It’s depressing; brother, can you spare a foul?


Nov 15

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or their Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

The United States sometimes can be a baffling place of mixed messages. We condemn cigarette smoking. Yet, we subsidize tobacco farming. We scream for business incentives, yet watch quietly as the same businesses outsource jobs all over the world to enhance their corporate profits.

And so it is in the NBA as well, and Derrick Rose doesn’t understand or know what to do.

“I think I’ve got to get a tech (technical foul) one game,” Rose was telling me the other day when I asked him about another night of running into defenses more than Adrian Peterson with fewer penalties.

“I’m dead serious,” Rose said seriously when I began to smile.

“I don’t know what, but I’m going to continue to go to the hole,” said Rose. “I guess get a tech or something. I just don’t know.”

Here’s the paradox: The NBA wants players to behave like Rose does. Don’t overreact to contact. Don’t make a spectacle of the game and yourself. Keep playing and be professional.

So then when you do, as Rose does, he basically gets ignored and taken for granted with probably the fewest foul calls in the league for a player who invites and engages contact as much or more than anyone in the NBA.

The league actually is driving Rose to act out of character and perhaps inappropriately to get the attention he probably deserves. Nice.

It will be something else to watch as the Bulls Tuesday open their seven-game Western Conference road trip in Houston.

The Bulls are off to a good start at 5-3. They have outshot opponents 48.3 percent to 43.8 percent. They are outrebounding opponents 54.3 to 48.9. They are outscoring opponents 105 per game to 100.4. They have more blocks and more assists than their opponents. But they are being outshot at the free throw line 146-129, an odd disparity given they are not primarily a perimeter team. And the greater curiosity is given how often he has the ball, Rose is third on the Bulls in free throw attempts even as he has improved to being an 80 percent shooter.

Rose is ninth in the NBA in scoring at 23.6 per game. The only player scoring more going to the line fewer times is Rudy Gay, who is primarily a perimeter shooter averaging 3.4 free throws per game. Carmelo Anthony, in something of an aberration, or perhaps a sign that Anthony subtly has preferred the perimeter with rampant trade rumors, is tied with Rose with 5.6 free throw attempts per game. Anthony has a career average of about eight free throw attempts per game.

But among attacking point guards, the players who go to the basket the most, Rose is well behind Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams and Devin Harris in free throw attempts and just ahead of rookie John Wall.

Those who read me regularly know I rarely, if ever, blame officiating for the result of a game and consider the NBA’s referees the best in the world. So I’m reluctant to even make this case.

But it’s been confusing to watch Rose storm the basket with so few foul calls. OK, rookies, no matter how much the league will deny it, often don’t get the benefit. Then I heard Rose is so quick, so accustomed to growing up playing in the playgrounds, that he actually avoided contact when he went to the basket.

But this season I’ve seen something I basically never have seen.

With Carlos Boozer out and the Bulls having shed all their scoring guards to get into free agency, Rose has had to score more, averaging more than 20 field goal attempts per game. Only Kevin Durant, leading the league in scoring, averages more. Rose might have to do even more with now Kyle Korver having his sore knee checked and  a question of his availability after missing practice Monday.

And though Rose is an improving outside shooter, he still bases his game on penetration and attacking the rim.

But as Rose has been hammered going to the basket like some fraternity hazing drill with paddles, he’s had to cup the ball like a running back trying to prevent a fumble and then put the ball up when he gets closer to the rim.

The irony, of course, is the NBA made it an issue this season that players would be penalized with technical fouls for complaining too much, generally about non calls. The league said it reflected badly on the players and the NBA.

So here’s Rose who never confronts a referee, never throws his hands up or contorts his face in anger or frustration, who just picks himself up and hustles back on defense. And he continues to get arguably the fewest foul calls in the NBA for a guard who goes to the basket so frequently.

What sort of message is that to send? Sure, you issue a technical foul here and there. But the longtime offenders, like Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant, though they have more offensive options and take fewer shots than Rose, somehow end up going to the free throw line almost double the amount of times Rose does.

Yet, Rose is an All-Star, he has a gold medal from the USA Basketball team and Monday he was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week.

Among Bulls players, Michael Jordan was named Player of the Week 23 times in his career. Man, that guy was big in numerology. Scottie Pippen was next with five and Ben Gordon with four.

Rose is up about two attempts per game, from his career average of 3.7, which seemed low. But he was young, and I have heard referees say he is so quick they miss the contact at times or that he’s so strong it doesn’t seem like he’s getting hit, which is hardly an excuse with three of them out there.

“I’ll continue to go in there and try to get fouled and hopefully they’ll call it,” said Rose.

Typically, he said it without rancor and really had to be prodded as I brought it up. His friends bring it up, and I assume Bulls coaches are frustrated. But the NBA doesn’t like anyone talking about this.

So I will. I believe the league likes Rose given his place with USA Basketball and they respect his achievements given the Player of the Week honor.

But the message they are sending is incongruent. Still, the squeaky wheel continues to get the grease even if the wheel doesn’t squeak quite as loudly as before. Rose is the NBA model, the poster child for responsible behavior on the court. And he gets ignored.

It’s hardly a proud moment for the NBA.

What do you think? Leave a comment below: