Derrick Rose was his usual genuine and humble self on Wednesday morning after the Timberwolves’ shootaround inside the United Center. He answered questions, said all the right things about his 2018 resurgence and reiterated his love for Chicago.
He was also asked about the possibility of one day returning to the Bulls, and his honest response was anything but a non-answer.
“This is home for me. I’ll never leave Chicago,” Rose said. “I still have a place here, I’m always going to have a place here. My son is being raised here. This is home. You never know in the future, you never know."
Rose reiterated that he's fully committed to the success of his Timberwolves team, but the free agent-to-be also added that "this offseason, you never know what could happen.”
It was a heartfelt answer from Rose and, as is usually the case with him, revealed something. He didn't rule out the possibility of one day returning to the franchise that traded him for cents on the dollar three years earlier.
Could it happen as early as next season?
Let’s start with the obvious: The Bulls need help at point guard. Whether Kris Dunn becomes a legitimate starter or the next Marcus Smart, the depth chart has been an ugly revolving door. Cameron Payne is on his last legs, even with a front office that values him. And while Ryan Arcidiacono and Shaq Harrison have shown promise at times, they’re not exactly 82-game rotation players.
If the Bulls have a desire to win, moves need to be made.
Rose, an unrestricted free agent this July, fits, too. Jim Boylen has asked to slow down the pace and muddy up the game, and Rose has been at his best playing quicker – the Timberwolves are 11th in pace this season. But at some point Boylen is going to need to relax on his stance and play to his personnel, rather than his personnel playing to him. Getting a talent in Rose would force Boylen’s hand to an extent.
The Bulls weren’t exactly a juggernaut playing quicker under Fred Hoiberg, but the importance of adding players who can play with tempo can’t be understated. Rose would bring that and then some.
For what feels like the 127th consecutive season the Bulls will be searching for shooting in the offseason. And for the first time in Rose’s career, the soon-to-be free agent will fall under that category. He entered Wednesday’s action ranked fifth in the NBA in 3-point field goal percentage, best among point guards; Steph Curry’s 45.8 percent mark is second.
Rose’s otherworldly 3-point shooting certainly could be an aberration – he was a career 29.6 percent shooter before this season – but the Bulls could use him. Since they dealt Rose in 2016 their point guards have made a combined 33.3 percent of their triples; the NBA league average has been between 35 and 36 percent the past three seasons.
Rose has a relationship with Boylen, too. Boylen spent a week in California working out with Rose in the summer of 2015, and on Wednesday he lauded Rose’s professionalism and maturity as a teammate. It may have been coach-speak, but Boylen's comments feel like Rose would fit in with the new head coach's team culture, and it’s been made pretty clear the last month that the Bulls need all the veterans it can acquire, regardless of where they are in the rebuild.
The move wouldn’t come without its potential red flags – has a Bulls free agent signing ever? Rose is putting together this magical season under the guide of Thibodeau; though the head coach wouldn’t take credit for Rose’s resurgence in his comments Wednesdsay, the comfort Rose has playing under him can’t be overlooked. Also, if the Bulls are truly invested in Dunn as the point guard of the future, bringing in Rose as a sixth man could prove troublesome if the backup begins to outplay the starter. We know where fans would lean.
There’s also something about returns to the Windy City that haven’t gone all that well lately. Ask Dwyane Wade and Jabari Parker.
Then again, Rose’s return would be different for obvious reasons. Parker was a 23-year-old whose previous team showed no inclination of retaining him this past offseason. Wade was a 35-year-old with nearly 37,000 career minutes on his balky knees. Rose will be 31 next season, but he’ll also be coming off presumably his best year in a half decade.
And yet, this is a risk worth taking. Bulls fans are already attached to Rose. They have been since the day he was drafted. Parker and Wade were Chicago natives, but the fan base never really associated with them. It was nostalgic for the individual players and a small percentage of the fan base, but nothing like a return home for Rose would be.
Past the obvious great hometown return story, Rose has a chance to impact the Bulls. He fills a need, has the skill set the Bulls have lacked, ironically, since he left and, if nothing else, would add a valuable mentor to a backcourt the Bulls are banking on as a massive part of the rebuild. The Bulls will have the money to negotiate, and if the money's right should seriously consider a run at making #TheReturn to Chicago a reality.