NBA PM: Rose’s Status Overshadowing Bulls
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Derrick Rose’s Status Overshadowing Bulls
The Chicago Bulls have won 44 games. Joakim Noah and Luol Deng were All-Stars this season and Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson, Nate Robinson, Jimmy Butler and Richard Hamilton have been solid too. Tom Thibodeau, who won Coach of the Year in 2011 and is in the running once again this year, remains one of the NBA’s best coaches. The Bulls ranked third in the league in opponent points per game and sixth in defensive efficiency. Chicago is 6-2 against the Miami HEAT and New York Knicks this season.
Clearly, the Bulls are still a very talented team, yet their success this season has been overshadowed by Derrick Rose’s injury status. Rose, who tore his ACL during last year’s playoffs, underwent surgery on May 12 and hasn’t appeared in a game all season. He has been cleared medically, but he’s not mentally ready to return. However, Rose has been practicing and scrimmaging with his teammates, and apparently looking like the superstar that took home MVP honors back in 2011.
Because Rose is such a difference maker, everyone around the Bulls organization has had to answer questions about his availability and health throughout the season. The players are still hopeful that he can come back at some point in the playoffs, but they’re preparing to enter the postseason without Rose, since they’ve been without him for the whole season. In fact, this is familiar territory for the Bulls as Rose was injured for much of last season as well, playing in just 39 of 66 games.
“This is what we had to deal with,” Boozer said of Rose’s injury. “Sometimes you have to deal with players being out. We’ve dealt with that in the past. Obviously, we want him to come back, but we’ve had to deal with playing without him. I think guys have been able to step up. Kirk has done a great job for us. Nate has done a great job for us. We’ve had guys step up and doing a pretty damn good job. We can’t worry about all of that. We just have to take care of what’s in front of us. He’s doing what he has to do, we’re doing our job and what we have to do. If he comes back, whew, it would be awesome. If he doesn’t, we have to go with who we’ve got.”
After the Bulls’ win over the Orlando Magic on Monday, Deng told HOOPSWORLD, “We haven’t been healthy, but it was good to have everyone back today.”
Everyone, that is, except Rose. Deng likely just misspoke, but that’s exactly how the Bulls are handling Rose’s injury moving forward. If he can play, that would be great, but they aren’t expecting anything. The 24-year-old point guard has been around the team, but he hasn’t played in so long that they have been forced to move on without him.
“Derrick just has to worry about Derrick,” Deng added. “Whoever is playing just has to get healthy and whoever is out there is who we’re going to play with. We’re confident enough that we have enough guys to beat anybody in the league. That’s the mindset that we’ve got to have.”
While the Rose storyline has become a distraction in Chicago, Rose’s absence has allowed other players to step up and take on bigger roles. Injury creates opportunity, and it also creates a pressure-free environment. If Rose was healthy, expectations would be much higher in Chicago.
“It kind of takes the pressure off of guys,” Taj Gibson said of Rose’s injury. “We just go out there and play and we don’t really have to worry about people critiquing our game. We just go out there and play. At times, it’s frustrating because you get asked the same questions like, ‘When is Derrick coming back?’ But first things first, we just want him to take care of his body. We just keep playing and trying to find ways to win every night. Guys are getting confidence every night and it’s a great thing to see.”
Even without Rose, the Bulls still very good about their chances as they enter the postseason.
“We’re confident,” Kirk Hinrich said. “We haven’t been playing our best lately, but we realize that when we’re right, we can be a very formidable opponent.”
“We’ve been overlooked for the last three years, this is nothing different,” Gibson said. “We have guys who have been there before, we have a deep team, we have veterans who have won championships. … We have a lot of confidence. We know what it takes. Thibs is a guru on defense, knowing how to stop guys. It’s all about following the game plan. But we’re highly confident, we just want guys to be fully healthy and then we feel like we can do a lot of good things.”
Rose may be able to return in the postseason; with each round, the likelihood of Rose playing will increase. However, that’s not what the Bulls are thinking about. They’re focused on the team’s current make-up, as they have been for much of the past two years.
Derrick Williams Making Progress
Last season, Derrick Williams had an underwhelming rookie campaign and he was disappointed in his play. On a number of occasions, he said that he wasn’t as productive as he wanted to be during his first year in the NBA and wasn’t satisfied with his averages of 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds.
This season, injuries forced Williams to play a bigger role with the Minnesota Timberwolves and the second overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft showed improvement across the board. He is averaging more points, rebounds, steals and blocks and he has improved his field goal percentage, three point percentage and free throw percentage.
The 21-year-old still has a lot of growing to do, but he has made progress during his sophomore season. With that said, Williams is the first to admit that he needs to be more consistent, a message that Timberwolves head coach Rick Adelman continues to stress.
“He’s figuring out what he has to do to be successful,” Adelman said of Williams. “I think all young guys have to do that. … Derrick has to understand that every night is a different night and you’ve got to go out and play and you’ve got to find out how you can be successful. I think sometimes he’s not sure. He’s not sure how to attack and that’ll come with experience and it’ll come with him just staying with it. … He’ll find his way.”
San Antonio Spurs Sign Tracy McGrady
The San Antonio Spurs have officially signed Tracy McGrady for the remainder of the season, the team announced on Tuesday afternoon. McGrady will be playoff eligible.
McGrady spent early part of the season playing in the Chinese Basketball Association, where he averaged 25 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists in 29 games with the Qingdao Eagles. McGrady was treated like a rock star and his team sold out every away arena they played in, despite the fact that Qingdao finished with the worst record in the CBA at 8-24.
Now, McGrady is back in the NBA at 33 years old.
McGrady’s last stint in the NBA was with the Atlanta Hawks, where he averaged 5.3 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 52 games off of Atlanta’s bench. The Spurs recently waived Stephen Jackson. McGrady could play significant minutes for San Antonio since their rotation is a bit thin right now. This also means that McGrady will likely advance past the first round of the playoffs for the first time in his career, barring a huge upset by the seventh seeded team in the Western Conference.
Donte Green Joins Memphis Grizzlies
Donte Green is the newest member of the Memphis Grizzlies. The 25-year-old signed with the team on Tuesday afternoon and he’s eligible for the postseason since he hasn’t played for any other team this season.
Over the offseason, Greene was on the verge of signing a contract with the Brooklyn Nets when he suffered a broken ankle during a workout. Greene had to undergo surgery to repair his ankle and the Nets pulled their contract offer.
Greene spent most of the season recovering from his injury. He began workouts in recent months and received interest from a number of teams. The Nets had reached out and the San Antonio Spurs, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Hornets and Houston Rockets were among the teams to contact the forward, according to sources.
Now, Greene will fill Memphis’ final roster spot. He last played for the Sacramento Kings in 2011-12 and has career averages of 6.1 points and 2.4 rebounds. Greene is a promising young player who could emerge as a contributor off of the Grizzlies’ bench.