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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.”

Terry Rozier didn’t know Michael Jordan, Bulls 3-peated twice until ‘Last Dance’

Terry Rozier didn’t know Michael Jordan, Bulls 3-peated twice until ‘Last Dance’

It’s as shocking as it is true.

Terry Rozier, 26 years old and an established NBA player employed by the Charlotte Hornets, did not know that Michael Jordan and the Bulls three-peated twice in the 1990s until viewing “The Last Dance.”

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He confessed as much to Jonathan Abrams of Bleacher Report:

"Just actually seeing this documentary, I learned so much," Rozier told Abrams. "I didn't even know that they (the Bulls) won three straight [championships two times]. I'm just being honest... To do things like that in this league, you have to be super special.”

 

Fact check for all of the above: true. And while undeniably humorous to hear Rozier admit this, the larger piece offers a heartwarming testament to Jordan’s influence from the perspective of Rozier, backcourt-mate Devonte’ Graham, Cody Zeller and other members of the team the Bulls’ great now owns. It's an engaging, worthwhile read.

Rozier even said he could have foreseen himself fighting MJ if, in another life, they somehow found themselves on the same team. “The Steve Kerr route,” as he puts it.

The feature also touches on Jordan and Jordan Brand’s $100 million commitment to social justice causes.

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Bulls offseason watch: Key dates for 2020 NBA Draft, Free Agency

Bulls offseason watch: Key dates for 2020 NBA Draft, Free Agency

Tuesday begins the staggered, three-day voyage of 21 NBA teams to Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Fla. for the 2019-20 season restart (the Raptors have already arrived).

For the Bulls, and Bulls fans, that’s not of direct consequence. Excluded from the bubble, supporters and observers will be limited to loose Bulls ties — enter: Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler — and draft lottery dreaming as the NBA’s best battle for the 2019-20 crown in Orlando.

But that doesn’t mean the next five months, which will comprise an unprecedented offseason in the league’s history, don’t hold significance for the Bulls. A likely third consecutive top-10 draft choice is on the way for the team, as are key contractual deadlines for players currently on the roster and a decision on the future of head coach Jim Boylen.

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There remains much unknown about the 2020 NBA offseason — chiefly, from the Bulls’ perspective, the salary cap, luxury tax line and status of the predraft process, the last of which has been halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Also now in play is the matter of a possible eight-team bubble being constructed in Chicago for the squads not joining the league in Orlando, though there are hurdles galore on that front.

What we do have is a framework of a reported schedule to track through the remainder of the summer and ensuing autumn. Here are some key dates for Bulls fans to watch for the time being (all of which are, of course, subject to change given the potentially fluid nature of the league’s calendar amid the pandemic):

NBA Draft

Aug. 17: Early entry deadline for prospects

The last day for underclassmen not automatically eligible to declare for the NBA draft to state their intentions. Moved back from its original date of April 26, as reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Scott Phillips has you covered tracking who’s already declared or testing the waters.

Aug. 25: Draft Lottery

Typically, the early entry deadline and draft lottery would be nearly two months apart, with the combine sandwiched in between. But with the pandemic moving predraft interviews to Zoom, and live, remote workouts currently prohibited, it appears the league will squeeze both into an eight-day span, also per Wojnarowski.

The Bulls have selected No. 7 three years in a row, using those picks to draft core pieces in Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. and Coby White. And even as the world erupts into chaos around them, they slot seventh in the lottery ranks once again this season. 

But with the NBA smoothing its lottery odds before the 2019 draft, the Bulls will have a modicum higher of a chance of leaping. They enter the lottery with a 7.5% chance of nabbing the No. 1 pick, 32% shot at vaulting into the top four and 19.7% odds of staying locked at No. 7. They also own mathematical chances at No. 8 (34.1%), No. 9 (12.9%), No. 10 (1.3%) and even 11 (0.03%).

Last nugget of note: This year’s lottery intentionally falls 11 days after the conclusion of the NBA’s eight-game seeding round in Orlando; while the eight teams left out of the bubble are locked into their current slots, the final six teams in the 14-team lottery will be populated by those who fall short of the playoffs. Right now, those six are the New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards. If any of them vault into the postseason during the seeding games and play-in round, they’ll flip places with the team they usurp outside of the lottery. Both the lottery order, and the order of selections 15 - 30 will be determined by team record from when the league suspended play on March 11. 

Oct. 6: Early withdrawal deadline for prospects

Any not automatically eligible prospects that declared for the draft on or before Aug. 17 will have the opportunity to rescind that declaration (and maintain NCAA eligibility) on or before Oct. 6, per Wojnarowski.

Oct. 16: 2020 NBA Draft

The draft this year will fall three days after a potential Game 7 of the NBA Finals (Oct. 13), according to Wojnarowski. Broadcast, location and logistical specifics appear to be undetermined as of yet.

RELATED: 2020 NBA Mock Draft 6.0

Option/Offer Deadlines and Extension Eligibilities

From there, a few key decision days for players already on the Bulls’ roster loom. First and certainly not least...

Oct. 17: Otto Porter Jr.’s player option deadline

As reported by ESPN’s Bobby Marks, Otto Porter Jr. will have until Oct. 17 to decide whether or not to exercise his roughly $28.5 million player option for the 2020-21 season. His opting in appears all but a certainty (especially coming off an injury-riddled season in which he appeared in just 14 games, and amid a potentially tumultuous cap environment), and will essentially seal the Bulls’ fate as an over-the-cap team this offseason. 

Heaping that $28.5 million figure onto the Bulls’ books would bring the team’s guaranteed salaries for the 2020-21 season to $106,027,707 (numbers via Spotrac) before addressing restricted free agents or contracts for any draftees. The latest reputable pre-pandemic cap projection, from Wojnarowski, was $115 million, which could now be subject to change.

Oct. 17: Qualifying offer deadline

Also on Oct. 17 is the last day for teams to extend qualifying offers to restricted free agents, per Marks. The Bulls have three: Kris Dunn, Denzel Valentine and Shaq Harrison. Full breakdown on the considerations at play for each here.

Oct. 18: Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, Porter and Cristiano Felicio become extension eligible

The next day, per Marks, three Bulls starters become extension eligible — Markkanen on a rookie-scale basis, while LaVine and Porter are of the veteran designation.

Markkanen’s case is among the more curious in the league. His third season saw marked regression from his second in usage, opportunity and production, but given his skillset and considerable potential, he still represents a possible building block for the Bulls moving forward. A year ago — assuming expected development — we might have thought we’d be pondering a max for Markkanen at this point. Now, with a new front office regime in place, his market value is anyone’s guess. Maybe Arturas Karnisovas and Markkanen’s representation find an amenable compromise before the start of the 2020-21 season. But perhaps just as likely is Karnisovas wanting to see more from him, and Markkanen taking the opportunity to bet on himself making a leap in a contract year and earning some extra dough, as Jimmy Butler did five years ago.

RELATED: Bulls mailbag: Which free agents fit? Lauri Markkanen extension talks?

LaVine has two years and $39 million remaining on a contract he has become one of the more team-friendly in the league given his production since returning full-time from his ACL tear. Porter and Felicio’s deals enter their final years in 2020-21. Frankly, it’d be surprising to see any of them consummate extensions before Karnisovas and new general manager Marc Eversley get a chance to see the Bulls up close and in action.

Free Agency

Oct. 18: Free Agency opens

According to Wojnarowski, free agency is expected open Oct. 18 at 6 p.m. ET, with the moratorium period running from Oct. 19 - 23, and lifting on Oct. 24.

As mentioned, the Bulls will likely be out of the running for any appreciable cap space when that window opens. But they will have their (as of now) non-taxpayer mid-level exception to work with — possible targets for which you can peruse in K.C. Johnson’s latest mailbag.

And for what it’s worth, that luxury tax line could be worth monitoring. In a tweet Monday, Marks mentioned a previous projection of $139 million for next season’s luxury tax. That projection would have to plunge pretty far for the Bulls to need sweating it out, but in the current climate, who knows what could be on the table? If the Bulls somehow found themselves over that line, the difference in last seasons non-taxpayer and taxpayer MLE was about $3.5 million (~$9.2 million to $5.7 million).

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