Bulls

Derrick Rose's return to Chicago a wistful one as Knicks beat Bulls

Derrick Rose's return to Chicago a wistful one as Knicks beat Bulls

Walking off the court seconds before handing the Bulls their first home loss of the season, the extrovert grabbed the introvert, prodding and poking, tapping him on the head, trying to elicit emotion or some form of release.

Instead, as the cheers came from the fans remaining in the United Center who waited for the moment Derrick Rose was pulled from the game with his “big brother” Joakim Noah, Rose allowed himself a smile.

The Return—in a different form.

Speaking to the same attendants he passed every day, shaking every hand, acknowledging everyone who acknowledged him, Rose’s homecoming felt as it was supposed to—like the kid who went away to college and came back home for Thanksgiving.

The response from the United Center crowd was mostly positive, although Noah’s reaction was overwhelmingly so. Rose heard the boos when he touched the ball, although it was a bit weird considering Noah was the one who departed via free agency and Rose was traded by the Bulls’ volition.

“I’m different. I always felt I was different. When I played that revenge game or tried to pay someone back, that’s when I failed,” Rose said. “My type of game is playing the way I naturally play, and that’s to win. I’m just trying to win the game.”

Yet, Rose—like fellow Chicagoans Isiah Thomas and Dwyane Wade—was jeered by the hometown faithful, treated like someone who betrayed them when his biggest basketball sin was his body betraying him.

And like Thomas and Wade, though, Rose turned those negative feelings into controlled fuel as opposed to reckless abandon, producing some breathtaking sequences that had to leave even the biggest detractors speechless. His halfcourt catch and dart to the basket before the half where he split Wade and Rajon Rondo before meeting Jimmy Butler at the rim, contorting his body for a twisting but surprisingly easy layup to keep the Knicks afloat before halftime looked like the Rose of old, not an old Rose.

Producing his best game as a Knick with 15 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds, he looked more comfortable in his own skin than he probably has felt in ages—so much so, that if the boos would’ve bothered him before, they became little more than background noise Friday.

“I’m used to it. I’ve been getting booed since I was in the sixth grade,” Rose said. “Being a south sider and playing (rivals) Patrick Beverley or Sherron Collins on the west side.”

He tried his best to keep his emotions in check, and he was likely successful in suppressing that while letting his skills shine through. Almost getting caught in the emotion of the Bulls’ tribute video to he and Noah—well done and classy, it should be said—reminded so many of a simpler time.

[MORE: Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose's return to Chicago a successful one as Bulls fall to Knicks]

When Noah was the kid with the goofy suit and bowtie on draft night, when Rose was the clean-cut kid who did everything he was asked by anyone who asked it and could do things on the floor no one could dream of requesting.

“It was a lot of love in the building today,” Noah said. “It feels good because even though we didn’t win a championship here, I know how hard and how bad Derrick wanted to win one (a title) and how bad I wanted to win one here. There’s no regrets because we gave it all we had for this city.”

“When I think about it, there’s things that were tough because we were really close. I look and I see Taj and I see Jimmy, and I competed with these guys for a long time. Even though we’re competing and talking s**t, they’re still my brothers.”

A break here, or a break there, the Bulls could’ve had a celebration in Grant Park like the Chicago Cubs did after 108 years of futility, bad luck and bad breaks. On the day Rose was awarded the MVP trophy before Game 2 of the Bulls’ second-round series against the Atlanta Hawks, the Cubs were a 14-16 bunch, completing a three-game set with the Los Angeles Dodgers with a 5-1 win but in the big picture, headed nowhere with a 71-91 finish.

Months later, the Cubs hired Theo Epstein, the break that went in their favor, and the rest became history—while Rose was still chasing some of his own.

For the Bulls, it likely came down to one break—when Rose tore his ACL in Game 1 of the 2012 playoffs, an event that won’t haunt Bulls fans as much as it will Rose, who’s not chasing that athletic marvel as much as he is a simple return to greatness no one is completely sure he can achieve.

“This is a new chapter,” Rose said. “I’m trying to become great, still chasing something and I have a great group to chase it with.”

From that point of the injury, he had starts and stops, fits and fistfuls of confusing thoughts and words as he struggled to deal with the unknown, a strategy that admittedly made him less of a fan favorite and more of a mystery.

Details about his private life came out in an embarrassing civil suit where he was accused of rape, and although he was cleared of the charges, the stain will likely follow for some time—causing even more confusion.

“Not a villain but people didn’t understand me. I didn’t let them,” Rose said. “We were losing. I held everything in. I didn’t voice my opinion the way I wanted to and the way I expressed it was being quiet. I’m an introvert. So I’m just quiet and thinking about things.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

There was no blueprint for him to follow, as he was groomed to be a basketball player and the instincts he developed courtesy of Chicago’s South Side were ones of survival, not public diplomacy.

He retreated further into himself as time went on, leading to more confusion. And when he publicly stumbled over his words and sentiments, he became harder to defend—even if there was never malicious intent.

“You know, sometimes with fans, they want to see results right away,” Rose said. “Especially when you play with a franchise like this, six championships. They want results, they want playoffs they want rings. I understand that. That’s how they felt. That’s how I felt. It wasn’t no patience on both sides.”

And thus a divorce was necessary, perhaps it should’ve occurred last season when it was obvious the mix of players were no longer compatible, the air too poisoned with confusion and ambiguity on all sides, where plenty of mistakes have been made.

Noah, always being Rose’s biggest advocate and most vocal defender, likely conveyed his teammate’s true feelings about how bad they both wanted the win when he said, “I’m not gonna lie, this one felt really good.”

And we don’t have to lie, either. Just because one is cheered, it doesn’t make him a hero. And because someone is booed, doesn’t make him a villain.

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: LaVine turns in an All Star performance as the Bulls beat the Clippers

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: LaVine turns in an All Star performance as the Bulls beat the Clippers

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, See Red Fred joins Big Dave and Matt Peck. The guys talk about some big plays down the stretch by Zach LaVine and Denzel Valentine. Plus a great defensive job by Kris Dunn on Paul George. (1:30) See Red Fred states his case for more playing time for Denzel Valentine. (4:00) Plus what's going to happen when Otto Porter and Chandler Hutchison come back. (8:00) The guys share some concerns about Coby White in the short term. (10:30) See Red Fred tells you about 3 players who have exceeded expectations this year. (13:00) Plus the guys debate whether Zach LaVine should compete in the dunk contest or 3 point competition. (18:00) They discuss the impact that Kris Dunn has had on the defensive end of the floor. (20:30) Plus See Red Fred lays out his blueprint for the Bulls to make the playoffs. (23:30) Plus the guys make a wager regarding the rest of the season. (25:00)
 

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

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Bulls down Clippers, post 1st victory over winning team with strong finish

Bulls down Clippers, post 1st victory over winning team with strong finish

Just over two hours before tipoff, in his first public comments since Media Day, executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson talked about how Jim Boylen’s teaching and coaching hasn’t always translated from the practice floor and film room to games.

Could the Bulls’ first victory this season over a winning team be a step?

And don’t mention that the Clippers played without Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams in the Bulls’ 109-106 victory, secured on Zach LaVine’s three-point play with 2 seconds to play.

“Well, we didn’t have (Otto Porter Jr.) or Hutch (Chandler Hutchison) or (Daniel) Gafford,” Boylen said. “So we can ‘Yeah, but’ it a little bit too.”

Bravado aside, there’s stuff on which the Bulls can build here.

LaVine posted his sixth 30-point game and ended a week filled with closing misses with a game-winner in which he powered through a Montrezl Harrell foul on a nice misdirection play involving Kris Dunn. Lauri Markkanen tied his season-high with 17 rebounds while posting his third double-double of the season. Denzel Valentine, playing all but two seconds of the fourth, hit a huge tying 3-pointer in the final minute and scored a season-high 16 points. Thad Young tied his season-high with 17 points.

And Dunn was everywhere, relishing the challenge of guarding Paul George down the stretch and winning a crucial battle for a 50-50 ball that led to Valentine’s tying shot.

“That was a huge moment,” Boylen said.

So was Valentine closing a game.

“I just thought we needed some more shooting on the floor,” Boylen said. “We’ve wrestled with defensive lineups, offensive lineups. We try to mingle them a little bit. I just thought we needed someone to make a big shot. And he did.”

Valentine has now scored in double figures off the bench in five of six games.

“I’m very confident in my abilities,” Valentine said. “I was just waiting for the ball to come my way. Zach is our best player. So the ball’s going to be in his hands. But shoot, I’m ready for it. I love those moments. I love to make those shots.”

Dunn, who finished a plus-22, defended George as he missed a good look for a tying 3-pointer. George scored 10 points in just over 7 minutes in the fourth but missed all three attempts following Valentine’s tying shot.

“I love it,” Dunn said of guarding great players. “I know my niche on this team is to guard. And I take pride in that. It feels good to go against a big-time player and be able to get stops towards the end.”

Markkanen actually received credit for the rebound that Dunn kept alive to lead to Valentine’s tying shot, which Dunn said Markkanen teased him about. Dunn finished with nine points, nine rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals.

But his two biggest plays didn’t even crash the box score. He won the 50-50 ball to lead to Valentine’s tying shot and then confused the Clippers’ defense by slipping a screen on LaVine’s game-winner.

“I knew Zach was going to get downhill,” Dunn said. “Because once I did it, I saw Paul George look at me.”

LaVine couldn’t believe how much space he had to operate.

“I’ll take it,” he said. “Once I saw the lane open up, I think there were like 5 seconds left. We were trying to get the last shot. But once the lane opened up, I tried to get a one-on-one. He’s a tough dude. I knew I could attack his body.”

LaVine missed game-winning attempts on an isolation 3-pointer against the Warriors and over a double-team against the Raptors. His three-point play offered a dose of redemption for a player who is never afraid to fail.

“You’re not going to be perfect. As much as people are going to show more of the bad than the good, I’ve had a lot of good times in the clutch as well,” LaVine said. “I try to make the right play for us to win. And I did that tonight.”

For one night, matters were more positive. The Bulls closed out a game against a good team and received multiple contributions while doing so.

Heck, Boylen even downplayed Paxson’s vote of confidence.

“We understand what we’re trying to do. We’re in step on what we’re asking our guys to do and play like and work like and care like,” the coach said. “I’m thankful for it. But I wouldn’t expect anything less.”