Derrick Rose — and 5 more keys for Bulls
BY JOE COWLEY Staff Reporter September 24, 2013 10:59PM
Rare heir: Derrick Rose is one of a kind. Much the way Michael Jordan was. | AP
Updated: September 25, 2013 10:45PM
Let the Derrick Rose scrutiny begin.
After all, that’s what training camp, which starts Friday, will be all about. How did Rose move on the surgically repaired left anterior cruciate ligament? How was his explosion? How was the jumper? What did Rose wear? What did he eat? Wait, was that a slight limp?
Every move, every interview, every ice bag on the knee will be put under a microscope as the Bulls build toward the opening-night tipoff Oct. 29 in Miami.
“You’ve got to look at it where I missed the whole year,’’ Rose said last weekend when asked about the team adjusting to life with him on the court. “You have the players that are on the team this year, where they played their butts off last year. The [Luol Dengs], the [Joakim Noahs], [Carlos Boozer], even Jimmy [Butler].
“It’s so many players who played hard last year, just trying to get to the playoffs and just trying to prove people wrong, and for me to come back, who knows when I’m going to get my rhythm? It might take one game, it might take five games, 10 games, who knows?’’
All eyes will be on him, that’s for sure.
And while Rose’s return is Nos. 1, 2 and 3 on the must-watch list for camp, there are some other key story lines that could be the difference between returning to Eastern Conference powerhouse status or suffering through another season of disappointment.
1. Deng it
Heading into his free-agent year, Deng already is in the headlines. And he and the Bulls aren’t comfortable with the situation. Deng’s agent, Herb Rudoy, said the Bulls ended contract talks at the start of the month, leaving Deng no choice but to be a shopper this summer.
Posturing by both sides? Definitely. But it’s a good decision by general manager Gar Forman. Rudoy’s asking price for Deng is too much for the Bulls to commit to, and the hope is the market — thanks to a less player-friendly collective bargaining agreement — will show Deng that the grass is not greener.
The bright side is that Deng is a professional, and while all this is going on, he’ll remain a class act on and off the court.
2. The new MJ
The signing of Michael Joseph Dunleavy Jr. was praised in the offseason, but it still went under the radar. Dunleavy, 33, took less money to be the perfect complementary player off the bench.
“On and off the floor, it will be seamless,’’ Forman said recently of the Dunleavy addition. “He’s our kind of guy. His basketball IQ will complement what we have.’’
3. Butler’s giant strides
All of a sudden, Forman’s 30th overall pick from the 2011 draft is looking like a genius move. Butler took huge strides in his second season, not only becoming a defensive stopper who can play 48 minutes if needed, but he displayed an ability to hit the corner three-pointer consistently.
His climb could make Deng’s possible departure easier to swallow.
4. Bill of health
If the Heat is the reason the Bulls have been sent packing in the playoffs two of the last three years, health should at least be given the assist. This team has yet to stay healthy since the core was put together four years ago, whether it was Rose’s knee, Noah’s foot or Deng’s spinal tap. If they can stay away from a major injury and go into the postseason healthy, well, Miami will be challenged.
5. Bench Mob III
The Bulls have been praised for their depth since their 2010-11 run, but this might be the most talented bench they’ve had yet. A healthy Kirk Hinrich, along with Dunleavy and Taj Gibson and rookies Tony Snell and Erik Murphy give coach Tom Thibodeau all kinds of toys to play with.