Rose's defensive improvement obvious

December, 30, 2010
12/30/10
8:49
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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DEERFIELD, Ill. -- With all of the eye-popping numbers Derrick Rose continues to rack up on offense, it's easy to forget that some of his biggest improvements over the past month have come on the other end of the floor.

"His defense looks a lot better to me," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said after Thursday afternoon's practice. "I think he's been very consistent."

That's not to say Thibodeau is dismissing the 24 points, 8.5 assists and 5 rebounds Rose averages on a nightly basis. It's just a reminder to all that the 22-year-old's game isn't just evolving on one level, but on many.

[+] EnlargeDerrick Rose
Joe Murphy/Getty ImagesDerrick Rose has been working on his defense since July, and it shows.
"He's much better on the ball," Thibodeau said. "He's getting back in front of the ball and the way he's challenging shots right now, he's up on every shot. He's a hard guy to score over if he's up on the shot. I think he's getting better; his weakside awareness is much better. Just his overall defense is vastly improved."

If you want to point out the exact time when Rose's commitment to defense turned the proverbial corner, look no further than Team USA's training camp in Las Vegas in July. After the first practice session ended, Rose walked over to Thibodeau, who had been watching practice from the sidelines, and received some tips. Thibodeau began describing to his prized pupil the types of things he should be doing, and that tutelage continues every day.

“‘Try harder,’" Rose says with a laugh, describing the types of things Thibodeau barks at him on the floor. "It could be like the guy's coming off a pick and roll and I contest the shot and they hit the shot. I'll look at him, he'll look at me, I'm like, ‘I contested it,’ and he'll be like, ‘Try harder,’ and I'm like, ‘Man ... you come out here and try.’ But he's always making sure that I'm always out there giving my all, especially on the defensive end because that's what we really need to get it going."

Rose says he can feel the difference in his defensive intensity this season.

"Every time people come off picks, they've always got to look for me," he said. "Especially when they have a little bit of room. I'm making sure that I'm getting out there, contesting their shot without fouling. It's kind of hard sometimes when they're in front of you, but I just got to find a way to make sure that I don't foul them and send them to the line."

Like most of his teammates, it appeared Rose struggled early on to pick up some of the defensive concepts that Thibodeau was always preaching about, but now he definitely seems more confident on the defensive end of the floor and the veteran coach knows it.

"I think he's taken a lot of pride in it," Thibodeau said of Rose's defense. "I think he's really worked at it. Each day he comes in and you can see it in practice. In practice, he's working extremely hard on his defense."

The numbers don't lie.

The Bulls have given up 100 points just twice since a Dec. 4 shootout win over the Houston Rockets. It's a big reason why they come into Friday afternoon's game against the New Jersey Nets with a 20-10 record. If Rose and his teammates continue to play with that kind of defensive passion, there's no reason to think the wins will stop any time soon.

Nick Friedell | email

Chicago Bulls beat reporter
Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Derrick Rose
PTS AST STL MIN
15.9 4.3 0.5 31.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Noah 11.3
AssistsJ. Noah 5.4
StealsJ. Butler 1.9
BlocksJ. Noah 1.5