With every slithering drive to the basket, and every under control 3-point attempt that has been shot with more accuracy than Doug McDermott this month, Derrick Rose is making a believer out of Fred Hoiberg.
The Bulls coach said what everybody is seeing and stating: Rose is playing his best basketball of the season when the Bulls need him most, with Monday’s efficient performance against the Sacramento Kings as the latest evidence.
Since the All-Star break, Rose has been a model of efficiency, averaging 20 points and 5.2 assists on 52 percent shooting and 50 from 3-point range.
“He’s playing his best stretch of basketball. There’s no doubt about it,” Hoiberg said. “He’s raising up and taking and making clutch shots with no fear. He’s attacking the basket. He’s doing a good job finding mismatches and throwing ahead on the break. And his defense has been much better the last few games, applying more hand pressure, getting deflections and getting in the ball better on the pick-and roll.”
[BULLS ROAD AHEAD: Derrick Rose cruising for the Bulls]
Unprompted, Hoiberg added he felt Rose came back too soon after his orbital bone surgery, the injury he suffered in the first 30 minutes of training camp in October. It something the Rose naysayers are sure to shoot down, considering it goes against the narrative surrounding the point guard says he’ll find any reason to sit out games.
“Did he come back too soon? Looking back on it, we could’ve got him in better rhythm and better shape to start the year,” Hoiberg said. “But he wanted to be out there with his teammates for the first game.”
Given the benefit of hindsight, Hoiberg doesn’t know if he would sit Rose if something freakish like that happened again, given how he looked when he played the last couple preseason games.
“Maybe. That’s a hard decision to make at that time because he wanted to be on the floor,” Hoiberg said. “And he had a really good game in that Cleveland game (18 points). He didn’t shoot a high percentage but his attack was really good. It’s hard to say. Hopefully he doesn’t have the same thing happen to him next year.”
His sluggish start to the season had many openly questioning whether he could get back to an elite level, but he’s showing very few effects of the nagging injuries that caused him to miss games here and there the last two months.
His play has gradually improved month to month, as he originally stated from the start of the season, and his post All-Star offensive rating of 108 points per 100 possessions is the highest since his 115 mark in the pre-All-Star break 2011-12 campaign.
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As in months before his first serious knee surgery.
“It says a lot and you can tell because he puts in so much extra work on off days, he's in here shooting,” Doug McDermott said. “Even before the team photo today, he was in here getting a bunch of shots up. It's really paying off, his shot looks great and he looks very explosive getting to the rim.”
And it’s coming in the nick of time.