A while back, I wrote this.
Now, I'll admit right off the bat that I didn't imagine Rose being this effective over the first three games of the playoffs, and I remain skeptical about his ability to continue this hot streak over another round or two. Or three.
But as it stands right now, Rose is averaging 24 points, four rebounds, eight assists, two steals and he's posting a league-playoff leading TS% of .613 while leading the Bulls to a perfect 3-0 lead over the Milwaukee Bucks.
The backcourt duo of Rose and Jimmy Butler has been dominating since the opening tip, with Butler averaging 26.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists in a ridiculous 44.7 minutes a night, while also carrying a TS% above 60 (.604). The two have taken turns, or combined, to take over games which the Bucks, ranking as the fourth-best defense during the regular season, have had no answer to.
In fact, Rose and Butler have combined to score 49.5% of all Chicago's points in the series, allowing fresher legs for Pau Gasol in the second round where his presence in the paint could cause havoc for Cleveland's interior defense.
Strategy, though, comes second if Rose indeed is ready to produce at this, or at least a similar, level. An aggressive, creative, athletic, explosive, and calculating Derrick Rose is not just a tough cover. He's an elite player with an enormous on-court significance similar to that of Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
After just three games, this is obviously asking too much. But the point remains. A healthy Rose changes everything for the Bulls. Forget sloppiness. Forget poor execution. Forget going through the motions. A healthy Rose abolishes all that. By taking charge of the offense and leading the way with the guys around him feeding off his energy and downright impossible plays, Rose changes every ounce of scepticism and turns it into a much necessary fresh start for everyone.
There's a noticeable difference in the effort from Chicago's bigs when Rose is able to carry the offense, compared to when he's not. They work harder when they see him with that spring in his step, especially Gasol who's turned himself into a rebounder and positional defender during the series, compared to being the focal point of the offense. He's attempted just 39 shots this series, and is averaging more boards than points (14.3 to 12.7) while working mostly as a decoy, which wouldn't have flown with him earlier in the year.
In short, players sacrifice themselves for this version of Rose, and he's answering the message to the best of his abilities. These Bulls aren't the same as the ones during the regular season. Over a course of just three games, a sense of urgency has developed and poor habits are being filtered out. This just goes to show the importance and significance of a leader returning to the floor, especially one who has the ball in his hands a lot, and is making decisions that directly affects the team as a whole.
Rose is very clearly aware of this. He's calm and posed, but balances it by being possessed and determined to answer his team's call. It's been years since this was the case, which makes it all that much sweeter.