It began with a lucky bounce May 20, 2008, and it effectively ended with an unfortunate fall April 28. 2012.
In between, the Bulls thanks to the brilliance of Derrick Rose came as close to an NBA title as they have since Michael Jordan’s famous last posed shot in Salt Lake City June 14, 1998.
Now it starts all over for the Bulls with the pre-draft trade of Rose to the New York Knicks for a package of Jerian Grant, Jose Calderon and Robin Lopez. The Bulls also contributed Justin Holiday and a second round draft pick.
The trade gives the Bulls a chance at a future point guard as Grant played point guard effectively in college, but struggled as a rookie with the Knicks. Calderon is in position to hold down the point guard spot for a season as a veteran while Lopez has been a durable big man who can rebound and screen and run the floor.
With Rose going into the final season of his contract and with a history of injuries, the Bulls apparently believed they had to try to get something of value rather than risk losing Rose for no compensation after next season.
Rose is scheduled to make $21.3 million this season. Lopez has three years left on his deal averaging about $13.7 million. Calderon makes $7.7 million in the last year of his deal. Grant is on a cap friendly rookie deal. Thus the Bulls will remain in strong position for free agency both this summer and especially next summer, depending on whether they add a major free agent this summer.
So in the larger sense it signals the end of an era, the Bulls unofficial reset from missing the playoffs this past season, and the final breakup of the often brilliant and always exciting team of the eight often wonderful and too often heartbreaking years since Rose was drafted.
Rose, 27, finishes his Bulls career with averages of 19.7 points and 6.2 assists. He averaged more than 20 points in a season three times and twice at least 7.7 assists. His Bulls career shooting percentage was 44.8 percent, 30.2 percent on threes, as he played in 406 games in those eight seasons.
With the acquisition of seven footer Lopez, whose contract runs through the 2018-19 season, it suggests the Bulls will not try to resign free agents Pau Gasol or Joakim Noah. With the firing of coach Tom Thibodeau last year, the trade of Luol Deng in January 2014, and Kirk Hinrich in February 2016, it marks, in effect, the final breakup of that team which valiantly challenged LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat to the 2011 conference finals.
Poised to make a run at the championship in the lockout shortened 2011-12 season with the league’s best record for the second consecutive season, Rose sustained the horrific ACL injury in the first playoff game against the 76ers. The Bulls would then go on to lose to the eighth seeded 76ers when Noah also was injured during that series.
The Bulls patched together competitive seasons and even a first round playoff series win in 2013. But there never was a true path to a championship with Rose requiring knee surgery twice more and a facial fracture in training camp last season.
The failure to qualify for the playoffs in 2016 for the first time since Rose was drafted apparently settled the decision to begin creating a new team.
Grant, whose given first name is Holdyn, is a combo guard from Notre Dame whom the Bulls coveted in last year’s draft. He is the son of former NBA player Harvey Grant and nephew of former Bull Horace. His brother Jerami plays for the 76ers. Jerian had an all-American season as a senior in leading Notre Dame to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament. He was likened to current Pistons guard Reggie Jackson in the draft and was selected 19th and traded to the Knicks. But he had an underachieving rookie season, averaging 5.6 points and shooting 22 percent on threes with six starts.
Calderon is a veteran point guard at 34 going into the final season of his contract. He started for the Knicks last season, averaging 7.6 points and 4.2 assists. He is regarded as a good three-point shooter and shot 41 percent from three last season. Lopez is the twin brother of the Nets’ Brook and is the defensive minded brother. This is his fifth NBA team since being drafted the same season as Rose. He started all 82 games for the Knicks last season, averaging 10.3 points and 7.3 rebounds.
But the big story is the departure of Rose, who seemed on a path to the Basketball Hall of Fame—and still may be—becoming the only Bulls player other than Michael Jordan to be named NBA Most Valuable Player.
Rose will be coming into this season the healthiest he has been since his 2012 injury after not having any injury rehabilitation to do this summer. He was said by friends to be looking forward to a new opportunity while sad to see the end of his Chicago tenure.
Rose became the first guard to be drafted No. 1 overall since Allen Iverson in 1996, was named Rookie of the Year in 2009, MVP in 2011, the youngest player ever to win the award, and three-time All-Star before his knee injury in April 2012.
Rose then missed the entire 2012-13 season and ill feelings started then as some felt Rose should have played that season even as it’s rare for players with that sort of injury to be out for less than a year.
Rose returned for the 2013-14 season, but less than a month into the season he tore the meniscus in his other knee and missed the rest of that season. The Bulls went on to be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Washington Wizards.
Rose then went to play for USA Basketball in the summer of 2014 and won a gold medal in the Basketball World Cup for the second time with USA Basketball. But later in the 2014-15 season, Rose suffered another meniscus tear. He was able to return for the playoffs and averaged 20 points. But after the Bulls defeated the Milwaukee Bucks in six games, the Bulls gave up a 2-1 lead and lost to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games. The Bulls then failed to make the playoffs this season with a 42-40 record and thus have apparently decided to restructure a new team going forward.
That draft of Chicagoan Rose from Simeon Career Academy and Englewood with the No. 1 pick became sort of a fairy tale for the Bulls and Rose.
The Bulls beat the longest odds in the weighted lottery era to jump to the No. 1 pick with 1.7 percent odds after a 33-49 record. The Bulls had fired coach Scott Skiles earlier that season and sent vice president Steve Schanwald to the lottery with little belief they could fall into a miracle. Public relations staffer Brandon Faber attended the drawing for the team in his last week with the team before joining the Chicago Blackhawks to direct their media relations.
The Bulls shocked the league when they drew the No. 1 pick with the lottery balls: 11-9-7-13.
It turned around a staggering team.
The Bulls hired Vinny Del Negro as coach and improved to 41-41. They acquired Brad Miller and John Salmons from the Sacramento Kings during the season to make a playoff run and lost in seven games in one of the most historic playoff series in NBA history, seven games with four overtime games and a double and triple overtime before losing to the defending champion Boston Celtics.
Rose was the story with a record breaking first playoff game with 36 points in the Bulls overtime win that turned the series on edge. It led to memorable shootouts between Ben Gordon and Ray Allen and Joakim Noah’s dash for a slam dunk to wrap up the triple overtime game that became his image.
The Bulls behind their brilliant point guard were on their way.
Observers were breathless to find adjectives to describe Rose’s speed and explosion at the basket, arguably never before been seen in NBA history. The Bulls went 41-41 again in 2009-10 and were eliminated in the first round by the Cavaliers.
The Bulls then fired Del Negro and hired Thibodeau, which began a route to the top as the team was 62-20 in 2010-11 with Rose carrying them to playoff series wins over the Pacers and Hawks before losing in five games to Miami. It was the Bulls first conference finals appearance since the last champion season in 1998.
Rose averaged 25 points per game that season in winning the league MVP award. His award speech in thanking his mother, who raised him with only his brothers, was heart warming for the simple acknowledgement that, “Mom, I guess we finally made it.” Rose was raised in a poor, difficult and troubled neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago before attending the U. of Memphis for one year.
His story was an inspiration for the city, the nation and the world of the kid from the neighborhood who overcame the obstacles to lead his home town team and become a sport hero while retaining his humble manner. But that became complicated with Rose’s injuries and the subsequent disappointments with the team as an ambivalence in the community grew about Rose.
But that 2010-11 season was one for the ages as Rose became the fifth player in NBA history with the superior numbers in points, assists and rebounds and third Bulls player ever to score at least 2,000 points in a season. His flying two-handed dunk over then Phoenix player Goran Dragic remains a testament to his enormous talent and all-time NBA highlight athletic play. Rose became the most decorated Bulls player in history after Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
Rose was all-NBA first team along with MVP and started the All-Star game that season.
Rose never quite got going right after the end of that labor issue in 2011, missing 27 of the 66 games with assorted injuries, including 17 of the last 22 games before the playoffs. Playing 37 minutes in what became a 103-91 Bulls win in Game 1 of the series after the Bulls came in as No. 1 seed, Rose suffered the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee with 1:22 left in the game.
It began a painful and frustrating series of rehabilitations for Rose and the Bulls as the Bulls were 45-37 the next season. That post season was probably the highlight of the Bulls/Rose post-surgery period as Noah led the Bulls to a seventh game playoff series win on the road in Brooklyn in a series highlighted also by a Nate Robinson scoring spree earlier in the series in a triple overtime win. The Bulls then lost to James and the Heat in five games.
The Bulls finished 48-34 after Rose went out for the season Nov. 22 at Portland as Noah became Defensive Player of the Year and a second time All-Star after Deng had been an All-Star twice. Noah also was in the top five in the post season MVP voting.
In 2014-15, the Bulls added Pau Gasol, who became an All-Star along with Jimmy Butler and the Bulls were on the verge of an upset of the Cavaliers and perhaps finally a return to the Finals after Rose’s second meniscus injury, albeit not as serious.
Rose returned for the playoffs and along with Butler carried the Bulls over the Bucks, and then it appeared the upset of the Cavs with a Rose game winner before James responded with his own in Game 4 to turn the series back to the Cavs. Thibodeau was let go after the season and replaced by Fred Hoiberg.
The Bulls were then struck down by a series of injuries in the 2015-16 season, though not to Rose.
Mike Dunleavy missed the first half of the season after back surgery. Noah missed most of the season after a shoulder injury. Nikola Mirotic missed more than a month with appendix surgery and Butler with a knee injury. The Bulls thus went from preseason contenders among the top teams in the Eastern Conference to the draft lottery with the No. 14 pick in Thursday’s draft.
Rose, with one year left on his contract, gets to reset his career in New York City playing with Carmelo Anthony, whom the Bulls tried to lure in free agency before the 2014-15 season to play with Rose