Bulls

Rose reflective after Bulls win, feels like best is yet to come

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Rose reflective after Bulls win, feels like best is yet to come

Joakim Noah had a playful hand clap when emerging from the showers and seeing the throng of media in front of Derrick Rose’s locker, while Pau Gasol could only smirk in appreciation.

It had been a while since Rose’s words came after a vintage performance, especially one that has birthed so much positivity. It wasn’t about when Rose was coming back, or how was his body feeling—at least not in the context of some inactivity and doubt surrounding a return.

Twenty-two thousand eyes witnessed Rose do what he’d done so many times on call as he became the league’s youngest MVP—and chanted that name in the fourth quarter after a quicksilver drive to the hoop.

When Noah was asked which part of Rose’s game he liked the most, be it his passing or driving, he answered simply.

“I just liked him on the court,” Noah said. “When you see Derrick moving like that, it’s a plus for this team. He’s gone through so much, injuries, and to see him come back and play at that level, it’s big.”

[MORE: Rose's clutch plays down the stretch seal win for Bulls]

There was a hint of melancholy from Rose after his best game in “The Return, Part III”, in which he reminded everyone why he’s so dangerous if he’s right.

And although his often-monotone emotions didn’t display it, the words were of an appreciative man.

A man just as appreciative of his mates in the locker room as they are happy that he’s back. They believe Saturday’s performance was just the start.

“It’s still gonna take time,” Rose said. “I’m just happy I have the teammates that I have. A guy misses so many games and come back, trying to find my way through, they’re staying with me, sticking with me. I’m grateful, excited and just filled with joy that I’m back playing.”

Rose knew this was different from the moment he left the hospital after his meniscus surgery six weeks ago.

“I didn’t have a brace, wasn’t sleeping in a brace for four months,” Rose said. “Walked out of the hospital. All of those little things, I think are pluses for me. Just knowing how hard I work and how I work on my craft, I’m gonna be in a good position once the playoffs come.”

He seemed just as proud of his 22 points in the Bulls’ 114-107 win over the 76ers as his eight assists—chief reason for his plus-25 in the box score in his 28 minutes.

An underrated facet of Rose’s game was on display, as he found teammates for easy opportunities in the open floor. Two such instances didn’t yield assists, but it illustrates the effort made by the other players on the floor when he has the ball.

Once was a lead pass to Pau Gasol that resulted in free throws, another was a bullet pass on a two-on-one fast break to Jimmy Butler, where Butler missed the layup but it was followed up by Gasol for a tip-in.

Rose possesses that Isiah Thomas-like ability to throw pinpoint passes ahead to teammates instead of insisting on running it up the floor himself for early offense.

And his teammates know it, getting out on the break with quickness, readying themselves for easy opportunities

Rose acknowledges the obvious, that he’s been out of the game for a long time and the process is ongoing, possessing a self-awareness many didn’t believe existed.

“When you miss three years damn near you see everything,” Rose said. “I’m just being patient a little bit more. There’s no point in me forcing anything, the way they’re playing me, they’re not double-teaming me. They’re letting me do what I wanna do, it’s just all about me catching a rhythm.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the playoffs, Bulls fans!]

And he looked like himself late in the evening, getting to the basket when the floor was spread, for layups and three-point play opportunities. So now when he says he feels good, perhaps Rose should be taken at his word.

“Every game I play is a stride,” he said. “Every day I go in and work out, do my training. It’s a step forward. Every day is a positive day, even if I have a bad game or bad day. I try to erase it the next day.”

Presumably, that comes with remembering what makes him great, and getting closer to having the ability to produce these performances on call when they matter most.

“That’s my goal,” he said. “Every time I step on the floor, I try to give my best. I try to win the game, put my all out there. I’m trying to figure this thing out. Not playing for so long, coming back here and there, it’s all right. I think I’m built for it.”

Wendell Carter Jr. is now 6 feet, 9 inches---and other Bulls' height adjustments

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USA Today

Wendell Carter Jr. is now 6 feet, 9 inches---and other Bulls' height adjustments

With player heights long a topic of question and debate, the NBA informed teams that all players must be measured by a team physician this training camp.

It’s all part of the league’s push towards transparency, which includes detailed reports on officiating and other initiatives.

So who grew and who shrank among the Bulls?

Wendell Carter Jr. dropped from 6 feet, 10 inches to 6-foot-9, which will do nothing to change the narrative that he's an undersized big man. Kris Dunn moved from 6-4 to 6-3. Daniel Gafford isn’t 6-11, as first advertised when drafted, but 6-10. And Denzel Valentine is no longer 6-6 but 6-4.

The Bulls even pushed down Coby White’s flamboyant hairstyle and discovered he’s 6-4, not 6-5.

As for those who grew, well, Zach LaVine’s All-Star candidacy now features him as a 6-6 guard, not 6-5. New big man Luke Kornet is really big; he’s 7-2, not 7-1. And Shaq Harrison somehow grew from 6-4 to 6-7.

That’s the official Bulls’ roster. 

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Insider K.C. Johnson calls Bulls the 'sexy pick' to make the postseason but tempers expectations

Insider K.C. Johnson calls Bulls the 'sexy pick' to make the postseason but tempers expectations

On the 2019 NBA Preview Show, NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson broke down what it would truly take for the Bulls to make the jump into playoff contention following a particularly tough 22-win season. 

Johnson, like most of the national NBA landscape, is optimistic about the prospects of the 2019-20 Bulls. He stated that it is "widely accepted that they had a pretty strong offseason," but cautioned us against simply penciling in the Bulls for a playoff spot this season. 

Despite the additions of savvy veterans like Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young, the Bulls still enter the 2019-20 NBA regular season as the second-youngest team in the NBA, as good of a reason as any to temper expectations.

That being said, the Bulls, from a simple talent standpoint, are much better than last year's squad that featured a ton of injuries and many Windy City Bulls/NBA G League call-ups. 

With a new coaching staff around head coach Jim Boylen and a new offensive philosophy, things will be very different in Chicago this season.

But as Johnson stated in Tuesday's 2019 NBA Preview Show, for the Bulls to achieve their ultimate goal of reaching the postseason, "basically, all of those [free agent] additions need to hit.

"You need to see Tomas Satoransky prove that he can be a full-time starter at that point guard position, you need to see Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen take a step towards stardom, you need to see Otto Porter Jr. stay healthy enough to contribute at that small forward position and you need to see Wendell Carter Jr. hit the two-way potential that the organization believes he has... and Coby White... needs to bring you something off the bench."

If that sounds like a lot, that's because it is and it appropriately represents the amount of work needed to make the leap from 22-wins to a playoff spot. 

What the Bulls have working on their side as of now is that everything we have seen and heard from the team throughout preseason has indicated that there is good shot that every one of the things K.C. Johnson named happens. 

Carter was limited to just 44 games due to injury last season and while he has looked rusty in the preseason, he has also had some explosive finishes and shown his trademark appetite for help defense and blocked shots. Carter blocked 2.0 shots per game over two preseason games but was abysmal in terms of his offensive efficiency (26.7% from the field), something to keep an eye on throughout the first week of regular-season games. 

Boylen recently made comments about managing Porter's workload, so clearly keeping Porter healthy amid the backdrop of the Bulls questionable wing depth is already something the organization has discussed and seems to have a concrete plan for. 

Satoransky has shown that he can comfortably handle the starting duties at the one as Johnson suggested, averaging 7.5 points, 4.8 assists, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.2 steals per game while being lights-out from 3-point range (80% on 1.2 attempts per game). And while Sato represents the steady hand, Coby White represents the true "boom-or-bust" option in the backcourt, capable of going off for 25+ points or fading into the background while playing more of an off-ball role. 

The factor that Johnson mentioned that will have the greatest impact on the 2019-20 Bulls season is if Markkanen and LaVine can take a step towards superstardom.

LaVine looks clearly poised to do so, finishing the preseason third in the league in scoring at 23.2 points per game on 59.3/56.0/ 83.3 shooting splits. Markkanen, on the other hand, struggled to find his shot and despite being one of the top-three scoring options on the team, struggled to get his scoring average just over 11.0 points per game (11.2). 

It is only preseason action, so all results are to be taken with a grain of salt. But as we gear up for the start of the Bulls games that count on Wednesday, it is clear that the national outlook on the Bulls is much rosier than it has been in the past.

Johnson stated that the Bulls are indeed shaping up as a "sexy pick" to make the playoffs and that alone is a monumental step in the right direction as the franchise looks to put last season's disappointment further in the rearview mirror. 

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