Hit or miss, for Rose loves challenge
Bulls rewarded, home fans satiated after missing composed star's clutch shooting
CHICAGO -- When Derrick Rose hit his first game winner of the season in his homecoming return, he didn't arch an eyebrow.
He didn't pump his fist or pound his heart or give the ol' Michael Jordan "I don't believe it either" shrug. He has done those things before, after big shots. Derrick Rose is human, after all.
No, he calmly ran back up the court, implacable and focused, I thought as the moment unfolded Thursday night.
Bulls forward Taj Gibson saw something else.
"Just emotional," Gibson said. "I looked in his face, you could tell. Real emotional."
Rose belied those emotions when he spoke to reporters.
"For me, there's no pressure," he said after the Chicago Bulls' 82-81 decision against the New York Knicks. "If I'm going to miss the shot, I'm going to miss it. If I'm going to hit it, I'm going to hit it. I just love taking it."
That's music to maestro Tom Thibodeau's ears. Every coach wants their star to kill and be chill.
While Rose is still the same old calm guy, win or lose, his friend Joakim Noah isn't quite as reserved.
As the crowd continued to roar after the Knicks missed a chance to win it, Noah sat at midcourt to do the traditional postgame interview that is broadcast throughout the arena.
"I missed this s---! I missed this s---!" he said with a wide smile.
You thought only fans missed Rose? This is a team that expects to win every night and was still stinging from the embarrassment that was their season opener in Miami. They need MVP Derrick Rose every night.
In that moment, Noah spoke for every fan who felt like swearing when that shot went down.
Rose has that effect on people. Just remember how people acted when he missed last season as he patiently rehabbed from ACL surgery.
Rose's first regular-season game back in Chicago didn't have the same zing after a reasonably thrilling preseason slate and an opening-night dud in Miami. We knew he could play.
But the United Center was packed and fans got their money's worth at the end.
"For Derrick, it's a homecoming," Noah said. "I know it's special for him and it's special for us, too. It's been a long year and a half and to have him back is huge."
This game wasn't much for the eyes until Rose stirred up old memories with that winner.
With the Bulls just seconds away from an 0-2 start, Rose caught a Jimmy Butler pass on the right wing. He sped to the baseline and stopped to go vertical with an arcing floater over the outstretched arms of Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton.
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It was exquisite Hero Ball, and it's the kind of move that Rose said he doesn't think about. That's when he's at his best, trusting his natural instincts.
"It felt good," Rose said. "I missed enough damn shots the whole night. For me, I'm used to them situations. That's why I work so hard."
Was the play for him?
There were three options on the out-of-bounds play, Thibodeau said. "Put the ball in Rose's hands" is usually the best one.
"Hell, no, he wasn't passing that ball," Noah said.
"I think Thibs put the ball in my hand for a reason," Rose said.
"I've been around him long enough," Thibodeau said. "He's won enough games for us."
As you should expect, Rose is still finding his rhythm after such a long absence. The floater game is a major part of his arsenal, but it hadn't come around until he really needed it.
"That's my first floater, I think, in the whole season," he said.
Yup, both games. Rose missed 16 of his 23 shots in 33:43, and didn't get to the free-throw line until there was 3:17 left. He hit 3-pointers in back-to-back possessions early in the third quarter, catching the Knicks doubling the post.
But while it didn't look like Rose's night, just remember that like every great scorer in the league, Rose doesn't care about anything but the next shot.
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"I just work too hard, man," he said. "It's going to be scary when all those shots are failing. For me, I can't think about that. I gotta have amnesia. They were giving me shots. I'm not going to keep missing those shots."
Rose had six rebounds and three assists to go with four turnovers. At times he seemed to be playing too fast, too reckless. His team is still jelling, which is natural. Thibodeau bemoaned the lack of practice time as players have been nicked up since the preseason began.
The Bulls shot 40.8 percent, but missed 13-of-16 3-pointers and committed 18 turnovers. The Knicks had 13 offensive rebounds, which is 13 more than Thibodeau would like.
While Thibodeau is a little too intense to be called a drill sergeant, Rose has no worries about getting pulled. The team needs him to sort himself out. As you might have noticed, the Bulls struggle creating offense without him. That's a problem that might doom this team come playoff time, but that's a long way from now.
The Bulls just needed a win, if only to get their coach off their collective backs. But they let the Knicks get back in it in the fourth quarter by shooting 2-for-15 from the field. Rose, who played 9:16 in the quarter, made both of those shots (in five attempts) and split a pair of free throws.
"The only way for him to get through it is to let him do it," Thibodeau said. "I trust he'll make the right play."
Who doesn't? This is Derrick Rose. This is what he does.
That shot was his Michael Jordan fax. He's back.