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By Sam Smith | 5.15.2015 | 9:55 a.m.
It was a discouraging end to the 2014-15 season for the Bulls Thursday, a shocking 94-73 home blowout loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers to lose the conference semifinal series 4-2.
But it perhaps was a new beginning for Derrick Rose.
“I always look at me stepping on the floor and me walking off the floor as a positive,” Rose said afterward in a locker room of post mortems. “Of course, I would want to win every game. It’s the NBA; you are not going to win every game. I’m happy with how my body responded when I came back, I’m happy with everything I learned this year, what I went through individually, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. I’m at peace with myself. Of course, mad we lost this game and we’re out of the playoffs. But it gives me a chance to really go into this summer with a game plan.”
It wasn’t a time for good feelings among the Bulls after they scored the fewest points they had all season and were defeated by a Cavs team with Matthew Dellavedova as the leading scorer.
But it was the first time in four years Rose left a playoff series walking under his own power, a significant step for not just Rose but the franchise. While the narrative has been that this Bulls team was built to win for this season—and it could have—this was also the first step back for Rose, to try to get through a season for the first time since the Bulls were in the conference finals in 2011.
Though Rose had a six-week setback with meniscus surgery late in the season, Rose played his most games since the 2010-11 season and produced some impressive playoff milestones.
Rose had 14 points and six assists in Game 6 as he and Jimmy Butler with 20 points were the only Bulls players to score in double figures. Against the Cavs, Rose led the team in scoring at 21.7 per game and assists at 6.5 while also averaging an impressive 5.3 rebounds per game. Rose averaged 39 minutes per game against the Cavs. Rose didn’t miss a playoff game and in the 12 playoff games averaged 20.3 points, second to Butler’s 22.9, along with 6.5 assists and 4.8 rebounds in 38 minutes per game. If not quite MVP-level scoring, it was impressive across the board statistics for a player some doubted would even be in these playoffs.
“The good thing is I think he’s regained his confidence,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said about Rose. “I thought he played very aggressively. You’ve got to remember he hasn’t played in three post seasons. Overall, playing in the last five games in the regular season and getting this experience I think is really good for him. I think he’ll have a great year next year. I think he feels really good about where he is. He would want to play better, but he has a lot of confidence right now in where he is; that was a positive.”
That’s vital for the Bulls going forward.
In many respects, it’s more an immediate two-year plan for these Bulls given Rose now comes off his first full playoffs in four years, Joakim Noah is entering the last season of his contract and Pau Gasol figures to still be at a high level in the second season of a three-year contract with the Bulls. Being able to head into a season with a strong and healthy Rose without the minutes limitations Rose played under all this season should provide confidence and additional flexibility for the Bulls and Rose going forward.
“We tried to battle our way through it; it didn’t end the way we wanted,” said Rose, who had 10 points in the first quarter in the only sustained play for the Bulls during the game. “When things happen like that the only thing you can do is learn from your mistakes, learn from the past and just try to adjust and prepare yourself for the future.
“I think we have a team (that) it’s all about just growing together,” said Rose. “Having your ups and downs. This definitely is a down right now. It’s all about getting through it and I know we’ll bring it (championship) here one day.
“I’ve got a baseline now,” said Rose. “I’m healthy. I’m going into this summer with a game plan, certain things to work on. I feel I’m going to push myself the hardest I ever pushed myself in my career. See where it takes me.
“I wouldn’t say (I played) my best, but I played very well sometimes,” said Rose. “It’s all about being consistent, just staying in the gym and preparing myself. That’s one thing I think I did well, prepare myself for every game even thought I didn’t perform the way I wanted to perform; but my body felt good. So it’s about going back in the lab this summer and putting my game back together.
“A lot of positives; some negatives,” Rose said about his season. “But that’s getting in the gym and staying in the gym; that will take away the negatives. The positive side is I felt good after every game. I think I prepared myself well for every game. Now it’s all about getting better. When you get smacked by 20, 30 points in the last game your thought process is everywhere. Tomorrow we’ll get together, talk about next year. As far as change and all that, I’m the wrong person to talk to. I’m just a player trying to win games.”
And with a healthier Rose, perhaps that’s possible ahead for the Bulls.