Bulls: Rose celebrates 27th birthday with questions, at a crossroads


Bulls: Rose celebrates 27th birthday with questions, at a crossroads

Derrick Rose is celebrating his 27th birthday Sunday, in a different place than he was two years before that, or two years before that.

Where he’ll be two years from now will largely depend on how he plays in the next two seasons when he’s available—if he’s available. At 25, Rose was gearing up for his return after missing the entire 2012-13 season with an ACL tear, with many in the NBA world holding the belief a Rose-led Bulls team could challenge the Miami Heat for supremacy.

As he blew out the candles on that day, one wonders his level of confidence in coming back from that first injury and if he had fears, it didn’t take long before they came true, tearing his meniscus in Portland 10 games into that season.

At his 23rd birthday, the NBA was in a lockout, nearly two months away from a solution that would put the lights back on in arenas but Rose’s internal lights were at optimal efficiency, likely gnawing at the bit to get back on the floor for an encore to his 2010-11 MVP showing.

One can imagine the lack of doubt he had on that day, relative to his confidence.

[MORE: Derrick Rose advised to stay away from team while eye heals]

Today, his confidence and doubt can likely be somewhere square in the middle of those two points, as he recovers from an unfortunate facial injury he suffered on the first day of training camp that required surgery.

The harmless naivete that comes with being a 23-year old with the world at your feet, illustrated by fearless drives to the basket while looking guys a foot taller and 100 pounds heavier square in the face has perhaps been diminished a bit.

It appears he’s been hardened, not by the treacherous streets of Englewood, but by the frailty of “unconditional” praise and more tangibly, the fragility of a body that seemed impervious to serious injury.

He’s learned—or is learning—that universal love is conditional, even in the hometown he’s never left, save for a collegiate season at Memphis.

Last season and the subsequent spring showed him an intersection between the doubt and validation toward to the success he once attained from what felt like many moons ago. Playoff game winners against the likes of LeBron James, sterling moments where it appeared he could get to wherever he wanted to on the floor made him feel invincible, or at least very close to the heights he once attained, gave him and everyone else reason to believe better days aren’t far behind.

But the injury he suffered in late February combined with the way the playoffs ended—being bottled up by the likes of the marginal Matthew Dellavedova amid rumors of discord with his talented teammate, Jimmy Butler, put enough doubt in the minds of many who wanted to believe only injury could slow him down.

[RELATED: Bulls will experiment with lineups in preseason; Gasol, Mirotic keys]

And then came media day, with the ensuing drama that came along subsequently.

It places him in a precarious position, one that challenges the phrase “benefit of the doubt” in more ways than one as he enters yet another career intersection, another career crossroads.

Rose has become less introspective and more outward, at least in spurts. While some have viewed his statements about free agency two years from now as a negative, it speaks to uncertainty more than arrogance or even abject greed.

He spent this summer training with Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, who seems obsessed with availability to the point that it’s tacitly used to discredit whatever ailment Rose may be enduring at the moment, and the two likely saw the money being handed out by teams as the influx of salary cap cash from the new national TV deals.

Westbrook will hit free agency the same summer as Rose, and there’s no doubt he’ll receive a max contract. Teams will be lining up to pitch to him.

Rose’s future isn’t so certain, and his highly-criticized statement revealed some rare vulnerability as opposed to bravado. If he regains some level of NBA prominence by his play, becoming the feared player on the scouting reports as opposed to the one who fans fear will never earn true praise again, he’ll receive that maximum contract without much consternation.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the 2015-16 season, Bulls fans!]

If his availability comes into question, so will his contractual status.

Hence, view this statement through the lens of someone who doubts whether he can reclaim a certain preeminence in the league. 

“I know I’m great,” Rose said. “There’s a lot of people that don’t know I’m great, that’s the thing. But it’s cool. I know I can hoop.

“You can put me anywhere and I know how to play the game of basketball. I can’t get mad at people for how they criticize my game and the way that I play, or the way that I used to play. I know I’m great, and that’s it.’’

So when Rose blows out the candles two years from now, will he view 27 as the starting point or better days long gone?

Bulls sign local product Tyler Ulis to two-way deal

Bulls sign local product Tyler Ulis to two-way deal

The NBA preseason has finished and teams are finalizing their rosters before the beginning of the regular season.

For the Bulls, that meant claiming Tyler Ulis off waivers and signing him to a two-way contract.

The Athletic's Shams Charania first reported the move.

Ulis, a product of Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, was waived by the Warriors on Friday. He spent two years at Kentucky before getting drafted in the second round by the Phoenix Suns in 2016.

In two years with the Suns, Ulis made 58 starts and played in 132 games. He averaged just over 7 points per game in both seasons. Last season, Ulis also averaged 4.4 assists per game against 1.8 turnovers in 23.4 minutes per game.

The Suns waived Ulis after the season and the Warriors signed him for the preseason. He averaged 3 points and 1.5 assists per game in four preseason games with the Warriors.

The two-way contract means Ulis could be spending more time with the Windy City Bulls than at the United Center on game days, but backup point guard is a question mark for the Bulls. Cam Payne looks like he will get first crack at the role behind Kris Dunn with Denzel Valentine injured. Ryan Arcidiacono just made the team and could also figure into point guard minutes.

Ryan Arcidiacono's persistence pays off with roster spot inclusion

Ryan Arcidiacono's persistence pays off with roster spot inclusion

Cuts during the NBA preseason aren’t exactly as gut-wrenching and tension-filled as they are in the NFL. NBA teams cut from somewhere in the late teens down to 15, and the potential for two-way contracts exist for those players who don’t make the roster. But for Ryan Arcidiacono, Saturday was filled with angst as he waited for a call. It never came.

“I was thinking about it. It’s like Hard Knocks when you’re watching. You don’t want to get that phone call,” Arcidiacono said Sunday before practice. “I was just thinking to myself after the game (Friday), nobody said anything to me. I was talking to (assistant) Pete (Myers) and he said, ‘Just get outta here, man. I’ll see you at practice on Sunday.’ I was still a little nervous on Friday night. Saturday morning I felt better after I talked to my agent and everything became more official.”

It’s quite the journey for Arcidiacono, who spent time both with the Bulls and their G-League affiliate in Hoffman Estates last season. In 37 starts with the Windy City Bulls, Arcidiacono averaged 13.9 points and 8.5 assists in 39.6 minutes. His two longest stints in Chicago came in late January and at the end of the year, and that 24-game audition was enough for the Bulls to re-sign him in July.

Arcidiacono found more comfort this summer in Year 2 with the Bulls. Though his playing time in the preseason was limited he showed enough in camp to warrant a spot on the roster. It also helped that the Bulls find themselves thin at the point guard position behind Kris Dunn, with Cameron Payne struggling and Denzel Valentine on the mend with an ankle injury.

“I think last year really helped me with the two-way, getting acclimated with what Fred wants to do,” he said. “I think getting up and down with the G League. (Head coach) Charlie (Henry) really helped me a lot. Knowing our point guard situation, I just tried to be the hardest playing guy on the floor anytime I step on and the rest will take care of itself.”

It’s unknown whether Arcidiacono’s stint in Chicago will last. His contract will be guaranteed on January 10. He’s an important body for now with Lauri Markkanen out for the foreseeable future and Valentine still recovering from his own injury. But he’ll also have the opportunity to push Payne for that back-up role. Payne struggled much of the preseason, averaging 4.2 points and 3.2 assists on just 25 percent shooting.

“Arci has done a lot of really good things,” Hoiberg said. “I liked the way he looked in the game the other night off the ball. Defensively, made some really good solid plays and again, when there’s an open man on the court Arci’s gonna find him.”

He won’t move the needle on the Bulls’ season, and his minutes will likely be minimal once the season begins. But for now it’s a great story of persistence that gives the Bulls another hard-working body in practice.”

“Whatever our team needs, that’s what they’ll get from me,” he said. “Whether that’s being a backup or the third point guard spot, I’m just here to compete and make our team better and hopefully get us some victories.”