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.

[MORE: Crisis averted as Bulls pull away late against Magic]

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.”

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night


Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

It's been a whirlwind of a summer for point guard Tyler Ulis, but he finally feels like he's found a home. Literally.

The 5-foot-9 point guard was cut by the Suns in late June, latched on with a training camp invite by the Warriors and was subsequently waived on Friday. It was then that Ulis, working out in California, received a call from his agent. He had been claimed on waivers by the Chicago Bulls. His hometown Bulls.

"I grew up watching (the Bulls)," he said after his first practice on Tuesday. "Growing up in this city, you always want to be a Bull and you’re always willing and hoping that you’ll be here one day...I'm home now. It's a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to it."

Ulis is back in Chicago for the first time since he was breaking records for Marian Catholic High School. Ulis became a five-star recruit for the Spartans and in 2014 signed on as the next point guard in the long line of successful floor generals under John Calipari and Kentucky.

Ulis backed up the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, as a freshman but saw his role increase as a sophomore. He blossomed, earning Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the SEC. Only Anthony Davis had ever earned both honors in a single season.

He declared for the 2016 NBA Draft with hopes of becoming a first-round pick. But unlike the Calipari point guards before him, Ulis slipped all the way down to the second round before the Phoenix Suns scooped him up with the 34th pick.

"Honestly I really did think (the Bulls) were going to draft me," Ulis said on Tuesday when recalling the 2016 NBA Draft. The Bulls took Denzel Valentine with the 14th pick. "But I'm here now so that's all that matters."

In 132 games, Ulis averaged 7.6 points and 4.1 assists in 21.1 minutes. He started 58 of those games, and while his shooting left plenty to be desired he handled the offense well and brought that same pesky defense he showed off at Kentucky. It wasn't enough, even for the guard-deprived Suns. They released Ulis before free agency this summer - which ruffled the feathers of franchise guard Devin Booker - in a rather unexpected move.

"My Mom always taught me (to) never expect anything," Ulis said of his release from the Suns. "When you're on a losing team like that anything can happen. I feel like I showed I could play at this level but they went a different way."

The Suns' loss - they may resort to starting 38-year-old Jamal Crawford at point guard this year - could be the Bulls' gain. Expectations should be harnessed for Ulis, especially with him joining the roster this late in the preseason, but the Bulls, like Phoenix, have question marks at the point.

Kris Dunn is entrenched as the starter, but Cameron Payne struggled mightily in the preseason and Ryan Arcidiacono doesn't project as a contributor. That leaves an opening for Ulis to potentially fill on the second unit, and apparently he's making a statement early in practice.

"Tyler had a real good practice," Fred Hoiberg said. "I think I think he changes the pace when he’s out there on the floor. He picks up full-court, he gets up underneath you. He can make a shot. He’s got good vision and can make a play with the ball in his hand. So I was very impressed with his first workout."

Ulis is working on a 45-day two-way contract, so it's unknown how much he'll contribute. He could be shuttled back and forth between Chicago and the Windy City Bulls, but there's certainly an opportunity for him to stick. He'll be playing catch-up and learning on the go, but doing so in his hometown wth friends and family around him for support will work to his advantage.

"Being a smaller guard growing up in a big man’s sport, you get looked over. So I’m the underdog," he said. "And I feel like this team is an underdog, so we should all be excited to get the season started and prove people wrong."