Bulls

Goodwill: As Derrick Rose grows into his own, perhaps he's also facing reality

Goodwill: As Derrick Rose grows into his own, perhaps he's also facing reality

NEW YORK—The satisfaction wasn't as evident, the emotion wasn't as heavy for Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah as they beat their old mates for the second time in as many meetings this season.

The overwhelming feelings of validation were replaced by simple relief after 48 minutes of basketball, following 48 hours of uncertainty, controversy and in some ways disappointment.

They spent little time relishing in beating the Bulls again and even less time reveling in their own personal performances that harkened back to days gone by.

Noah's two best performances of the year have happened to come against his former employer, while Rose likely put together his best two stretches of basketball in back-to-back nights.

But with Noah battling his body, the Knicks battling losing and Rose battling something he probably can't explain internally, there wasn't much satisfaction.

Relief came when the night was over without incident to add to an already heavy time period, where Rose mysteriously disappeared without notifying anyone, getting on a plane to Chicago to be with his family the night of a game on Monday.

"Before the game there was more concern than anything," Noah said. "(When) we found out he was all right, we were relieved. He had a family issue. The way it happened, it is what it is and we move on."

Rose, given a chance to backpedal before the game, to say he wished he would have done something differently, refused to be backed into a corner by the media or anybody else.

"No. Family before anything. Family over everything," Rose said with the straightest of faces.

Rose was pointing to this season before last season began, believing he was revving himself up to become the best version this new edition of Derrick Rose could manage, after three knee surgeries, starts and stops, stops and starts.

He boldly proclaimed he was looking forward to free agency two years before hitting it, a no-no in the eyes of the public.

But likely numb to the criticism because he had to be, Rose never took the easiest path with the public, never walked the line that was presented to him because he acquiescing to anyone who doesn't truly know him doesn't matter to him.

It's what made him so accessible and fan-friendly his first few years in the league, when he was the perceived antidote to the NBA's top villain at the time, LeBron James.

It's what is making him so fascinating to observe and so difficult to draw an actual conclusion on to date, because he's not the same naïve-to-the-NBA person he was before wrecking his knee the first time five years ago.

"I just feel that Derrick has grown into his own," former teammate Taj Gibson said. "He doesn't really care what people think anymore. Some players go out and just say things because they know fans want to hear. He's coming at you real and telling you how he feels because that kid's been through a lot.

"Hurting both knees, having the whole Chicago thing on his back from time to time, for heavy games, big games. I've been around him for a long time and I'm proud of him. You're going to take some critical hits sometimes but he's just being himself."

One wonders if the numbness Rose had to arm himself with—which one would think served him well to get through the dangerous pitfalls of growing up in Chicago—has come back to haunt him in a way nobody could imagine.

What if Rose's joy of basketball, the simplicity of it, has been extinguished before it ever had a chance to develop, and we're just noticing it now?

Being the baby boy whose family dreams laid on from the time it was clear he was blessed with an athletic ability beyond his years, one wonders if it became a job so early he never got a chance to love the game, but loved the conditional affection that came his way.

It happens to many, but only a select few make it through the minefields to get to this level, and only Rose was the one to earn the MVP at the youngest age in NBA history, for the franchise he grew up watching.

Perhaps it put a pressure on him he would never be able to live up to—or at the least, a pressure his body was never built to carry.

So rehabbing and enduring the frailty of basketball perhaps caused him to detach, and last year he had to point to this year because he magically believed everything would fall into place because he had nothing else to lean on, because he was so numb to the small victories he already achieved.

"I think I'm a smarter player," Rose said. "Of course I can get a lot better with my turnovers, but I think I've been reading everything right. We're putting in pick-and-roll here and there. We have to run a lot more, but constantly pushing the ball and telling my teammates to run with me. But I think I've been playing alright.''

What if his personal battles have left him so drained, the game is no longer fun and that being dominant was what made the game fun—which leads to pointing at the imaginary pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

So disappearing could've been the realization that what he thought could never be and he's adjusting to new expectations of a new reality—his own and nobody else's—that he had to get away and hit the reset button, albeit under less than ideal circumstances.

"Derrick's always been pretty dull with things like that," said Noah, his closest teammate. "Pretty straight faced. He's dealt with the media for awhile now. Damn media."

But because he's kept so many at a distance for so long, we're only left to speculate. And perhaps he's speculating, too.

Options if the Bulls trade down: Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura

Options if the Bulls trade down: Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura

On draft night, there is a decent possibility that the Bulls front office looks at their draft board and collectively decide that they can get a player with No. 7 pick value later in the first round. They could be inclined to feel this way more than in most years due to the 2019 draft class being such a toss up after the top three picks. If the Bulls traded down in the draft, I am assuming they would be netting a valuable future first-round pick, likely with some minimal protections. In this series, we will be looking at prospects the Bulls could take should they trade down in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Rui Hachimura per The Stepien:

71 percent at the rim

44.2 percent on short midrange

47.6 percent on long midrange

52.1 percent on NBA 3s (12/23)

Boylen talked a ton this season about “toughness” being a key tenet of the new Bulls culture moving forward. The idea of that “toughness” didn’t translate on the court heavily, though the Bulls did improve slightly in rebound rate under Boylen.

From the time for Boylen took over, the Bulls ranked 14th in defensive rebound rate and 25th in total rebound rate, up from 16th and 28th respectively under Hoiberg. Those numbers are a bit of smoke-and-mirrors with all the factors at play this past (weird) Bulls season.

But Boylen did have a much heavier focus on generating points inside first, with the team ranking third in the league in points in the paint per game during his tenure. Rui Hachimura fits in extremely well with the idea of the Bulls punishing teams inside with low-post scoring depth, resulting in open looks on the perimeter.

Hachimura stands 6-feet-8-inches tall, 230 lbs., with a 7-foot-2-inch wingspan. He is a very physical player and utilizes his wingspan incredibly well in traffic. Hachimura posted a 17.4 percent defensive rebound rate over his three-years at Gonzaga. I mentioned above how Hachimura embraces contact and his career average of 7.5 free throw attempts per 40 minutes helps showcase his ability to be a wrecking ball in the paint.

He has the potential to excel as a small-ball center with the right personnel surrounding him. The fact that he can grab a defensive board and initiate the fastbreak makes him an even more valuable prospect. But when you consider that lineups with he and Markkanen as the two bigs on the floor would have five capable ball-handlers, the idea of Rui in Chicago becomes even more enticing.

Overall, Hachimura is a great prospect with a solid skill set that should allow him to be a decent scorer from day one, it all just depends on how much of an opportunity he gets.

The Bulls--as John Paxson has reiterated many, many times now--feel comfortable with the starters they have at the two, three, four and five positions, with point guard being their main area of weakness. While the Bulls don’t necessarily need another big, they do need to add productive players who are young. With Boylen’s emphasis on having multiple ball-handlers, driving the ball and points in the paint, Hachimura would be a logical selection, though No. 7 overall could be a bit of a reach for the 21-year old big.

His defense definitely has a long way to go--as with most NBA draft prospects--but Hachimura’s situation is unique since he literally had a language barrier to overcome when he first got to Gonzaga in 2017. The belief right now is that Hachimura is in a comfortable spot right now in terms of both speaking and understanding English, as reporting from Sam Vecine of the The Athletic (LINK is behind a paywall) and others has backed up.

With that being said, the Japanese forward still makes too many mistakes on the defensive end of the floor to be a surefire top 10 pick.

He is at his core an offensive-minded player, and as a result has not exactly developed much in the way of defensive intensity over the years. Hachimura averaged 0.6 steals per game and 0.5 blocks per game for his NCAA career.

For comparison’s sake, his steal and block rates are almost identical to Marvin Bagley III during his time at Duke. Bagley had a highly productive rookie season with the Kings--landing a spot on the NBA All-Rookie First-Team--but the Kings defense was still four points worse when he was on the floor per cleaningtheglass.com ($).

Despite having similar measurements to Bagley, I don’t believe that Hachimura posses quite the level of athleticism that Bagley does, making his path to becoming an above average defender that much harder.

Ultimately, if Hachimura’s awesome shooting numbers from NBA 3-point range (41.7 percent) on a small sample size (36 attempts) aren’t smoke-and-mirrors, he will greatly outplay his draft position. Hachimura shot 52.1 percent on his NBA range 3-pointers and also has a career 74.6 percent free throw percentage. Whether he was diving to the rim on pick-and-rolls with Lauri spacing the floor, or playing in a high/low offense with another big on the bench unit, there is a clear path to Hachimura being effective in Chicago. It would just take a ton of patience from the Bulls new-look coaching staff.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: The Bulls need a point guard. The Bears Top 100 list continues

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: The Bulls need a point guard. The Bears Top 100 list continues

0:00- Will Perdue drops by to talk hoops. What will the Bulls do this summer to address their point guard need?

7:00- The Bulls need a point guard. Derrick Rose is a free agent. Should they bring him back home?

11:30- Carman says the Bulls should consider trading for Lonzo Ball. Kap yells at him.

16:30- Will talks about this year's playoffs and if anybody will be the Warriors?

20:00- The Bears Top 100 list continues to dominate discussion. Chris makes the case for Jay Cutler to be higher. He gets yelled at.

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