Rose leaves Pacers back in the starting blocks


Oct 19

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I’ve been hearing the Bulls talk about this new offense this season, about motion and read and react and subtle alternations of their schemes.

Pssst, c’mere. I’ll tell you a little secret.

The offense is named Derrick Rose.

“I’m not holding back,” said Rose, who was brilliant in the Bulls’ second half 103-98 comeback win over the Indiana Pacers with 32 points and nine assists in 31 minutes, including 10 of the team’s last 13 points in the last four minutes. “Whatever shot you give me, I’m taking.”

"(Playing like this is) just giving me some reassurance right now,” said Rose, “letting me know my leg is safe and me driving, laying the ball up against big guys like Roy and the big guys they have on their team is really helping.”

“(Playing like this is) just giving me some reassurance right now,” said Rose, “letting me know my leg is safe and me driving, laying the ball up against big guys like Roy and the big guys they have on their team is really helping.”

And Rose just took it to the Pacers in what had to produce nightmares for a hopeful Indiana team that fell to 0-5 in the preseason while the Bulls moved to 5-0. After all, it’s the Pacers who took the Heat to a seventh game in the conference finals last season. So here they are on the verge, and here comes Rose again.

“Same old Derrick Rose I remember before the injury,” said Pacers coach Frank Vogel, whose Pacers were 3-9 against Rose and the Bulls from 2010-2012 and 3-1 last season with Rose out. “He is special. They are dramatically different with Derrick out there. He has the ball in his hand every possession and he is special. You will never find me shy of respect for Derrick Rose.”

Dreaming about him, perhaps, but not likely in a very inviting way.

The Bulls and Pacers are supposed to be a rivalry now that the Pacers are considered a title contender with a strong offseason enhancing their bench. Rose sort of dismissed the notion of rivals at shootaround Friday, though Rose got unusually upset at the Pacers a few years back when he accused them of celebrating too much at the United Center after a rare Pacers win over the Bulls with Rose.

Though by most accounts, it’s a taut and physical series as three players fouled out Friday and two others had five fouls, the Pacers in the bonus two minutes into the second half.

“We got our closer back, Derrick, and he took us home,” said Taj Gibson, who had 13 points while Luol Deng added 22. “It felt like a playoff game; it really did. The way they play. They talk trash; we talk trash back. They were cheap shotting. I’m in pain right now. It was crazy the way bodies were flying. Thibs was yelling, their coach was yelling. The refs probably had a heart attack. They probably thought it would be a walk in the park, but they were getting screamed at by Thibs on every play. We’re not going to back down; they’re not going to back down. It’s just one of those rivalries. It was a great game.”

Not so much for the Pacers, who were led by Paul George with 22 points, as Indiana was at full strength while starters Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler were out for the Bulls. The Bulls disclosed earlier Friday they were “shutting down” Noah for a week so he could rest his groin injury. Indications were he’d he ready to open the season Oct. 29, but you never know with such injuries. Butler tested his knee bruise before the game, but the Bulls decided to hold him back another game.

This, of course, is a concern for the Bulls, now perhaps more so than the condition of Rose as the star guard looks amazingly like he did two years ago. In four preseason games in about 23 minutes per game, Rose is averaging 20 points and shooting 60 percent on threes with four of seven Friday. Rose is averaging 9.5 free throws per game in that limited time and in the last two games back in the United Center has scored 54 points in 53 minutes.

But injuries have hung over this Bulls core like a storm cloud these last three years and it was worrisome, obviously, for Noah to be out again after having playing just one preseason game. Plus, Kirk Hinrich banged his head falling into teammate Erik Murphy late in the game and coach Tom Thibodeau said it appeared to be a concussion. More information was expected Saturday.

Deng had actually left the game with a knee bruise in the first quarter and the team said he would not return. But Deng did return and would make three of four three pointers as the Bulls were a strong nine for 19 overall from long range.

Last season, the Bulls were tied for last in the league in scoring. So there was a need for enhanced offense. His name is Derrick. It’s a beautiful thing to see, especially after the horrific injury and all the criticism Rose received for not playing sooner.

But after limited play the first two preseason games and setting off alarms sitting out against the Wizards in Brazil with a sore knee, Rose has attacked the game with zest and élan.

“Just trying to keep knocking the rust off every night,” said Rose, who tends to minimize the spectacular. “When you’re playing against a great team like they are, it becomes a playoff atmosphere, where you know each other. We played then a few times. There were always wars against them. They’re a tough team.

"We’re not going to back down; they’re not going to back down," said Gibson. "It’s just one of those rivalries. It was a great game.”

“We’re not going to back down; they’re not going to back down,” said Gibson. “It’s just one of those rivalries. It was a great game.”

“It’s just coming back to me, getting my feet under me,” said Rose of his three-point shooting. ”I was open and taking what the defense was giving me. Just trying to be more efficient. I’m getting my feet under me. They were giving me the shots, so I was just taking them.”

Perhaps that’s how great ones see it. Mostly it appeared the Pacers were chasing Rose all over the court and helping, and he was blowing through them and to the basket. The Pacers are one of the bigger teams in the league with a rough front line of Roy Hibbert, David West and George. They bring in big guys like Ian Mahinmi and Luis Scola. Particularly without Noah, the Bulls are much smaller and had to use Nazr Mohammed 20 minutes and get him back in when Hibbert was scoring over Gibson and Carlos Boozer. Mohammed did well defensively and had two points and four rebounds.

But it was more impressive to see the way Rose took on Hibbert and West at the basket.

Early in the game, Rose was aggressive attacking from the wing and in transition as the Bulls got off to a 12-6 start. But when the Bulls did a major substitution midway through the first, they fell behind 29-21 at the end of the first quarter and were down 50-43 at halftime and being outrebounded 23-15.

This much upset Thibodeau, who certainly seemed in midseason form as well, and he said afterward it was a poor performance.

“I didn’t like the way we played at all tonight,” Thibodeau said. “We got lucky in the end. I didn’t like the start of the game. We were back on our heels. I thought they were beating us to the ball. We were lucky to be down only by seven at the half. We fought hard in the second half and bailed ourselves out

“We have been a very good rebounding team in this preseason and Jo has only played 19 minutes,” Thibodeau added. “And Jimmy’s been out two games now. We have the capability to be an excellent rebounding team, but we need everybody to rebound. You have to hit, you have to fight, you have to pursue, and that takes work and multiple effort and it takes heart. And when you play this game you have to play with an edge.”

Never too early for a motivational message.

These preseason games are supposed to be about testing out free agents and rookies and trying different lineups, and Thibodeau did that using rookies Tony Snell and Murphy along with Marquis Teague, the latter with eight points and four assists in 18 minutes and perhaps more playing time to come depending on Hinrich’s condition. The Bulls also seem to be uncertain trying to work in Mike Dunleavy, who was one of four shooting in 21 minutes.

Though Snell didn’t shoot well after a strong game against Detroit Wednesday, he did come on to help with the rebounding after halftime and played good defense with three steals. I also thought Murphy with a three pointer did well to make West and Scola work as the Pacers went at him and Boozer in the post coming out of most every time out.

But Thibodeau was having none of it and said the rookies had a poor night.

“They are not playing well,” said Thibodeau. “They have a long way to go. The thing that I did like about Tony is that he didn’t shoot well, but he got his nose in there and rebounded the ball. That is what we needed. I want him to have an understanding that he can play well even when he is not shooting well. I think that his shot will come around for him. Murphy had a big three for us. It helps open up the floor and creates driving opportunities for Derrick. But Murphy has to do a lot better. He has to play defense, he has to rebound, he’s got to concentrate. We need him on every possession. He’s got to do a lot better than he did today.”

Luol Deng recorded 22 points and six rebounds as Chicago moved to 5-0 in the preseason.

Luol Deng recorded 22 points and six rebounds as Chicago moved to 5-0 in the preseason.

That is rookie orientation.

The Bulls nosed out ahead 77-75 after three and the feeling was it would be, like most preseason games, an NFL-like taxi squad finish. But the stretch limos came back as both coaches went with their best and Rose returned in the fourth quarter for the first time in the preseason.

“It’s preseason. We have to be smart about the situation,” Rose agreed, but added: “I’m glad he threw me back out there.”

Everyone in the building but the Pacers as Rose time and again drove off picks into the collapsing Pacers’ defense, drawing fouls and making four free throws, scoring and being fouled but missing the free throw, then driving again and again and adding four more free throws to close out the Pacers with 10 points in about three and a half minutes. The Pacers just didn’t have enough responses. They are a good team when they move the ball and get their threes. But they also get caught in trying to take advantage of their mismatches with West and Hibbert, and the Bulls controlled that down the stretch.

The Pacers are good. But George isn’t that level star yet, so they have to spread out offense at the end. It works better when you have someone like Rose.

The Bulls primarily still run multiple pick and rolls. So what they did was bring Hibbert or West up high with a big man setting the pick. That left a Pacers’ big trying to contain Rose with help, which was pretty much impossible.

“They had Hibbert playing the pick and roll,” said Rose. “The plan was to attack his legs and pull people in. Try to draw guys so we had comfortable shots. The game plan was if they did not double and take the ball out of my hands it was going to be tough. For me it was driving the ball those last four minutes and getting to the line. It felt good being out there. I’m happy he (Thibodeau) gave me the opportunity. I’m not holding back. Whatever shot you give me, I’m taking.

“I’ve been working super hard,” said Rose. “I think I’m one of the hardest working guys in the league, if not the hardest. During the summer, I work out three times a day and concentrate on taking care of my body.

“(Playing like this is) just giving me some reassurance right now,” said Rose, “letting me know my leg is safe and me driving, laying the ball up against big guys like Roy and the big guys they have on their team is really helping.”

And really again something to see.

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