Since missing the Bulls’ Jan. 10 win over Milwaukee with knee soreness, Rose has averaged 23.4 points, 5.2 assists and 3.3 rebounds.
Bill Smith/Chicago Bulls

Derrick Rose on the rise

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By Sam Smith | 1.29.2015 | 7:21 a.m. CT

Bulls guard Jimmy Butler Thursday is expected to be added to the Eastern Conference All-Star team when the votes for the reserves are announced 6:00 p.m. Central on TNT before the Bulls play a later game against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Though Butler has slumped some in January and is expected to return from illness to play Thursday in Pau Gasol’s return to face the Lakers, Butler is deserving of being included on the team because he still leads the Bulls in scoring and remains in the league’s top 20 at 20.1 points per game.

But what about the Bulls’ most productive player of the last month, their coming-fast three-time All-Star Derrick Rose? Who Tuesday closed out probably the team’s best win of the season in Golden State with the overtime game winner and 30 points.

Once considered a certainty for the All-Star game and a two-time starter, Rose began the season hesitantly in his return from missing two years with knee surgeries and understands he may not be added to the team.

“No, not at all,” Rose said about whether he’d be upset not to be named an All-Star this season. “It would be an honor, but that doesn’t define who I am as a person or the talent I have by being voted or not being voted into that game. I know how talented I am.”

Rose is now beginning to show it as his health appears the best it’s been since his first knee injury in April 2012. His minutes playing time restrictions also have been lifted. His 30 points against the Warriors Tuesday was his fourth game in the last 20 with at least 29 points, the most on the team. And in the last nine games, Rose has been among the most productive players in the NBA.

Since missing the Bulls’ Jan. 10 win over Milwaukee with knee soreness, Rose has averaged 23.4 points, 5.2 assists and 3.3 rebounds. He’s shot 46 percent overall and 44.4 percent on three pointers. Plus, in that period with Butler struggling, Rose has become the team’s regular go to scorer. Like when he closed out Tuesday’s game not only with the big overtime shot, but earlier a pass to Kirk Hinrich for what looked like the game winning three in regulation and strong defense on Stephan Curry down the stretch.

Bulls center Gasol was selected by the fans to be a starter for the Eastern Conference team. So perhaps with Butler a deserving candidate after winning the award for November Player of the Month, the coaches may not want to have three Bulls as All-Stars.

But other than the Atlanta Hawks, who are pulling away from the rest of the Eastern Conference, the Bulls are in the race for the runner up spot. They lead the Central Division by three games over fast-closing Cleveland with a 30-17 record. That puts the Bulls one game behind the Washington Wizards in the conference and one a half games behind the Toronto Raptors. But in the strength of schedule balance for road wins over home losses, the teams are basically even with the Bulls and Wizards plus-7 and the Raptors plus-6. The Bulls also are tied with Atlanta for the league lead in road wins at 17. Atlanta has one fewer road loss than the Bulls.

Also, consider where Rose stands in relation to the league’s top guards.

Rose averages more points per game than Eastern Conference starter John Wall, who leads the league in assists. Rose also averages more points per game than Atlanta’s Jeff Teague, who also is expected to be added to the East team given Atlanta’s fabulous first half.

Rose also averages more points per game for the season than potential All-Star guards like Chris Paul, Mike Conley and Brandon Knight. Though with Rose it’s more, understandably, come later in the first half given his cautious return from the major injuries. Even still, Rose finished sixth in the fan voting among Eastern guards, behind Wall, Kyle Lowry, Dwyane Wade, who is now injured and could be questionable if added to the team, Kyrie Irving and Butler.

Rose was a major fan favorite before his knee injuries with starting spots for 2011 and 2012.

But after getting hurt 10 games into his comeback last season, Rose was more cautious to start this season.

In November, he missed eight of 15 games and sat out the second half of another while averaging 16 points. First impressions are big for the All-Star game. But Rose knew after two years away from the game there were bigger prizes than the All-Star game for now. Plus, Rose was averaging only about 26 minutes per game.

In December, Rose began to work more on his three-point shot to reduce the wear on his body. He struggled to start and shot 23.3 percent on threes. But his scoring began to pick up as he averaged 18.3 per game for the month and had a 31-point game in 32 minutes in a win over Portland and Damian Lillard. Rose was showing he could rise to moments as he also had 29 points in a win over Toronto and Lowry and the next night in Washington Rose scored 25 points against Wall and made the big shots down the stretch in the Bulls win. Rose was making his own statements against the two guards who were in line to be—and did become—Eastern Conference All-Star starting guards. And that was with Rose still being limited to about 30 minutes per game. In 60 minutes in back to back games against Lowry and Wall, Rose scored 54 points and shot 61 percent.

The Bulls were rolling. But they hit a bit of a slump in January with Butler slowing down. Though Rose continued to pick up his game, again improving over the previous month.

Rose in January is averaging 20.4 points and 24.1 in the last eight games. In the last nine games, the fewest Rose has scored has been 18 points while scoring 29 or more three times. Rose’s three-point shooting has vastly improved as he’s shooting 39 percent on threes for the month and has made at least three three pointers in six of the last eight games with at least four in half those games. Though Rose had just one assist in Tuesday’s 30-point game, he twice had 10 assists in a game in the last eight and in the back to back wins over the Spurs and Mavericks averaged 21 points and shot 55 percent on threes.

Since Dec. 22 when Rose returned from missing two games ill, he is averaging 20 points over his 20 games. Which is almost half the season. Rose may not be added to the All-Star team this season. But he has played like an All-Star and deserves to be on the team, especially considering his play since before Christmas and impact especially against the league’s top guards in the last month as Rose has started to become unshackled.

Jan. 27, Warriors: Rose 30, Stephen Curry 21;

Jan. 23, Mavs: Rose 20, Rajon Rondo 6;

Jan. 22, Spurs: Rose 22, Tony Parker 9;

Jan. 19, Cavs: Rose 18, Kyrie Irving 18;

Jan. 17, Hawks: Rose 23, Jeff Teague 17;

Jan. 14, Wizards: Rose 32, John Wall 21;

Jan. 9, Wizards: Rose 19, John Wall 16;

Dec. 27, Pelicans: Rose 19, Jrue Holiday 19;

Dec. 23, Wizards: Rose 25, John Wall 18;

Dec. 22, Raptors: Rose 29, Kyle Lowry 34.

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