Thursday night, the NBA world got a glimpse of the old Derrick Rose.
Rose scored 29 points, including 10 straight in the fourth quarter, on 12-25 shooting, with five rebounds and seven assists as the Bulls beat the Thunder.
This is the Derrick Rose the Bulls hope they can see more often, but betting that Rose can put together these kinds of performances consistently has become problematic for the Bulls.
Prior to Thursday’s explosion, Rose had been averaging six points on 27% shooting with over three turnovers over the prior three games, during which the Bulls went 1-2.
On Thursday, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that the “breakup” between Rose and the Bulls had begun, though he wasn’t sure if it would ever actually be completed.
As Windhorst notes, while Rose can’t be blamed for his plethora of injuries — he’s currently playing with double vision after suffering an orbital fracture on the first day of training camp — his inconsistent play has made him a crapshoot each night. Nobody is sure which Rose is going to come out. Some of this may be related to injuries, but the Bulls vacillate from one form to the next depending on which Rose they get.
Take, for instance, Rose’s 2015 postseason, where his numbers fluctuated and affected the Bulls. In the first three games of the first round against the Bucks, all of which the Bulls won, Rose averaged 24 points per game on 45.5% shooting, 44% from three, and eight assists per game, looking like his former dominant self. Over the next three games, during which the Bulls went 1-2, he averaged 14 points on 35% shooting, 31% three-point shooting, and nearly six assists per game.
He did the same thing in the next round against the Cavs, busting out for back-to-back 30 point games in Games 3 and 4, but averaged 17 points and 36% shooting in the other four games. The Bulls lost the series in six games.
It’s typical for a player’s stats to be fluid, of course, but Rose runs hot and cold more frequently than many other players.
Similarly, it’s not a revelation that a team plays well when an important player plays well. Rose at his best, like he was against the Thunder, is undoubtedly a game-changing player, a whirling dervish who can splinter defences with drives and create opportunities for other players because of his gravitational pull.
But it makes the Bulls’ future cloudier when they don’t know what they’re going to get from Rose on a consistent basis. Rose has already said he’s looking ahead to 2017 when his contract expires. While a lot can happen in two years, if the Bulls want to weigh their options now, do they pay Rose like an All-Star or an average starting point guard? This, of course, depends on whether he can stay on the floor, which has proved troublesome during Rose’s injury-ravaged career.
Rose has taken a simple stance on playing well, saying he knows it’s part of a process in coming back.
“As long as I know it’s a process, there’s going to be ups and downs. Just because there’s a high right now, it’s not a relief [to play well]. I still have to work and get the most out of every day.”
The Bulls can only hope that he can stay healthy and string together good games like this in a row. However, long strings of consistently good play over the past year have proven elusive. It may simply be a staple of Rose’s game now that he fluctuates more often than other players, and the Bulls may have to adjust to that as the season goes on.
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