Much of Bulls' success will depend on blossoming Rose
BY RICK TELANDER firstname.lastname@example.org
Point guard Derrick Rose has to take the next step as a player -- and as a leader.
It's all good here at the Berto Center. The Bulls are undefeated.
The Bulls are chipper.
Everybody but Carlos Boozer is healthy, and the team plane is leaving soon for Oklahoma City and a date with young Kevin Durant and his pals.
Forget there's a near-cyclone outside or the likelihood of severe turbulence ahead for the new -- and we do mean new -- Bulls.
Guards Derrick Rose and new face Keith Bogans are shooting baseline three-pointers as though they're gambling buddies on a grade-school playground.
Bogans drains his first four shots. Old man Rose, who just turned 22 and is starting his third season with the team, misses four in a row, hollering after each, ''Oh, my God!''
Bogans swishes his fifth. And Rose clangs once more, hollering, ''Oh, my [freaking] God!'' in true disgust.
Bogans grins and sprints across the gym floor and straight into the locker room, letting the agony sink in for Rose, the All-Star point guard who, at least partly in jest, has said it's time for him to be a ''superstar nationally.''
With eight new players on this team, a new head coach in Tom Thibodeau and five new assistant coaches, it sure is time for Rose to rise and be not only a great basketball player, but a great rock, a great leader. No joke about that.
Indeed, leadership might be the most important virtue on this team, especially early on. This is a group that will need months just to find out valuable information about one another, such as that Bogans majored in agriculture in college.
(OK, I gave them that one. Hmm. Wonder if, on the Bulls' first road trip to play the Pistons, Bogans might not want to talk with Detroit mayor and former NBA player Dave Bing about urban farming plans in the Motor City.)
Rose calms down, makes three three-pointers in a row, laughs at himself, drinks some water and comes over to address the media at courtside.
And what he says is this:
Conference looking tough
That is what the Bulls are going on, and that is what they must keep repeating to themselves as they begin this season with the Eastern Conference looking tougher than it has in years.
There are the 2010 NBA finalist Boston Celtics, with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce.
There is the powerful Orlando Magic, with self-proclaimed ''Superman'' Dwight Howard.
And now there is the Miami Hate -- excuse me, Heat -- to contend with.
With LeBron James and Chris Bosh joining Dwyane Wade during the summer, the Heat suddenly has become -- choose one -- the greatest team in the history of the universe or a team full of hot air and blown-up egos and a style of play that requires three basketballs on the court at all times.
In a recent USA Today interview, James referred to himself mainly in the third person, saying, ''It's a great story -- LeBron being a hero, now he's a villain,'' as well as, ''LeBron hasn't won it all yet.''
No, LeBron hasn't. But the self-appraised ''pretty good guy'' seems moderately close to schizophrenia.
No matter what, the Bulls will have to make it past the Celtics, Magic and Heat, as well as the Atlanta Hawks and whichever other Eastern Conference teams think they have improved during the offseason.
Starting off the season at Oklahoma City isn't too good, but then the Bulls play six of their next seven games at home. That will be a nice first half of November to get acquainted with each other.
Sadly, then comes the debilitating ''Circus Tour,'' with the Bulls leaving town for two consecutive weeks and seven games out West. By the time they get back from that, they might be dispirited and lost.
The Candy Man can
That's where Rose's leadership will come in.
Consider that the Bulls' official starting lineup of Rose, Bogans, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and the still-injured Boozer never has played a game together. Taj Gibson will fill in for Boozer until he returns in a few weeks. And Gibson is a hard-working second-year guy from USC.
But the ''chemistry,'' the ''jell'' that everybody likes to talk about so much in pro hoops, might not be there for a long time.
Bogans, for instance -- more info here, teammates! -- has played for six teams in his seven-year career. He has, as they say, modeled a lot of uniforms. Will this be the one that fits-
As Rose stood chatting with reporters, he mentioned how today was the first day of employment for his new personal chef, the guy who is going to fix him healthy meals, not just Happy Meals.
But Halloween is coming, and Rose has a candy jones that he can't control. When he was a kid, he had to swipe candy out of his own trick-or-treat bag so his mom wouldn't know. Today, the urge for squishy-sweet stuff is just as great.
Sometimes, Rose says, he'll get crazed and sit and eat two pounds of Skittles, Gummi-Worms, Dots and the like.
''I mean it,'' he said, shaking his head. ''I don't know, man. I'm going to need therapy.''
If it's just for sugar, OK.