Bulls: Derrick Rose's new reality: Playing sight unseen


Bulls: Derrick Rose's new reality: Playing sight unseen

When Derrick Rose closes his eyes every night, his thoughts likely revolve around the same premise, the same hopes for when his body rises the next morning.

That after the initial grogginess shakes itself off illustrated by the blurred vision all humans have temporarily, Rose believes this will be the day where the side effects from the broken orbital bone fracture he suffered on day one of training camp will finally dissipate.

That Rose won’t be seeing double anymore and he can finally begin another restart of the same journey he’s been on in this odyssey in his hometown. Until then, adjusting to his new reality, the one slightly obscured but not fully protected from by his clear mask.

Never one to offer excuses or even acknowledge limitations, Rose is finally bowing down to a new-found reality that has an unknown ending, not dissimilar to dealing with knee surgeries that has cruelly sapped him of some explosiveness.

Considering the next jumper he makes this year will be the first, he’s gone full facilitator mode, especially after the potential game-winning jumper in regulation against Detroit went wide left—all the way left.

“It’s no point in shooting when you can’t see,” said Rose of his 35.2 shooting percentage, a clear result of the double vision he’s suffering from.

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Averaging 5.5 assists per game isn’t going to put anyone in the mind of Steve Nash or John Stockton, but he’s creating opportunities for his teammates they have yet to fully capitalize on.

During one stretch, he set up teammates for four straight open, quality looks at shots up close or beyond the 3-point arc. Only one of them was converted during his season-high eight-assist performance that could’ve been 12, easily.

Rose’s history in dealing with adversity has robbed him of getting any type of praise he likely deserves from even playing at half-sight, the “hero” narratives that are often thrown about so liberally.

But basketball’s Stevie Wonder is playing in part because he wants to get acclimated to Fred Hoiberg’s system, one that gets him the type of shots a man with two good knees and at worst, two good eyes would feast on.

One of the best finishers at the rim, no longer resorting to taking a third of his shots from 20 feet or more, missing shots that backup Aaron Brooks is making with much more efficiency sounds like an aberration.

“I love them. I love them. I love them,” Rose said. “It’s like he’s forcing me to the way I naturally play, where I’m running downhill, I’m getting to the paint. I’m able to push the ball, a one-man fast break if I want to.”

Rose is literally playing basketball off muscle memory, while one can say he’s shooting sight unseen.

“Set shots are one thing but when you’re moving, it’s kind of hard,” Rose said. “I’m gonna figure out my floaters but I’m happy to be back moving, happy to be back with my teammates.”

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So when he sees Nikola Mirotic hesitating on open 3-point attempts, someone not appreciating two good eyes and the skill to shoot with accuracy, he gets a little annoyed—the same annoyance those may have had with him not driving to the basket and settling for long jumpers.

“I’m on Niko pump faking. There’s no reason for you to pump fake when you’re one of the best shooters at your position,” Rose said. “With the green light that he has. The more we play, the more we get used to taking those shots, everybody will get used to playing this way.”

The scintillating drives to the rim, the ones that came more due to guile than blinding speed since his most recent meniscus surgery, have been put on hold. Why? Because he can’t see the help defense unless it’s directly in front of him.

“At all. It’s reading the play,” Rose said. “Every single play I’m trying to read it off the strength of not being able to see. So how they’re playing me when I drive to the hole, I look at the film after I get done playing off the strength of one eye.”

Every time he goes through the film, he notices an extra defender who wasn’t there in real time. It’s a bit alarming but more than anything, he takes it as a point of encouragement.

“I want to get to the next gear, where it’s kinda like FIBA Basketball where I’m always pushing and got my guys run with me,” Rose said. “I’m trying to get in shape.”

And as his shot attempts decreases, he attempts to shed some light on his reality, whether we believe it or not.

“I want to play this way," he said. "This league forced me to become a scorer.”

Reflective Jimmy Butler looks back on time in Chicago during All-Star weekend


Reflective Jimmy Butler looks back on time in Chicago during All-Star weekend

LOS ANGELES — Jimmy Butler was absent from the scoresheet of the All-Star Game, unless you count a “DNP-Coaches’ Decision” as activity. Whether due to the All-Star festivities of the weekend or even the grinding minutes he plays under Tom Thibodeau, it wasn’t truly surprising to see him want to have a night off of sorts.

But what was mildly surprising was the reflection he displayed on Saturday at All-Star Media Day in reference to his time with the Chicago Bulls. Usually, Butler’s armor is up because of his feelings surrounding his draft-night departure.

“I learned a lot in Chicago,” Butler said. “Just all through the season and life in general. What to do, what not to do and how to adapt to any situation that you’ve been in. I’ve done that to the best of my abilities. I have a ways to go in that.”

It’s clear he’s still grasping the weight of his words as the best player on a team, or at least, the player whose words impact everything around him.

“A people pleaser? No, I just didn’t say much,” Butler said. “Now I just don’t care. I never talked whenever I was in the league at an early age. It really didn’t matter, nothing I did was gonna make or break us when it comes to losing a game. Now it does and I have a lot to say. Half the time it’s not the right time or right way to say it but it’s okay.”

Whether it was the battles with Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg or the internal struggles in the Bulls’ locker room through his ascension from bench warmer to rotation player to impact player to now, a legitimate star, he’s modifying his approach—just a tad.

“I’ve never been the best player on my own team. I was in Tomball,” he joked, in reference to his beginnings in small town Texas. “I wasn’t in junior college. At Marquette I wasn’t. I’m probably not now. In Chicago I wasn’t. You just pick up on it, watch others and learn.”

He admitted to writing in a journal and reading self-help books now that he’s in Minnesota. The novel he’s reading now, “Faith, Forward, Future” is authored by Chad Veach, a Los Angeles pastor and the subtitle of the book says “Moving past your disappointments, delays and destructive thinking.”

Whether he started the book following a slow start with the Timberwolves in November, where his nightly numbers looked like one of a high-level role player, he took some self-evaluation before leading the charge since, playing like an MVP candidate with 25.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists on 49 percent shooting since the start of December.

“It’s relatively new. Yeah, basketball is still basketball but it’s hard when somebody else is coming in and roles change overnight,” Butler said. “You gotta see where you fit in with the group. At the end of the day you gotta win. I didn’t feel the way I was playing was our best opportunity to win games.”

Bringing along the likes of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, with Towns being a fellow All-Star for the first time, has been a process.

“I’ve never actually had to be a leader,” Butler said. “I just always done what I was supposed to do, didn’t say much and played hard. Now you know, everybody wants to call someone a leader.”

He disputes taking a softer hand, especially as Towns and Wiggins seem to struggle with sustaining concentration at critical moments. The Timberwolves won’t be able to make those mistakes during the playoffs, but he’s being more selective with his words.

“I’m not soft,” he said. “If I see something wrong, I speak on it. If you don’t like it, oh well. You’ll get over it.”

One thing he could take a bird’s eye view of was the aftermath of LeBron James and Kevin Durant’s comments to the “Uninterrupted”, where they were criticized by cable news hosts for speaking out against President Donald Trump.

No stranger to criticism, Butler would likely have the same approach if he dipped his toes into that arena.

“I like it. You got the right to say what you want and you speak on what you think is right,” Butler said. “Good for them. And they are magnified in a very big way. They embrace it and they’re doing the right thing, I’m all for it.”

And if the day comes where he doesn’t stick to sports, Butler’s directness and lack of diplomacy would certainly cause an interesting reaction.

“I don’t care. Whatever I believe in, I believe in,” Butler said. “Everybody else does it. You see everybody on Twitter and the Internet doing it and saying what they want to say. We just have a different job than the person to our left and right.”

Well, not quite a warm and fuzzy Jimmy Butler.

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment


Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

There were no Lakers or Clippers in the 2018 All-Star Game, but Los Angeles was well-represented with plenty of homegrown talent, plenty of historians with Los Angeles ties and all the pageantry L.A. can provide.

Russell Westbrook, Paul George and James Harden are among the All-Stars who came home to put on the biggest show of entertainment the league has to offer, and the new format featuring captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry produced one of the most competitive finishes in recent All-Star history as the spectacle wasn’t lost on DeRozan, who plays for the conference-leading Toronto Raptors.

“It was a dream come true,” DeRozan said. “I’ll forever be a part of this, and to come out and be a starter in my hometown, it was a dream come true.”

With Chicago hosting the event in 2020, one wonders if the city or the Bulls will be as represented.

“What better time to do it than in Chicago?” Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen said about his aspirations of being an All-Star sooner rather than later.

New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, to this point, is the only Chicagoan carrying the torch as an All-Star. For years, Chicago could claim their homegrown talent rivaled the likes of Los Angeles and New York, the self-proclaimed “Mecca”.

But now they’ve fallen behind in the way of star power, as Derrick Rose has gone from MVP to one of the biggest “what if” stories in modern-day sports. Jabari Parker was expected to be next in line but his future as a star is murky due to the same dreaded injury bug.

“I didn’t know that. But there’s a lot of great players (from Chicago),” Davis said Saturday during media availability. “Jabari is just coming back, Derrick is going through what he’s going through. That’s fine. D-Wade is getting older. We have a lot of great guys. Guys have been hurt, in D-Wade’s case he’s just getting up there in age now (laughs).”

Davis is arguably the league’s most versatile big man, keeping the New Orleans Pelicans afloat while DeMarcus Cousins is out with an Achilles injury. He’s had to watch the likes of George deal with free agent questions about the prospect of coming home to L.A., even after he was traded from Indiana to Oklahoma City in the offseason.

It still hasn’t stopped the chants from Lakers fans, panting after George in the hope he’ll be a savior of sorts. And even though his contract isn’t up for another few seasons, teams are lining up in the hope they can acquire him through free agency or trade.

It could very well be him getting the chants when the All-Star party comes to Chicago and he could be joined by the likes of Markkanen and Zach LaVine in the big game.

LaVine was in Los Angeles for the weekend and Markkanen opened eyes around the league with his showing in the rising stars game as well as the skills challenge.

Davis could wind up being the object of everyone’s affection and could find himself being recruited by the likes of LaVine.

Even though 2021 is a long way away, a guy can dream, right?

“I mean, I’m cool with a lot of dudes in the NBA. I feel like I’m a likeable guy,” LaVine told NBCSportsChicago.com about recruiting star players to the Bulls franchise. “I can talk about situations like that, it would be my first time being put in a position. It would be a little bit different but I think I can handle it.”

LaVine has his own contract situation to take care of this summer, being a restricted free agent but understands the Bulls’ salary cap position and their long-term goals.

“Yeah I think once the offseason comes and everybody settles down, and I’m comfortable, and I know the position I’ll be in,” LaVine said to NBCSportsChicago.com.

“I think we’ll start having those conversations because we want to get the franchise back to where it was, on that high plateau. That’s what it’s supposed to be.”

“I’m trying to solidify myself in the league to a certain degree. Once you start reaching those points you can talk to anybody to get to where you want to get to.”

LaVine attended several events over the weekend and shared the same space as several All-Stars in non-media settings. It’s easy to see why he would think he could have that affect with his peers.

Being careful about the rules on tampering, he said about a potential sit-down with Davis, “I would bring some Harold’s chicken to the meeting and we’ll be all good.”