The picture of Derrick Rose is like a stereogram. Stand too closely, like examining each day, you’ll miss the image. But step back a bit, take in the entire picture and the image becomes clearer.
Rose Wednesday after Bulls morning practice said he’s hopeful about playing against the Washington Wizards with his hamstring issue healing.
“I feel good,” Rose said. “See if I’m able to give it a go tonight. I was able to get through a shoot around, so I should be all right. I always know it’s a process. Even when I come back, take my time, play the game that I normally been playing. Just being patient with it.”
Rose missed the last two games after being extended in the loss to the Spurs last week, making it 12 games Rose has missed this season with a variety of minor setbacks. He’s averaging 16.7 points and 4.9 assists.
But step back a bit from that day to day frustration about the uncertainty and you realize Rose has already played more games this season than anytime before his ACL injury in the 2012 playoffs. He is on a pace to play 66 games, which could be among the team’s top five and he has avoided major setbacks.
The picture of Derrick Rose is coming into much clearer focus and it looks much better than it has in four years.
“I’m happy just to be playing again,” said Rose. “I’m happy my injury wasn’t too severe. Getting over it, so that’s a good sign.
“So few have went through what I went through and to come back and change their game or modify their game to where I’m still productive on the court without using my speed all the time tells a lot if you know basketball,” said Rose. “Just having patience. I still didn’t reach my peak I feel like. Even after the season, getting into the gym and adding on different things to my game, building my conditioning for the performances that you saw before.”
What probably gets overlooked about Rose is how much more he wants to play than anyone else wants him to play. While there may be community frustration about his absences, it pales compared to the sword than can hang over his career given all the misfortune. He obviously wants to have a career, which benefits the Bulls as well with Rose under contract another season.
And while Rose has sustained some fits and starts this season, the view from afar seems much better: He’s averaging 32 minutes per game, second most on the team tied with Pau Gasol. Rose is fourth on the team in overall minutes played, just 25 minutes fewer than third place Taj Gibson. Rose has started more games than anyone on the team but Gasol, who remains out with a knee injury.
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said Mike Dunleavy will return to the starting lineup Wednesday from his bout with the flu, Gibson will start at center with Nikola Mirotic at forward with Dunleavy, Jimmy Butler at shooting guard and hopefully Rose back at point guard.
“Derrick participated and made it through a full shoot around and had a good workout yesterday,” said Hoiberg. “Game time decision on him and Jimmy feels great. I’m optimistic that everything will be fine throughout the course of the day. It’s can he (Rose) explode off it? Can he get down in a stance? Yes, he was able to that this morning.”
It is a day to day exercise, in some respects, given the three surgeries Rose has endured. No one else in the NBA has gone through given the severity of an ACL and two MCLs. Plus, there was the orbital fracture in training camp this season. Given that Rose played 114 games the three previous seasons combined, it’s almost a miraculous comeback that he’s almost played half that many already this season. And improving his game as he’s continued.
“I think I’ve been doing a good job whenever I came back of hanging with what’s been working,” said Rose. “I came back and haven’t looked sluggish or haven’t been in a shooting slump. It’s just finding during the game to manipulate the game for my team’s sake. Missing shots earlier or people saying I shot too many jump shots, those talks went away. I’m doing all this without getting to the line as much. I get to the line two or three times a game. Some games none and I’m still getting my average. So that’s a good sign.
“If I could play in 82 games, I would,” Rose said. “But it’s not like that. I have to deal with reality, like I said before. And just have to deal with my past and my present and hopefully my future will be where I’m working toward 82 games. Trust me, I’m grateful and happy. I’m happy to be where I’m at. My appreciation for the game grows every day, every year. I’m loving where I’m at.”
So is Justin Holiday, the young journeyman who came in the Kirk Hinrich deal and found himself starting in Toronto with Rose out. And then with the key inbounds pass with 25.8 seconds left and the Bulls leading 106-103. The Bulls were called for a five-second violation when Butler was held up in the far corner coming for the ball. The play became a social media sensation with Canadian rapper Drake standing next to Holiday and shouting. The sense was the singer and Raptors fan distracted the Bulls into the turnover.
The Raptors scored after the turnover to get within 106-105. But Hoiberg went back to Holiday for the next inbounds and he got the ball to Mirotic, who was fouled and made the winning free throws.
Holiday wasn’t initially asked about the scene given the many Bulls featured players after the win. Holiday Wednesday didn’t duck the question. After practice he said the Drake’s quacking had no effect on the play.
“Yeah, I’m a fan of his,” said Holiday, who laughed about all the attention he’s been getting. “No, he wasn’t bothering me. There were thousands of fans in the building yelling at the same time. It’s not like I was going to hear one guy yelling. I couldn’t hear him that play. That play I wasn’t worried about him. I came and took it out again and he said something to me before I got the ball, but that play, no, you can see in my face. If I heard him I would have made a face.
“I’ve gotten the links from everyone I’ve known,” Holiday said. ”But obviously he had nothing to do with the play and what happened.”