Pippen: Rose deserving of MVP as Bulls eye 60 wins
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There are a lot of players in the NBA who have had exceptional years this season. Dwight Howard is dominant on both ends of the floor, Kobe Bryant and his Lakers have been unbeatable since the All-Star break, and no one will want to face LeBron James and the Heat in the postseason.
But Chicago’s Derrick Rose is clearly the MVP in my mind. I’ve had the opportunity to watch him play every night and I’m very high on the way he has developed as a leader. Now, his team is playing towards a 60-win season. He’s been spectacular.
When you look at the teams at the top of the Eastern Conference, Chicago had one All-Star this season. Boston, a group that has been together awhile, had four, and Miami had three. Even Atlanta had two. Derrick’s consistency has been huge for Chicago, along with Luol Deng, who has proven to be a true thoroughbred. Deng has been equally as consistent; staying healthy all season, bringing energy on a nightly basis, and keeping the focus.
Derrick has been tremendous down the stretch of games. What separates him from the other contenders for MVP is when you look at the Bulls’ overall success. His winning attitude has become contagious. He’s made great strides defensively, giving the same effort on that end of the floor as he does offensively. He gets better every night because he’s so competitive. He stepped up on defense and his team has followed. That’s the definition of leadership.
It also is very revealing when you consider how Rose has performed in the last five to six minutes of games. Rose has had the ball in his hands as the Bulls have won close games all season long. Chicago’s win in Milwaukee on March 26 when Rose took over, finishing with 30 points and 17 assists, is the epitome of why he should win MVP.
Let’s not forget that Rose worked hard in the offseason to add a three-point shot to his arsenal, something that was practically non-existent for him his first two professional seasons. His ability to hit that shot makes teams defend him on the perimeter, rather than backing up a step to try and prevent him from getting into the lane.
I’m sure Derrick wants the MVP just as badly as anyone, but he’d rather have a championship. From Day One, he’s made it clear—all he cares about is winning. And the Bulls’ time to do that when it matters most is right around the corner.
With only eight games remaining in the NBA regular season, the Bulls are in good position to secure the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Aside from the fact that it would earn them home court advantage until at least the NBA Finals, the importance of accomplishing that comes down to the team’s confidence and the boost it would provide.
While some teams do play well on the road, they always tend to play better at home. This year’s team is one that has excelled at the United Center, compiling a 32-5 record there, second best in the NBA trailing only the San Antonio Spurs (33-4). For a young team to prove they can win at home is crucial, especially once the postseason arrives.
Home court advantage can be the difference in a series. I know Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau doesn’t like to look too far ahead, but if this team is matched up against the Boston Celtics, for example, in the playoffs, they may need to have home court to win a seven-game series. A team like the Celtics has multiple veterans who understand what it takes to win in the postseason. They have multiple scorers, they’re very solid defensively, and they are a dangerous team on the road. Boston has battled against the Lakers in the NBA Finals and been in this position before, whereas this group of Bulls is still searching for its own playoff success.
"It’s not easy to win 60 games in the NBA," writes Pippen. "We did it for the first time 20 years ago, and it gave us a little extra swagger. There was a bit of arrogance in that we accomplished something that not many teams can do."
(Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)
Right now, quite simply, the Bulls control their own destiny. If they continue to win and protect their home court, it could be a long postseason run. At the same time though, the Bulls can’t bank on winning every game at home and have to play well on the road too. Following Wednesday’s win in Minnesota, Chicago is now 11-3 in its last 14 road games, and 22-15 on the road this year. It shows that this group is capable of going in to hostile environments and winning games. When you endure an 82 game season, you have a great opportunity to build a lot of confidence and cohesiveness with your teammates and coaches. At this point, having exceeded nearly everyone’s expectations, the Bulls’ confidence level is high. Although they respect a lot of their very formidable opponents, there isn’t any one team out there that they fear. If they keep doing what they’ve done to get to this point and stay healthy, they’ll be fine and the sky is the limit.
It’s a long postseason and the Bulls can’t feel like they have to do it all at once. Patience is a necessity and it’s also important to take care of the basketball. Limiting their turnovers is one area this team needs to improve on going into the playoffs. One bad quarter of turnovers in the postseason can make it difficult to get back into a game. Turnovers can cause a team to self-destruct and you have to avoid putting yourself in that type of predicament. The games seem to move a lot slower in the postseason, so a 10 or 12 point lead might feel like a 20 point lead in the regular season. The pace simply isn’t as quick—even something like a timeout can take away a team’s momentum.
As they wrap up the regular season, there isn’t one particular focus the Bulls need to emphasize. They’ll want to look at their turnovers, their defensive rebounds, their offensive rebounds; basically tightening all of those screws, a lot of which can be accomplished during film sessions. Coaches want to criticize guys and let them criticize each other, assuming it is all for the better of the team and in order to improve. In the playoffs, it’s win or go home. You might not have a chance to look back at a game and say, ‘Man, we didn’t box out here.’ Before you know it, something along those lines creeps up on you and you’ll be looking forward to next season.
Before we get to the postseason, the Bulls have a good chance of hitting the 60-win mark. And even though that might not mean a lot in terms of the big picture, it’s sure a nice number. While you can’t take any of those Ws into the playoffs, 60 wins from a confidence standpoint feels very good. It shows that you have consistently played well throughout the course of a long, grinding season. There were nights when you may not have played all that well, but you still did what it took to win.
It’s not easy to win 60 games in the NBA. We did it for the first time 20 years ago, and it gave us a little extra swagger. There was a bit of arrogance in that we accomplished something that not many teams can do. It gives you a mental edge heading into the postseason. Teams have done it in the past and teams will continue to do it. Ultimately, though, what’s important to consider is what that team does in the playoffs. Normally if you win 60 games, you are among those considered to be championship contenders. But it’s no given, as the Bulls will soon find out.