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Bulls vs. Knicks: Rose shows signs of recovery but struggles overall in return

(Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE)
(Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE)

Well, the good news was that Derrick Rose returned, and the team now can hopefully move in to re-integrating him with Rip Hamilton and the rest of the team. Not just a new thing for the two injured returnees but for the other guys who will see diminished roles going forward.

Rust is expected on that front, B=but this is a pretty poor loss, considering the Knicks are not that good, and without 2 starters of their own. The Bulls were also gifted by a Knicks team shooting an extremely poor percentage from three...though Carmelo Anthony obviously hit two big ones to steal the game the Bulls left open for them.

Going to bullet-mode...

  • With the game staying close and going into overtime, Rose wound up playing over 38 minutes which is likely more than Thibs forecast going in. Everything's checking out so far, but just like their words when Rose was out, neither he nor Thibs can really be trusted when it comes to progress. From what we could see, Derrick may have settled for more three-pointers than usual (8) but also made several strong aggressive moves to the basket. There were certainly spots where you could see a bit of explosiveness missing, but it wasn't a situation where he looked like he was laboring. One noticeable slippage in play was how often he was stripped of the ball, and finished with 8 turnovers overall. Overall, a pretty encouraging re-debut, but it'll be a process I'm sure.
  • Both Derrick and Deng combining to miss 4 free-throws was an obvious reason the Knicks were able to come back and send the game to overtime. But I'm not sure there's much to say about it. For his part, Rose wasn't doing the transparent tough-talk of 'I won't miss next time' like he did after the loss in Miami. The guy is human, so he'll probably miss again. Whether he or Deng's late-game FT shooting is a thing is both impossible to prove, and if it exists it'll just be that: neither is going to be sitting in clutch situations regardless.
  • In a similar vein to that whole 'Rose being human' idea, he indeed missed two chances to win the game to finish each of the last two periods. But he missed 18 shots overall in this fairly rusty return, so that stands to reason he'd miss a couple late too. Carmelo Anthony had a much better game and hit two very high-difficult shots in that same clutch time. Perhaps I'm building a strawman by diving into the 'clutch' argument in the first place, but while I do think something can be said for the ability to make difficult shots (like Melo and Rose can), I don't think one is more inherently gifted in...the moment, or whatever, than the other. When Rose is right he can create more space than he got today, and he'll be a great option.
  • That said, the amount of 'hero-ball' shown by the Bulls throughout overtime was troublesome to see. All day the Knicks proved their unexpectedly good defense (top-5 in DRating) and the Bulls played into it by being incredibly disorganized and reliant on Rose alone. Thibodeau admitted post-game that he should've used his last timeout when Rose was tripped up as that play set up. But honestly at the rate they were going, Rose would've gotten the ball and held it for 5 seconds anyway, and he had a clock-expiring shot chance that the team was looking for. It's a plague that extends throughout the league, but here's to hoping that Thibs's team can show more creativity and diversity of workload late instead of just giving the ball to Rose and moving out of the way. It's mythmaking when it works, but it probably doesn't work best.
  • Another issue with the late-game execution is that Rip Hamilton remains on the bench, still on a 20 minute limit each game. The crunch-time problem remains from last season where Rose is the only ballhandler on the court, and if acclimating Rip to those situations isn't happening now I'm not sure when it'll be realistic to expect it to happen. The other problem is that when Rip was in the game he didn't look that good, especially in a second half where there were at least 4 times when he simply couldn't hold on to the ball. If that's injury-related it's a problem, as is if he can't be trusted to play more minutes.