest changes in his game now compared to his pre-injury body of work?

"I think every game is going to be different," Rose said. "The reason why I said 'facilitate' these last two games is I missed them days. I didn't want to come back and shoot 20 shots and get out -- I mean, everybody got to get in rhythm, especially when you have a team full of offensive players like [we do]. Everybody got to get in a rhythm so finding my way through the game, I'm going to find my way through it, it's just that everybody's got to touch the ball ... it's all about getting everybody in rhythm and getting back to their playing pace."

But the reality after his first 46 games is that Rose's rhythm -- and his consistency -- have been erratic. He still shows flashes of being the player he used to be, but he doesn't show that fire to take over games the way he did before. Rose used to desire the role of putting the Bulls on his back every night. Now he seems much more content picking and choosing his spots. Does that mean that he's evolved as a player, or does that mean that the player the basketball world fell in love with years ago is never coming back?

The Bulls' players and coaches continue to protect Rose at almost every turn, and it's clear that they still hold out hope that Rose's superstar ability will be unleashed again when the games matter most in the playoffs.

"I just know in the big games there's nobody I'd rather have," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "I think -- that's my guy so at the end of the day, I know how it is. It's always a tough game when you come back from the [All-Star] break. You can't overreact. I know what kind of guy he is and I know he's a competitor so I'm not worried about him and I really think that we can still do something special this year."

But at this point in the season, Noah's belief seems to be based more on hope from days past than by factual evidence from what he's seen this season. The fact is that Rose hasn't been as aggressive going to the basket in his first few months back on the floor and is settling for way too many 3-point attempts (72-for-251, 28.6 percent). He doesn't seem to be playing as consistently hard and fast as he did in years past. The interesting part is that Thibodeau, a man who has defined his career on having his teams outwork their opponents, seems content to allow Rose to find his way -- on his own terms. After two and a half years away from the game, Thibodeau understands that building up Rose's inner confidence is the most important aspect of making a full return.

At some point in the near future, if the Bulls truly want to contend for a championship, the Bulls are going to need more from Rose than what they are getting so far. Superstars take over in the postseason. Rose has taken over various games throughout the regular season, but those performances have been few and far between.

For his part, Rose remains outwardly confident that his struggles are just a blip on the radar. He remains resolute in his belief that his best days are still in front of him. After Monday's performance the 26 year-old reiterated that the reason he fell out of a rhythm after the All-Star break is because he took more days off than at any other point in the last two years.

"I'm not worried about that," Rose said. "Missing shots -- I shot worse before. So, it's nothing big."

The beauty for Rose is that he has the ability to write his own ending for the year. If he comes out and dominates night after night in the playoffs, his struggles during the regular season will largely be forgotten. But as the Bulls enter the home stretch of their season with Rose leading the way, it's fair to wonder whether the new Rose will ever look like the old one again.

Penny: Rose playing slower in comeback

February, 18, 2015
Feb 18
10:03
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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Derrick RoseIsaac Baldizon/Getty ImagesDerrick Rose used to play at "100 mph," says Penny Hardaway, but now "it's like he plays at 70, 75."
Penny Hardaway can see the similarities between he and Derrick Rose.

The former Orlando Magic star and fellow Memphis alumnus marveled at the freakish athleticism that Rose displayed before his first knee injury in April 2012. He empathized with Rose's circumstances after that point, having gone through his own knee problems at a similar point in his career.

Now, as Rose tries to help lead the Chicago Bulls to a championship, Hardaway is hoping to watch Rose make it back to full health -- something Hardaway wasn't able to fully accomplish after knee injuries derailed his career.

But as someone who has dealt with career-threatening knee injuries, Hardaway can tell that Rose's game has changed.

"I look at his footwork. At first he would really dig in and get his speed," Hardaway said on "The B.S. Report" with Bill Simmons. "Now it's almost like he's jogging on top of the court. He's not digging in anymore. He used to just go all out -- 100 mph. To me it's like he plays at 70, 75 now and sometimes he'll turn the jets on. It's just the pain."

"There's the hardest thing -- when you cannot be as athletic or perform at a level you really want to. Your mind is telling you, but your body is not allowing you."

Rose has repeatedly said there hasn't been much pain after games this season, but Hardaway says pain is something he had to deal with throughout the back part of his career.

[+] EnlargeAnfernee Hardaway
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesPenny Hardaway's run as a superstar was cut short by injuries, but he still managed to have a 14-year NBA career.
"I felt pain every night," Hardaway told Simmons. "After games it took me a long time to walk to my car and the driving home it took me a couple of minutes even to get out of my car and extend my legs and just walk. And I was playing in full games."

Despite his personal experiences, Hardaway managed to hang in the league for 14 seasons and became a four-time All-Star. He last played with the Miami Heat in the 2007-08 season and sees the parallels between where he was, and where Rose is now.

"It's just amazing when you see Derrick because it did remind me of myself," Hardaway told ESPNChicago.com over All-Star Weekend. "We were at the height of our games when injuries started to plague us, especially in the legs. We were both very athletic, Derrick is very athletic, and his athleticism was a big part of his game just like mine was. And to see that -- he's still so young.

"I started to have injuries when I was around 27, 28 so that was a little -- he's still young enough to recover. I just hope that he does recover fully to where he can get his speed, his quickness and athleticism back to where it was."

Hardaway, who was one of the first players to have microfracture surgery, told Slam Magazine in a 2012 interview that he had six knee surgeries in his career. He said he hasn't spoken to Rose since all the injuries starting piling up in the former MVP's career, but he is hopeful that Rose can make it back to an elite level.

Hardaway said the mental part is just as difficult as the physical in regards to returning from big injuries. Rose has admitted as much throughout this season.

Hardaway has been down the road Rose is on and knows that the Bulls star is going to have to deal with smaller injuries as he tries to make his way back. Rose was in and out of the lineup in November because of ankle injuries and missed a game on Jan. 10 because of knee soreness.

The good news for the Bulls is that Rose has not missed a game since that time, playing in 16 in a row.

"You're going to always have little nick-nack injuries, hamstring, groin, calf, just overcompensating because you really want to play and that comes from wanting to be on the court," Hardaway said. "Maybe playing too many minutes early on, and sometimes those things happen. So it's always going to be the little small [injuries]. As long as there's not any major injuries anymore, I think he'll be fine."

Bulls Hall of Famer and team ambassador Scottie Pippen has no doubt about Rose's game.

"Derrick Rose is back," Pippen said. "He's like any other player in this game, he's going to have ups and downs -- but he's back. I think people should stop judging him on whether he has a great game or a bad game. He's human, he's over his injuries pretty much and he just has to continue to play through this and get into the postseason where he really wants to perform."

Rose, who is averaging 18.9 points and 5.0 assists this season, below his career averages of 20.6 and 6.5, is averaging 22.6 points over the final 15 games before the All-Star break.

"He looks good," Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star Russell Westbrook said. "He's finally getting back to his rhythm, getting his legs and things back. He's definitely getting back to his old self."

Atlanta Hawks All-Star Kyle Korver, who was Rose's teammate in Chicago from 2010-2012, sounded like a protective older brother when it comes to the criticism Rose has taken the past few years.

"It's definitely not fair, but it's the reality," Korver said of the criticism that Rose is dealing with. "Derrick is such an important figure in Chicago on so many levels, so many ways. Everyone cares how he's doing. People care for different reasons. But there's so many people who have such an interest in Derrick Rose. With today's day and age and with all the technology, and all the voices that you're able to have no matter who you are, there's so much out there. He came off -- he got so high, so quick, as far as being so young, the youngest MVP, there was so much attention around him.

"All of it was positive, more or less, back then. He's had these injuries and injuries happen, they just happen, and Derrick's trying to take care of himself the best that he can. I don't fault him in any way at all. Is the scrutiny fair? It's the just the reality. Whether or not it's fair or not, it's just what it is."

LeBron: Rose can return to MVP level

February, 13, 2015
Feb 13
8:58
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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NEW YORK -- LeBron James is convinced that Derrick Rose is going to return to MVP form in the future. After watching Rose go off for 30 points and seven assists in his team's Thursday loss to the Chicago Bulls, James believes that Rose is going to make his way all the back to an elite level after missing a majority of the past 2½ seasons because of two major knee injuries.

"I think Derrick looked great last night," James said during Friday's All-Star media availability. "I haven't seen him as much this year, obviously. But the game last night, it just showed what he's capable of doing. He went back door on one play last night, dunked the ball."

Both teammates and opponents can tell that Rose is starting to find his confidence again.

"When D-Rose is feeling good, he's attacking, and that's what he did to us last night," James continued. "Transition, getting to the rim, up-and-unders, reverses. He's shooting that two-foot pullup, one-hander. That's the MVP and the All-Star that we all have grown accustomed to loving, so hopefully, he can get back to that. I think he can. I'm a big D-Rose fan anyways. I love D-Rose, love his game and it was great to see him perform like he did last night, even in competition."

James wasn't the only All-Star singing Rose's praises on Friday. After all the former MVP has been through to get back on the floor, many players expressed genuine pleasure in seeing Rose perform well again on the floor.

"He looks good. He looks really good," Oklahoma City Thunder star and reigning league MVP Kevin Durant said. "Seeing he had 30 points last night, he's getting his stride. He's been out for two years, man. I know ya'll are expecting him to be right back to MVP-caliber play. Of course, he's an MVP-type player. But he's human, too. So being out for so long -- I know firsthand, injuries, rust is real. He's been out two years, man. He's starting to get his legs up under him; he looks great."

Rose's performance on the floor has been up and down this season, but many All-Stars remarked on how impressed they've been with the composure Rose has shown off the floor. Despite the criticism from media and fans early in the season after several lingering injuries kept him off the floor, Rose remained positive about his future.

"He looks great," Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul said. "I watched the game last night. He's got a lot of explosiveness back. D-Rose is fine. Early in the season when everyone was saying, 'What's wrong? What's wrong?' He's a competitor and you're not going to make shots every night, and I understand that. And I think he's playing hard, he's helping that team win and he just keeps playing, which is what I like."

Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard isn't sure why Rose dealt with such heavy criticism early in the season, but he spoke for many All-Stars on Friday while discussing how happy he was to see Rose doing what he does best. Over the past week, Rose has shown glimpses of getting back to MVP form.

"He's a huge star for the game of basketball," Lillard said. "So everybody just expects him to be the MVP Derrick Rose right away after he's dealt with some injuries, and I think he'll be that guy. It just takes time. He's not Superman. You can't expect somebody to deal with those type of injuries and just automatically snap back into being who they were."

11 reasons why the Bulls are struggling

February, 6, 2015
Feb 6
2:04
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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Derrick RoseChristian Petersen/Getty ImagesEven with Derrick Rose back on the court, the Bulls are failing to live up to lofty expectations.
Derrick Rose can't pinpoint why the Chicago Bulls play hard sometimes and languish at others.

He cited a lack of "effort" and "communication" on defense on Wednesday, after a loss to the Houston Rockets, as the biggest reason the Bulls have struggled recently, having lost three straight and gone just 8-10 since Jan. 1.

Rose also acknowledged that it's been a while since the Bulls have been this frustrated.

"It's been a minute," Rose said. "It's been a long time, but it shouldn't be anywhere near that knowing how talented we are, knowing that guys want to really win. It's just that we didn't get things clicking yet. We got time, we just got to make sure we give it our all in practice, shootaround, and in the games and figure a way out."

The Bulls (30-20) are still hopeful that they will turn things around as they get set for their final 32 regular-season games. What do they need to fix, beginning with Saturday's game against the New Orleans Pelicans? Let's take a look at 11 of the biggest issues facing the Bulls in a season that started with championship expectations:


1. Lack of defense


If the Bulls don't turn it around and win a championship this season, the obituary will lead with their inability to play defense like they did in the first four seasons of Tom Thibodeau's tenure. The Bulls used to punch teams in the mouth during games. Now they are giving up 102.4 points per 100 possessions, 13th-best in the league. That's 4.6 more per 100 possessions than last season, when they ranked second.

The Bulls have also given up 100 or more points in 25 games already this season. Last season, they gave up 100 or more in 16 games.


2. Lack of effort


Maybe more damning is the fact that the Bulls look lifeless through long stretches in games.

"It's a compilation of things," Thibodeau said, when asked why the intensity continues to disappear for stretches. "Where do you get your intensity from? You get it from your concentration and maximum effort. And how do you build that habit? You build it through repetition like you do through everything else. Practice is important. Practicing together is important. All those things are. Your meetings are important. Shootarounds are important. It's all important."

Thibodeau has repeatedly referenced practice, and repetition, as a big part of his team's struggles, but playing hard is just as important as skill. And the Bulls aren't performing up to their capabilities in this area.


3. Reliance on offense


When describing their woes, many players have talked openly about relying too much on offense. After lacking it over the past few seasons, especially when Rose has been out, the Bulls now have an embarrassment of riches on the offensive end. The Bulls are averaging 105 points per 100 possessions, just shy of their best in the Thibodeau era (105.7 in 2011-12).

"As I say, you can't shortcut the process," Thibodeau said. "The process is the whole thing. We got to put the work into it. We can't pick and choose when we're going to do things. The only way you can improve and execute is through repetition. You can't get around that."


4. Where's the fun?


Ask yourself this question: When was the last time you saw this group having fun on the floor together?

There hasn't been much to enjoy lately (5-10 over their past 15 games), but it also doesn't look like this group enjoys playing together as much as they used to. Have the players tuned out Thibodeau? If that were the case, the Bulls would just roll over on the veteran coach completely. They've still been able to get wins against good teams like San Antonio, Dallas and Golden State. But the argument could be made that they aren't listenting as intently as they did in years past, and bad losses to Miami and the Los Angeles Lakers in the past week and a half point to that.

Jimmy Butler has a simple theory as to how his team can start having fun again.

"Win," he said. "That's the fun part of this game is winning, bottom line, however you want to put it. We got to figure out a way to win games because whenever you're winning that's fun, whenever you're losing, that sucks."


5. Noah and Gasol don't mix


The Bulls already already 50 games into the season, and Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah are not playing well together. They don't seem to know where to be when they are on the floor together, and the spacing -- on both ends -- is impaired because of it.

Gasol's personal numbers are up and he has admitted several times he feels rejuvenated in Chicago. But Noah's numbers are down and he doesn't look like the first-team All-NBA center and reigning Defensive Player of the Year. Yes, he has been hurt much of the season and is still trying to find his form, but his incompatibility with Gasol is becoming more apparent. In the duo's 810 minutes together, the Bulls are 0.7 points per 100 possessions worse than their overall level of performance, according to NBA.com/stats.


6. Rose isn't the same


The good news for the Bulls is that Rose is healthy after missing most of November with various injuries. The bad news is that he hasn't shown to be the same player he was before his first knee injury in April 2012.

Rose is still knocking the rust off his game and holds firm to the belief there is another level he can get to this season. But he continues to settle for way too many jumpers and doesn't drive as much to the rim as he did in years past. The 26-year-old has already taken 223 3-pointers this season, the most he's ever had in 50 games during a season in his career, and has attempted 55.4 percent of his shots from outside the paint this season, according to ESPN Stats and Info -- the most in any season of his career.

After going 2-for-9 from beyond the arc in Wednesday's loss, Rose is now shooting just 29.6 percent from 3 on the season. He continues to say those are the shots that are given to him, but that doesn't always mean he should take them.


7. Mirotic is still a rookie

Nikola Mirotic has had some very good games and some very bad ones this season. In other words, he's a rookie. But the Bulls were relying on him to be a big part of their rotation. After a strong December, Mirotic has scored just 81 points over his past 15 games, an average of 5.4 points a game. What compounds the issue is that Thibodeau still doesn't trust Mirotic defensively, hence the lack of minutes in recent weeks for the soon-to-be 24-year-old.


8. Hinrich has lost a step

Kirk Hinrich is one of the most respected players in the Bulls' locker room and is trusted implicitly by Thibodeau. But the 34-year-old guard is struggling this season. Aside from the fact that Hinrich is shooting just 36.5 percent from the field and 33.8 percent from the 3-point line, he looks a step slow defensively. The effort is there most nights, but the timing on the defensive end is not. His PER is just 7.11, the ninth-lowest rating in the league out of 345 qualifiers. He is averaging 27.3 minutes a game.


9. Snell and McDermott are not contributing


The Bulls' last two first-round picks are not giving them anything at the moment. They haven't exactly been given a chance by Thibodeau, but it's evident the head coach doesn't trust either player much on the floor right now, especially defensively.

Tony Snell has played at least 20 minutes in 10 games in the past month. In those 10 games, he is averaging 7.5 points a game. But since Jan. 1 there have also been four games in which he didn't play at all because of a coach's decision.

As for Doug McDermott, Thibodeau gave him some rotational minutes early in the season but he did not produce. He was getting open looks, but he didn't knock them down, shooting just 22.2 percent from beyond the arc in his first month. McDermott has played a grand total of two minutes since returning from a knee scope late last month. Thibodeau admitted Friday that there is a chance the Bulls may send McDermott to the D-League to get some more minutes after the All-Star break.

"We'll probably get to the break and then look at all the options from there," Thibodeau said. "I think the big thing, particularly with a rookie where he missed all that time, you still want to have your hands on him here and then if we feel like the playing time is a priority we'll go from there."


10. Injuries take a toll


Like every other team in the NBA, the Bulls have dealt with their share of injuries. Until the last week or so, Noah hadn't looked right physically after offseason knee surgery. Rose was in and out of the lineup in November because of various ailments. Gasol, Butler and Taj Gibson have missed a combined 15 games as well. Mike Dunleavy has missed 17 straight games because of a nagging right ankle injury.

All of these health-related problems are a factor, but this roster is too talented not to be able to overcome the hurdles. So often in Thibodeau's tenure, he and his players have viewed injuries more as a hurdle to clear. This season, all parties seem to be using the setbacks more as a crutch.


11. Thibodeau and the front office are at odds


The tension between Thibodeau and the Bulls' front office is at an all-time high. With all the speculation regarding Thibodeau's future in Chicago and the Bulls underperforming, Thibodeau, Bulls general manager Gar Forman and executive vice president John Paxson are all feeling the heat. But the in-fighting and frustration behind the scenes isn't serving anyone well. The argument could be made that players don't care about the relationship between a coach and his front office, that it doesn't make a difference in regard to on-court performance. But it doesn't help either. To think that the players, and those in their inner-circles, aren't aware of what's going on behind the scenes would be naive at best.

As tough as it may be for them, Thibodeau, Forman and Paxson should come to a truce, at least until the end of the season. The trust may be broken forever, but it shouldn't impact the short-term future of the organization. Hard feelings should be pushed aside for the greater short-term goals of the team.

Rose still wants 'that shot' -- and delivers

January, 28, 2015
Jan 28
2:32
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
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OAKLAND, Calif. -- Derrick Rose made history on Tuesday night.

In the midst of the Chicago Bulls' best win of the season, an emotional 113-111 overtime triumph over the Golden State Warriors, who were denied their 20th straight win at home, Rose pulled off a never-before-seen NBA feat. He became the first player in league history to score at least 30 points, turn the ball over at least 10 times (he had 11) and have one assist or fewer, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.

But as usual with Rose, and these Bulls, the numbers don't tell the entire tale.

[+] EnlargeRose
Bob Stanton/USA TODAY SportsDerrick Rose missed 20 shots against the Warriors but he did deliver when the Bulls needed him most.
For instance, Rose missed 20 of his 33 shots, but he drilled the game-winner with 8.4 seconds left in overtime with the type of icy confidence that he displayed during his MVP season of 2010-11. He played 43 minutes in a game, the most he has played in one contest in almost three seasons. Most importantly, when his team needed him to hit the biggest shot of the night, he had no hesitation taking it.

"A player like myself, I want them moments," Rose said. "I want that shot. My teammates gave me the ball to take the shot and it looks good on the resume. I'm not running away from them shots, I'm not turning them down. If anything, my teammates are going to give me the ball to take the shot, so that's a good feeling."

As has been the case all season with the Bulls, they find a way to win games they're not supposed to win, while finding ways to lose games to lesser opponents that they have no business losing. The Bulls won on a night in which they played without two starters (Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy) and against a team that has been virtually unbeatable at home.

But Tuesday offered another reminder that the Bulls will go only as far as Rose and his rebuilt knees can take them. As important as Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol and Butler are, Rose remains the largest potential difference-maker because of his ability to take over games late and deliver in the most pressure-packed situations. He has the type of superstar ability that the rest of his teammates feed off each night. When the game is on the line, they try to find the former MVP on the floor, no matter how poorly he has played to that point.

"I think we feel comfortable with Derrick taking responsibility in those moments because he definitely doesn't hide and he's very aggressive," Gasol said. "And tonight I think he was very aggressive all night long. I think it says a lot about his confidence level, how confident he is, that even if he had a tough shooting night and a tough night offensively, as far as taking care of the ball, he still feels comfortable shooting that last shot and knocking it down.

"I think that's important, that's a big factor, and it definitely gives us confidence going forward."

The differences in Rose's game underscore the differences for the Bulls as a whole. So often during Tom Thibodeau's five-year tenure as head coach, the Bulls' effort was never in doubt. Win or lose, the Bulls were almost always going to play tough, physical basketball and grind against teams until the very end. Before Rose's ACL tear in April 2012, fans knew what to expect from Rose each game. He was quicker and more aggressive than almost everyone on the floor and would find ways to take over the game when it mattered most.

Three seasons later, things have changed for the Bulls and Rose. The Bulls' inconsistent effort is a point of frustration for Thibodeau. Too often this season it looks as though players are just coasting through games and not executing properly on a team that is playing with the weight of championship expectations on its shoulders. Meanwhile, Rose remains more of a wild card than a sure thing on most nights. Some nights he looks engaged on both ends and takes over, as he did on Tuesday. Other nights he looks passive and relies too much on an inconsistent 3-point shot (31.3 percent).

The difference now is that the Bulls don't rely on Rose as much as they did in seasons past. They are deeper and more talented on the offensive end than they've ever been in the Thibodeau era. For as deep as they are, the Bulls still need Rose to be the player he used to be some nights. They need the old Rose to strike fear in their opponents every now and then to remind other teams, and themselves, just how dangerous they can be when he gets rolling.

"He didn't allow missed shots … to take away from the belief that he could still make and take a big shot," Thibodeau said. "That's all a sign of his greatness and him working his way back to being the player we all know he can be."

If the Bulls want to win a championship this year, they are going to need this Rose to show up even more during the final few months of the season. Good news for them is that he can still be that superstar when needed. Just ask the Warriors.

Bulls' defense can't contain red-hot Hawks

January, 17, 2015
Jan 17
10:52
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
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CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose didn't know what to say Saturday night after the latest deflating loss, 107-99 to the Atlanta Hawks. The issues which have hounded his team during the surprising stretch in which the Bulls have lost five of their last seven were apparent. They dug themselves an early hole, their intensity was lacking at times, and their defense, a calling card of the Tom Thibodeau era in Chicago, went missing when they needed it most down the stretch.

"If I had an answer," a frustrated Rose said, while discussing his team's defensive woes. "I swear I could tell you."

The Hawks are one of the very best teams in the NBA. They are well-coached, well-disciplined and they know how to execute throughout the game. They deserve all the praise that is coming their way after a 33-8 start to the season. But the more the Bulls have played over these past couple weeks, the easier it is to see that their issues, especially on the defensive end, are usually self-inflicted.

"Once again, communication, trusting, and just the effort," Rose said.

[+] EnlargeDeMarre Carroll, Derrick Rose
Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY SportsDeMarre Carroll made things hard on Derrick Rose here during the Hawks' 12th straight win.
That's the jarring part for this particular Bulls squad. Under Thibdoeau, they have almost always played harder than their opponent. They've almost always communicated well, and they have certainly trusted one another on the floor. That's why the issues that Rose and his teammates continue discussing have to be concerning for Thibodeau. They aren't issues that have popped many times before under his reign.

"Everybody's saying we know what we have to do, but we can't keep talking about it," Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler said. "At some point in time we got to actually go out there and get it done."

Make no mistake, the Bulls still believe they can and they will. As a portion of their fan base starts worrying about the future, it's important to remember a few things in the midst of the Bulls' slide.

First and foremost, Joakim Noah is hurt and hasn't looked like himself all season. Noah is the heart and soul of Thibodeau's defensive system. In order for them to get back on track Noah has to be healthy and active. He missed his second consecutive game on Saturday night because of a sprained right ankle and hasn't been moving around well on his left knee as he continues to make his way back from arthroscopic surgery. Any discussion about the Bulls improving defensively is based upon Noah coming back and rounding into form. If he doesn't, the conversation becomes moot because the Bulls won't be able to contend for a title without him playing at a high level.

Secondly, Mike Dunleavy's absence has been a bigger issue than many imagined. He is a solid defender, but his ability to space the floor on offense is sorely missed. The Bulls haven't been the same team on either end without the veteran shooter. They need him back as soon as possible in order to get out of this rut.

From a broader perspective, the Bulls need to get back to the fundamentals that Thibodeau has instilled in them for five years. They need to trust each other on the floor, a point that Rose underscored when noting that while his team's issues are fixable, the change must come from within.

"It's done with the team," Rose said. "Thibs can say whatever he wants to say, it's going to have to be done by us as a collective group. It can't be two or three guys on one possession. Or four guys on one possession and the fifth guy is like out doing whatever he wants to do; you got to be all five guys tied together, but I think we're going to figure it out."

The Bulls got a reminder of what they used to look like on Saturday night. The Hawks were hungrier, played together and executed better all night. They stepped on the Bulls early and never allowed them to crawl all the way back. They treated the Bulls the way the Bulls have treated so many other teams throughout the years. Thibodeau and his players know that they have plenty of time to turn things around, but with a brutal stretch of the schedule staring them in the face, they know they better start fixing their problems now.

"The way that they play, that's the way we should be playing," Butler said. "That's the way we can play and we're going to get to that."

Bulls finally close out a bad team late

January, 16, 2015
Jan 16
10:14
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
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BOSTON -- Joakim Noah stood toward the back of the visitor's locker room in the TD Garden late Friday night with an embarrassed smile on his face. Noah, the emotional leader of the Chicago Bulls who sat out Friday night's 119-103 win over the Boston Celtics because of a sprained right ankle, earned a rare NBA distinction during the game. With 4:33 left in the third quarter of a tight game, Noah picked up a technical foul for arguing with the officials. After the game ended, he was taking some good-natured ribbing for his indiscretion.

"It got us going," he joked from the trainer's table.

While Noah will surely argue about how much his contribution mattered on the way back to Chicago, the reality for the Bulls is that they finally closed out a game the way a championship-caliber team is supposed to against a bad opponent. After watching his team lose four of its last five, including two homes games to poor teams such as the Utah Jazz and the Orlando Magic, the entire locker room operated with a sense of relief hovering over it after everything ended.

"We got to play like that for the whole game," Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler said of his team's fourth-quarter performance. "We play like that for 48 minutes, getting stops, teams won't score 90 points and damn sure won't score 100. I think it's going to always end up starting on the defensive end for us."

[+] EnlargeDerrick Rose
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesDerrick Rose found his offensive game, scoring 20 of his 29 points in the second half.
After playing such porous defense on and off throughout the season, especially in the last two weeks, the Bulls appeared to be sleepwalking through much of this one before they woke up before the final 12 minutes began. The Celtics shot 60 percent from the field in the first half but managed only 17 points in the fourth quarter. Not only did the Bulls hit crucial shots down the stretch, as evidenced by their 31-point output in the final 12 minutes, they made stops when they needed them most.

"We can be very dangerous," Bulls point guard Derrick Rose said. "I think we all know that. It's just a matter of fact that it's on the defensive side. We can score all we want, but when we're allowing teams to get 100, 105 points every game it's going to be a tough game. Then if our shots aren't falling at the end, it could be a really tough game for us. So offensively we're not worried about that, defensively, that's our whole key right there."

As crucial as it is for the Bulls to play solid defense, it's just as important that their three primary scorers, Butler, Rose and Pau Gasol take over when needed late in games. That was the case Friday as the trio racked up a combined 71 points, 19 rebounds and 16 assists and seven steals (a career-high six from Butler). After struggling for the last few games to find a rhythm, Butler looked more aggressive and confident. Gasol was his usual steady self, and Rose made it a point to drive to the rim early and assert himself.

In a season full of ups and downs, Friday night's performance was one of the most complete of the season for Rose, who also knocked down five of his eight 3-point attempts and had 10 assists.

"It's good," Thibodeau said of having Rose, Butler and Gasol playing at a high level together. "It's nice to have those three back playing together. I think we've been a strong fourth-quarter team almost the entire year, minus this last lull over the past five games. We know they have the capability. I think what you're seeing is Derrick's getting stronger and stronger. I think he's gaining confidence. I think he's getting that competitive edge back. When you're out as long as he's been out you miss that part also. You're going against a great player, a great team, every night. So you can start to see [his momentum] is coming."

If the Bulls could get a healthy Noah back along with veteran shooter Mike Dunleavy, they'll be in even better shape down the stretch. But for now, they'll always have the laughs that came with Noah's "cashmere T" on Friday night.

It's not often a player earns a technical foul in a cashmere sweater, but after a much needed win, the Bulls can deal with it.

"That's Joakim," Rose said with a smile. "That's Jo, man. We're rolling with him. We understand him."

Rose, Wall excited about point-guard battle

January, 9, 2015
Jan 9
12:13
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
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WASHINGTON -- In advance of Friday night's showdown with the Washington Wizards, Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose believes the NBA is in the middle of a point guard renaissance.

"This is like the point guard era," Rose said after the Bulls' shootaround on Friday morning. "Every guard that you play against, no matter what team they're on, you're playing against great guards no matter what. No matter if they're in the East or the West, and the East is more younger guards, but they're still trying to make a name for themselves."

Rose admits that he gets up for games against other high-level point guards in the league.

"Oh yeah, for sure," he said. "I prepare myself all year for these type of games. If anything, who knows? This could be the game that puts me back in my rhythm."

I prepare myself all year for these type of games. If anything, who knows? This could be the game that puts me back in my rhythm.


-- Derrick Rose
Rose comes into the game in the middle of the worst shooting slump of his career -- 28-for-110 from the field in his past six games -- but remains confident that he will get his game back on track soon.

"It's part of the season, man," Rose said. "I can't get caught up with that. If anything, I think I prepare myself well for every game that I played in and that's all I can do. Prepare myself, shoot as many shots as possible before the game. The game that I do see them go down, who knows? Tonight could be that night."

Wall sounds equally excited about squaring off against Rose, especially after Rose dropped 25 points on the Wizards during a win in Washington on Dec. 23.

"It's fun," Wall said of facing Rose. "It's a lot of excitement. To be one of the most talented point guards, and everybody knows what type of player he was before he got injured, I think he's getting more and more comfortable with himself and just trying to find a rhythm. But he did [the rehab] the way he wanted to and he's still an exciting player to watch play. It's always a fun matchup to go against him."

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau doesn't want Rose to get caught up in a one-on-one matchup against Wall.

"I think Derrick has a good understanding of how good their team is," Thibodeau said. "The big thing is the winning part of it and not to get wrapped up in individual matchups. I think when you do that, you get sidetracked. So just get out there, make the team function well. Washington's a very good team. Their record says what they are. And we're going to have to be ready. They have a lot of weapons, they have great size, they have great quickness. John has certainly established himself, along with Bradley Beal, they're a terrific backcourt."

Like Rose, Wall acknowledged that he enjoys playing in this era of point guards.

"It's up in the air with anybody ... some people have their own top five. People's top fives and top 10s switch throughout the season, so it's fun and I'm glad to be a part of this era where you can say who's the best and challenge yourself to where you want to be in this category," he said.

Rose not worried about shooting 'slump'

January, 6, 2015
Jan 6
4:54
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
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CHICAGO – Despite missing nearly two full seasons with knee issues, Derrick Rose does not want to be babied, so he was direct Tuesday when taking about his recent lackluster shooting exhibitions.

Going 2-of-15 from the field Dec. 30 against the Brooklyn Nets over 28 minutes was the low point, although he has gone just 25-of-95 (26 percent) over the past five games, a stretch that started Dec. 29 at Indiana.

“It was a slump,” Rose said bluntly.

Yet it doesn’t seem to be a slump that will make Rose shy away from shot opportunities. And Rose did make his proclamation in the past tense, making it sound like his woes were behind him, even though his 6-of-17 (35.3 percent) game Monday night against the Houston Rockets wasn’t exactly a slump-ending performance.

“It’s just part of basketball,” Rose said. “Having that mentality where you've got to shoot your way out, I'm shooting the shots that they give me. I'm working on the shots every day and just trying to find ways in the game where I can affect the game, knowing that the fourth quarter is basically mine. The first three quarters, I'm trying to get everybody touches, read the game a little bit better.”

After a three-game run of at least 20 points ended shortly after Christmas, Rose seems ready to reach those heights again after his 19-point game Monday. He won’t be without confidence Wednesday against the Utah Jazz.

“Every game is going to be something different,” he said. “Some games I'll start off hot, some games I'll start off slow, but I can't really let that affect the way that I'm playing or my confidence. It's just, the shots aren't falling, airballing, all of it. It's a part of the game. I've shot worse before, so I can't let that bother me.”

Bulls having fun with their new 'versatility'

January, 5, 2015
Jan 5
11:29
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls beat the Houston Rockets at their own game Monday night, and that should be a terrifying thought for the rest of the NBA.

They raced up and down the floor all night, going shot-for-shot with one of the best teams in the Western Conference, but they still managed to find ways to make key defensive stops when they needed them late.

"It shows the versatility of this ballclub," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "There's a lot of talent. I think we got stops when we needed to, and there's a lot of guys playing at a high level right now. It's just fun to be a part of."

[+] EnlargeDerrick Rose
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastThe Bulls are vastly improved on the offensive end this season, even with Derrick Rose still trying to regain his form.
That the Bulls beat the Rockets isn't a surprise, given that Chicago has won nine of its past 10 and is in the midst of one of the best streaks of the Tom Thibodeau era. But after years of being a defensive-minded, offensively challenged team, the Bulls are showing they can win in different ways. They have enough offensive depth to beat teams from different angles.

Pau Gasol scored 18 of his 27 points in the first quarter and continues to provide the type of low-post threat the Bulls have been missing for years. Jimmy Butler continued his All-Star push in scoring 22 points and limiting the Rockets' James Harden, the NBA's leading scorer, in the second half.

The fact that the Bulls are doing all this while Derrick Rose continues to struggle with his shot makes the recent wins even more impressive.

"It just shows how resilient we are," Butler said of winning in different ways.

To put the offensive growth in perspective, the Bulls came into Monday's game averaging 105.9 points per 100 possessions, which is the most efficient they've been in the Thibs era, according to ESPN Stats and Info.

In 2012-13, the Bulls were 24th in the NBA in offensive efficiency. In 2013-14, they were 28th. The fact that they have jumped all the way to seventh shows how deep the roster has become with the play of Gasol, Butler and rookie Nikola Mirotic, who chipped in with 17 points Monday.

"It's big," Butler said of the Bulls' confidence in their offense. "Whenever we start locking teams down and then still being able to score, I think the game is going to be a lot easier. We don't have to worry about digging ourself a hole and getting out of it."

The Bulls are now averaging 103.1 points per game. That's almost 10 more a game than they've been averaging the past two years. They're also averaging 9.4 more points a game this season, compared to last year, which is the biggest leap in the league.

As happy as the Bulls are about the jump they've made, Noah doesn't want them to lose sight of the defensive culture, which has been created over the years by Thibodeau and the players.

"Don't say defensive mentality like that's a negative," Noah said. "It's important. You need to be able to play defense if you want to win big in this league. But you also need to be able to score, and this is definitely the best offensive team that I've been a part of in my NBA career. But that being said, just because we can score doesn't mean that defense isn't important or as important. It's just as important."

Defensive intensity is in this group's DNA. That's why the players realize they can be so much better once they start playing more consistent defense again. But Monday's game is another step in the progression of a special team. Over the years, they've had a handful of wins over Western Conference teams when they played this kind of pace and still won, but it didn't happen often.

"It feels great," Gasol said. "I like what we have. I like the way we're doing things. I like our potential. Our potential, I think, is incredible. But we just got to continue to work, not be content and, defensively, kind of demand more of ourselves ... I think we're doing great. We're showing great quality on the floor. We just got to keep it up. We got to keep working and staying locked in."

Injury updates: Rose starts vs. Rockets

January, 5, 2015
Jan 5
12:20
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
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CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose suffered a bruised right hip during Saturday's win over the Boston Celtics but went through Monday's shootaround and was in the starting lineup for Monday night's game against the Houston Rockets.

Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler is back with the team after missing Saturday's game while on bereavement leave and also started.

Meanwhile, Bulls small forward Mike Dunleavy will not play against the Rockets. He suffered a right ankle injury during a Jan. 1 win over the Denver Nuggets and did not play against the Celtics. The good news for the Bulls is that Dunleavy is no longer wearing a walking boot.

"It's getting better," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.

Derrick Rose shoots 'til he gets it right

January, 1, 2015
Jan 1
11:23
PM CT
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
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CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose started a new year the way he ended the last one: by missing a bunch of shots.

Apparently, his resolution was to keep on keeping on.

As Rose is always quick say, and then back up, he’ll keep shooting and shooting and, eventually, good things will happen.

After missing all seven of his shots in the first half and 12 of 14 through three quarters Thursday, Rose heated up in the fourth, scoring 13 of his 17 points to close out Denver 106-101.

Jimmy Butler had a game-high 26 points to go with eight assists and eight rebounds, while Pau Gasol had 17 points, nine rebounds and a career-high nine blocked shots.

But when it came to crunch time, it was all about the big-name star, Rose.

[+] EnlargeDerrick Rose
Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty ImagesAfter going cold most of the game from the floor, Derrick Rose heated up late and helped shoot the Bulls to a win.
Rose went 7-for-25 from the field in the game, but he hit 5 of 11 shots and two free throws in the fourth. He got to the rim, hit his floaters, made a 3-pointer and a key step-back jumper. Three of his fourth-quarter misses went for putback baskets for Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson.

“My mentality is not going to change,” Rose said. “I’m going to shoot the ball. I’m a scoring guard.”

With Jay Cutler on vacation, Rose is the most analyzed athlete still playing in Chicago, and there’s no close second.

At times, the level of scrutiny to the microparts of his games leans toward the absurd. Other times, it’s perfectly valid. All part of playing the starring role for a championship contender in a major market.

“Everybody questions everything here,” Noah said. “I’ve never questioned him, because I know what kind of competitor he is, and he’s a worker. Everybody has something to say.”

While Rose usually tries to act oblivious to chatter around him, he seemed a little perturbed that people had been questioning his game after just two bad outings in a row (7-for-35 shooting against Indiana and Brooklyn).

“I’m taking whatever they give me,” Rose said. “I’m not going to let anyone dictate the way that I play. If they’re giving me shots, I’m going to take them. Shots that I normally make, I’m going to keep taking them. I could care less what anyone says or talk about my game. They’re giving me shots, I should be able to make those shots.”

Rose’s reliance on 3-pointers has been criticized all season, and rightly so, given the limited results. Facing defenses that are giving him open 3s, he’s shooting 26.4 percent (32-for-121). He went 1-for-3 on 3s against Denver, mostly opting to move the ball when point guard Ty Lawson sagged back to invite a shot.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has been telling reporters that Rose needs to drive more and settle less for 3-pointers early in possessions. He liked what he saw on Thursday. It wasn’t just trips to the paint in the fourth, but also the alacrity to get the ball upcourt quicker to get the offense going.

“I want him to be aggressive,” Thibodeau said. “I want him attacking. That’s what got him going in the fourth.”

Rose looked for his midrange game before getting seams to the rim in the fourth. The shots just weren’t falling until then.

“Really, it’s my teammates giving me confidence,” he said. “Even when you’re missing shots like I am the past couple games, teammates are still giving me the ball, giving me confidence, telling me to shoot the ball, still giving me the ball in position to shoot the ball. I’m fortunate. I’m very fortunate.”

Rose missed his first two shots in the fourth -- he got clobbered by Timofey Mozgov on one -- before hitting a floater to give the Bulls an 87-86 lead. On the next trip down, he hit another floater. His next shot, a missed layup, was rebounded and scored by Gibson. That made it 91-86.

A few possessions later, he hit a 3 and then got a steal and made a beautiful no-look pass to Butler (game-high 26 points) for a dunk.

While Noah credited Thibodeau’s decision to let the team run simple pick-and-roll actions in the fourth, allowing Noah and Gibson to hit the offensive glass, Rose’s best play came in an isolation situation with 24 seconds left. He sized up Arron Afflalo in front of the Nuggets bench with a few dribbles, and then hit a perfect step-back jumper to give Chicago a 102-97 lead.

“We have a fourth-quarter set of plays we run, and that was part of it,” Thibodeau said. “He’s got to make the play. There were open seams for him to drive or pull up, and he has the responsibility when the second defender comes to make the right read and the right play.”

Rose stared hard at the Nuggets’ bench after the shot.

“It wasn’t the players,” Rose said. “Players don’t talk to me in the game. It was the coaches. I heard some of the coaches saying something. I was just caught up in the game.”

Were they telling Nuggets defenders to let him shoot?

“It wasn’t that,” Rose said. “They were telling them how to defend me. I just made my shot.”

Rose, apparently, hears everything, and he is listening.

Rose undeterred by 'terrible' shooting night

December, 30, 2014
12/30/14
11:05
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
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CHICAGO -- The first word out of Derrick Rose's mouth during a postgame media session summed up his shooting performance in a 96-82 loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

"Terrible," Rose said after making just 2-of-15 shots for four points.

The issue for Rose is it was the second straight game he shot poorly from the field. Over the past two games, Rose is a combined 7-for-35 from the field and 1-for-12 from beyond the arc.

After sitting out two games last week because of an illness, it appeared Rose was finally starting to find a groove. He came into Monday's game against the Indiana Pacers shooting a combined 37-for-68 from the field and 5-for-17 from the three-point arc since returning Dec. 22 in a win over the Toronto Raptors.

[+] EnlargeRose
Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY SportsDerrick Rose struggled with his shot for a second straight game and went 2-for-15 from the field against the Nets.
But the past two games are a reminder Rose still isn't all the way back, offensively. Teams are daring Rose to shoot by going under screens, and up to this point, the former MVP hasn't proven he can hit shots consistently to warrant a change.

"They're going under at the free throw line, so I got to take them shots, man," Rose said. "No matter how many times I miss or whatever, those are shots that I normally have to take just to make them play honest. I'm just waiting for that game where I'm going to have a good game -- just waiting for it."

Tuesday's game marked the second worst shooting performance of Rose's career in a game in which he had at least 10 shot attempts, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The worst came April 12, 2012, in which Rose, who was benched late in favor of C.J. Watson, went 1-for-13 from the field.

Rose is adamant he must continue shooting those open looks he's getting, but Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has been outspoken all year about how he wants Rose to be aggressive.

"The game will tell you how it's going," Thibodeau said before the game regarding Rose's decision to shoot more three-pointers recently. "Often times, it's coming out of the post. It's coming from people going under on the pick-and-roll. The most important thing is: Is it the right play? Does he have the proper balance? And is he shooting the ball well?"

The problem for Thibodeau is Rose is usually making the correct basketball play -- he's getting lots of open looks -- but if Rose isn't shooting well, shouldn't he be driving more?

"I'm just trying to read the game," Rose said. "It's just that I'm not making any shots. If I was making shots, we wouldn't be having this conversation. I'm playing the way I normally play. We were on a seven-game winning streak, lost tonight, and I'm still going to continue to play the way I normally play. If they give me open shots, going under [screens] I have to shoot them shots. Just getting reps up. I think that's the last part of my game that I'm missing."

Over his past five games, Rose has taken 31 shots outside the paint and 27 shots inside it, according to ESPN Stats and Info. But in his past two games, the majority of Rose's shots haven't been that close to the rim.

Rose remains outwardly confident, but he brushed aside the notion that he is a different player than during his MVP season of 2010-2011.

"I can't control that," Rose said. "I can't control people's thoughts. People are going to think whatever they want to think, do whatever they want to do. As far as a basketball player, all I can do is try to go out there and win the game. We have a great team. Certain nights, it's going to be like that, where I have 30 or whatever. I can't play the way that people want me to play. They want me to score 40 or 50 points every night. If I can score 15 and still win the game, it's a good win for me."

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jimmy Butler
PTS AST STL MIN
20.2 3.3 1.7 38.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 12.1
AssistsD. Rose 5.0
StealsJ. Butler 1.7
BlocksP. Gasol 2.1