Bulls

Judged every game, Derrick Rose turns in his best of the season

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Judged every game, Derrick Rose turns in his best of the season

The clock wasn’t done ticking the final few seconds away, but Derrick Rose was greeted by Russell Westbrook and then Kevin Durant with “congratulations” and “good luck” as the buzzer sounded on the Bulls’ 104-98 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder at the United Center, where Rose turned in his best game of this short season and quieted some doubters.

For now.

It’s only a temporary reprieve for a player who weathers one mini-controversy after another, be it derived from bad luck, subpar play or media speculation centered around his past, present and future.

Three straight games without scoring in double figures earned Rose a trip through the spin cycle, especially when it was capped off by a 25-point embarrassing loss two nights prior — along with mixed messages from Rose and his coach that could be more a matter of interpretation than locker-room consternation.

“(Bleep) it,” said his teammate and arguably biggest defender, Joakim Noah. “To me it’s part of our job, and when you play with somebody like Derrick Rose … I know he doesn’t care at all, but for me it bothers me, especially for him. I know people don’t realize how hard it is to go out there and play, especially when you’re going through things he’s gone through, injuries and stuff.

“Sometimes he says crazy (bleep) that gets him in trouble, but I know what type of competitor he is."

[MORE BULLS: Derrick Rose's fourth-quarter takeover leads Bulls past Thunder]

Rose being oblivious to all that swirls around him is nearly poetic, considering the man sees double every time he steps on the floor, playing when it would be easier to sit and wait until his vision returns to normal — but since nothing else about Rose’s journey is normal, the vision is a mere microcosm of everything else.

Because unfortunately, every game is a referendum as if he has no sweat equity built with this base — and one can imagine how heavy he would play if he actually paid any mind to such nonsense.

His 29 points, seven assists and five rebounds in 37 tough minutes showed he’s still capable of dominating against the best, on the biggest stage. But he’s taking a prudent approach to all this, not wanting to bask in the success, which given the shots he’s taken, would be well within his rights.

“I know it's a process. It's going to be ups and downs,” Rose said. “Just because it's a high right now, it's not no relief. I still have to get the most out of every day.”

Unfortunately, he’s entered the full “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” stage of his tenure in Chicago, no matter how it turns out. When he started off missing seven of his first eight shots, the knee-jerk fan base was putting the scarlet “R” on his forehead, as if to mark “return to sender”.

“The last couple of games I only shot seven or eight shots. You couldn't tell which way the game was going to go,” Rose said. “But with my eye like this, I don't want to affect the game in a way where I'm messing up the game. I want to do something positive and getting my teammates in the right position, and by that time the game was over. So tonight, I was just trying to be aggressive. I'm still getting my rhythm, and it's slowly coming to me.”

[MORE BULLS: Hoiberg: Win over Thunder 'really shows the guys care']

The missed layups were frustrating early but encouraging the way he was able to get those attempts. Then, like a flash it seemed to click.

Blow-by Westbrook for a layup.

Then another one.

All of a sudden, his fortunes began to turn, the game began to come to him as opposed to allowing him to play facilitator and he embraced the simple fact that as an attacker, he’s far more valuable in this role than any other.

“We're trying to figure everything out,” Rose said. “In the past, I can't say the team wasn't as talented as it is now, but in the past I had to take the shots that I was taking. I think this time around, every game it might be something different.”

But this game the night belonged to him because it had to.

Because Jimmy Butler spent so much energy chasing around the baddest man on the planet this side of LeBron James, and because Rose was getting the better of Westbrook, the player many prop up as the antithesis of everything they believe Rose to be.

“For him to have a game like this I know is a huge confidence booster,” Hoiberg said. “Our guys are very happy for him because they know how hard he worked in the offseason and how much time he has put in to get back after the injuries.”

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When Rose looks at Westbrook’s blinding speed, power and force, he doesn’t see a facsimile of what he used to be. Similarities, maybe, but that’s it. Westbrook’s critics want him to play more under control while Rose’s want him to play as reckless as his counterpart.

Funny how that works, eh?

“Russ is a great player,” Rose said. “The year that he had last year, I'm happy for him. I'm real close with him and his family. We're kind of similar, but Russ is Russ. I love his game.”

The fourth quarter was a vintage performance in Rose’s way, scoring 10 in a row to close things out and reading the defense well enough to set up Pau Gasol for a layup on a switch he shot on four straight times, an indication of basketball IQ.

His bank-shot jumpers? A new wrinkle he seemed to add during last spring’s playoff run, but he was asked if he’d been watching tape of Tim Duncan.

Again, he preached perspective.

“I know I work extremely hard, I know I dedicate my whole life to this sport,” Rose said. “It's going to pay off one day. I can't get all high because of this game. I'm going to have more ups and downs, and I'll find my way around them.”

Rose, the man who can’t see straight, seems to have the most clairvoyant view of all considering the hot takes and long-term views off short samples. But as he noted, it’s only one game.

And come Saturday night, everyone will have hit the reset button, good or bad.

It's time for the Bulls to spin the point guard roulette wheel

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USA TODAY

It's time for the Bulls to spin the point guard roulette wheel

Over the last couple seasons we've had some fun on our Bulls Pregame Live shows with the ever-changing cast of characters at the point guard position. We even brought the point guard roulette wheel to the show a couple years ago when Rajon Rondo, Isaiah Canaan, Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne all saw significant time at the position.

Grant began last season as the starter, followed by Kris Dunn and Payne with a little Ryan Arcidiacono mixed in.

But this season was supposed to be different. Dunn showed enough in his 52 game stint (13.4 points, 6 assists per game) in 2017-18 that he entered training camp as the unquestioned starter, with Payne and Arcidiacono as backups. The front office and coaching staff expected the 3rd year guard out of Providence to establish himself as a quality starter with elite skills at the defensive end.

Now, after playing just one regular season game, Dunn has been sidelined again, this time with a sprained left MCL suffered in his debut at Dallas Monday night. He's expected to miss 4-6 weeks of action, which should get him back on the court sometime in early December, right about the same time Lauri Markkanen is expected to return from his elbow injury.

So, what does Fred Hoiberg do now? Initially, you can expect Payne to replace Dunn in the starting lineup, with newly signed Shaq Harrison getting a look in the backup role. In case you don't know much about Harrison, he's an undrafted four-year player out of Tulsa, who spent most of the last two seasons in the NBA G-League. Like Dunn, Harrison is a physical 6'4" defense-first player who should be able to pressure some of the elite point guards the Bulls will face in the coming weeks. The front office showed their level of interest in Harrison's potential by signing him to a two-year NBA contract which includes a guaranteed salary for this season.

The Bulls also signed former Marian Catholic H.S. star Tyler Ulis to a two-way contract after he was released by Golden State in the final cutdown. Ulis started 58 games for Phoenix over the last two seasons, and is lightning quick in the open court. Problem is, he's generously listed at 5'10" which could create some serious issues at the defensive end.

And then there's always Arcidiacono, a Hoiberg favorite who's fundamentally sound, a solid defender and a decent outside shooter. Arcidiacono didn't play in Dallas Monday with Dunn back as the starter and it will be interesting to see how he's used with the coaching staff searching for answers at the position.

From my perspective, the Bulls' best option might be not going with a point guard at all in the starting lineup. Zach LaVine is on the hottest offensive streak of his young career, and he's most effective with the ball in his hands. LaVine played a lot of point guard during his rookie season in Minnesota, and he's more than capable of pushing the ball in transition.

Yes, I know having LaVine defend some of the high-scoring point guards around the league is not an ideal formula for success. The Bulls could move Justin Holiday to the shooting guard position, and see if he can match up defensively against opposing point guards. Again, not ideal.

The Bulls will be facing the likes of Kemba Walker, Trae Young, Steph Curry and Chris Paul over the next week and a half, and going without a true point guard might create defensive issues that are impossible to overcome. That's why you should expect to see Harrison take on a significant role in the upcoming games, since he's the only point guard currently available on the roster that has the physical skills to replicate in some fashion what Dunn brings on the defensive end.

Any way you look at it, the Bulls will be in survival mode over the next six weeks, trying to scratch out as many wins as they can until Markkanen and Dunn are healthy enough to get back on the court.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Reaction to Kris Dunn's knee injury and where Bulls go from here

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Reaction to Kris Dunn's knee injury and where Bulls go from here

Kelly Crull, Mark Strotman and Will Perdue react to the news that Kris Dunn will miss the next 4-6 weeks with a knee injury.

[MORE: It's time for the Bulls to spin the point guard roulette wheel]

00:55     Strotman reacting to the injury, expectations now for team

3:00        Perdue on impact on defense

4:55        Expectation on who will get majority of minutes moving forward at PG

7:40        Where Bulls are mentally as a team 

11:30     How Hoiberg will approach the options at point guard

12:55     Will the Bulls consider tanking again?

14:50     Making the case for LaVine to run point with Blakeney at the 2

16:05     How Dunn’s injury could impact Markkanen’s return

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