Healthy or not, Derrick Rose has maintained over the course of the season that he will not change any part of his game. The Chicago Bulls’ star has repeatedly said the way he approaches the court – aiming to explosively attack the rim, push the ball at all times, and be in charge of the contest – will not be tweaked whether he is 100 percent healthy or dealing with an injury.
But that mindset changed Saturday night when Rose returned from a three-game absence in a 93-83 win over the Dallas Mavericks. Although he put up 11 points and eight assists, Rose never went coast-to-coast with an outlet pass; short-armed most of his seven jump shot attempts and often looked to dish the ball off to a teammate, namely either Luol Deng or Rip Hamilton.
The Bulls were clearly upbeat about Rose’s return, but the 6-foot-3 point guard admitted he lacked the confidence he needed to drive the ball with ferocity – a trait he knows he must regain during the team’s final two games of the regular season. Rose shot 5-of-9 for the game and went 2-for-2 on his trademark floaters, one of which late in the first half on a nifty spin move that got him a good look at the basket.
“My confidence wasn’t that high driving the ball,” Rose told reporters after the game. “Hopefully, in the next couple of days it’s going to get better and you’ll see me back as my usual self – driving to the hole, trying to get fouled, and putting a lot of pressure on the defense.”
Then, Rose again said he wasn’t playing full-throttle, because didn’t want to suffer another setback. The 23-year-old has already had five different injuries this season – a turf toe, lower back spasms, a strained groin, a sprained right ankle and the sore right foot he sustained in last weekend’s 100-94 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
“During the game, I was just trying to pace myself,” Rose said. “I tried not to do anything that would re-injure it. Me driving to hole, just trying to take the game easy but play smart.
“The great part about it [is] we got the win, we got a couple days off to get treatment, stay off my feet. Hopefully, it’s just going to get better day by day.”
While Rose obviously wasn’t at the top of his game against the Mavs, he commanded plenty of attention and found teammates in areas where they could score. The reigning NBA MVP had to rely on his vision more than his scoring prowess and appeared to limp at times. Yet, he still impacted the outcome of the game and provided hope that now he is in the Bulls’ lineup for good.
Rose’s ability to garner most of the opponent’s eyes even at less than 100 percent didn’t go unnoticed by his teammates.
“I know it’s tough, he’s just trying to get his rhythm back,” Bulls center Joakim Noah told the assembled media. “But just having him on the court, he was very effective and he affected the game in a really positive way today.”
Added coach Tom Thibodeau: “Taking everything into consideration, I thought he played a very controlled-type game. [He was] taking care of the ball, just trying to run the offense, just trying to get a feel for being out there again. So I think it was a good first step. Overall, I thought he played very well.”
Rose is confident he will be able to return to the player who is capable of putting the Bulls on his shoulders and carrying them to victories for an extended period of time. The Bulls – coaches, players and fans alike – hope that stretch will begin to take place in the next week, with the playoffs slated to start next weekend.