Sponsored post, try and show love to those showing love to SBNation. -yfbb.
Derrick Rose returned in the Bulls victory against the Hawks, and looked well enough. He had several drives to the basket and even took a hit or three.
Though he (strangely) didn't speak to reporters post-game, Rose told the ESPN telecast things were fine, and Carlos Boozer gave the locker room report, saying Rose went through a normal post-game routine for him. Thibs is even less trustworthy than Rose himself when it comes to delivering a prognosis, but did remark he was pleased with how Derrick looked physically, though the conditioning may not have been all-the-way there.
What gave me the ol' feel-goodies in that post-game wrap (complete with coincidentally-named title) from Nick Friedell was how the rest of the Bulls responded to Rose's return. Starting with Joakim Noah, who, again, is just the best:
When asked just how much different things are with Rose on the floor, Bulls center Joakim Noah looked frustrated that he had to field such a question.
"I think that's pretty obvious," Noah said. "We're not going anywhere without Derrick's play."
He did get more technical:
He knows everybody's tendencies. It's just good to have our floor general back ... When he's attacking the basket, it opens up a lot of lanes and bigs have to go and try to contest his shots. It gives me lanes to the basket so I can get my tip-in game going.
As did Ronnie Brewer, with a similar reasoning:
Him attacking the rim allows somebody like myself to cut backdoor, get easy shots on the baseline or in the corner. Easy drop off passes to () and Joakim. He does a lot of things out there really well and takes a lot of pressure off our team.
As Noah's first instinct indicated, it's indeed obvious that Rose makes everything easier. Yet I'm not sure his absence is completely responsible for how the Bulls have looked in recent weeks. Sam Smith had something interesting with help from Luol Deng that caught my eye today:
The record is great, but the play doesn't quite seem at this point to translate to playoff excellence, and the Bulls sense it. Which is why, who had 10 points and nine rebounds on a poor shooting night, says Wednesday's final game before the All-Star break, against Milwaukee, is crucial.
"We know we played bad against New Jersey," acknowledged Deng of Saturday's 97-85 loss. "We won tonight, but at the same time we know we can play better. We did not play that well. Our record is great, even though we always want to do better. You win them however you can, but we want to win it right. The next game before the All-Star break, if we don't win it right, when we come back we've got to sit down and say, ‘There were periods during season we were playing great basketball. Let's get back to that.'
"Because," said Deng, "We know we are not playing as great as we did when we were beating teams (a month ago). Our defense has to get better. Defense suffers without practice, the rotations, different scenarios. Last year, defensively we did have a lot of practice. This year it's tough with the schedule."
Deng alluded to this theory some have that defensive teams are going to suffer more in this kind of season. The thinking is defense is much harder to sustain than offense because of the intricacies of the teamwork on defense. Great offensive teams, like Oklahoma City, for example, can just have their great individuals attack the defense, which comes naturally. Yes, the Bulls have a guy like that, but just one. Teams like theand have at least two.
In that post, Sam refers to some defensive categories where the Bulls are slipping, like FG% on 2s as well as 3s, but in terms of defensive efficiency they're still 2nd in the league. They're even statistically better on that end than last season, though offense is down across the league in these post-lockout times.
And as acknowledged, they do have a gaudy record. I sense something is 'off' too, but could it just be all needless fretting? I'm sure I'm more susceptible to it than most. Maybe everything's just fine and I'm looking for a concern, and/or the answer all-along is Rip Hamilton, but whether it's real or midseason malaise it sounds like the Bulls feel it too, which is interesting.
Getting Rose back is the start of everything again, but it is just the start. The second half of the season will hopefully provide some answers to the Bulls capability to ramp back up to championship caliber, and even better yet if we can actually calibrate such a thing. There are only a few weeks after the All-Star break until the trade deadline.