Tom Thibodeau rarely changed his stance on point guard Derrick Rose.
He was loyal to the end.
“I want to say this about Derrick: It was a long year,’’ Thibodeau said after the playoff loss to the Cavaliers last month. “The good thing is I think he has regained his confidence.
“I think he’ll have a great year next year.’’
Fired with two years still left on his contract, Thibodeau will only have the chance to observe that from afar. And he could very well be right. Maybe Rose is headed back towards elite status.
After a regular season in which he played just 51 games and averaged 17.7 points per game, shooting a dismal 28 percent from beyond the three-point line, the playoffs seemed to flip a switch for the one-time MVP, as he averaged 20.3 points, shooting 35 percent from three, as well as handing out 6.5 assists.
Sure, there was the enigma that was Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, in which Rose seemed to shutdown with the game slipping away and teammate Jimmy Butler wanting to prove he’s the Alpha male, but the fact that Rose had three 30-plus-point performances in the 12 playoff games was something to feel good about heading into the Fred Hoiberg Era.
But it’s also why the Bulls should finally address the point guard spot in Thursday’s NBA Draft, and start preparing for life after Rose.
Rose will be a free agent after the 2016-17 season, but before that he will collect $20 million this upcoming season and $21.3 in his final year of the contract.
Expect ugliness to ensue.
Rose’s agent, B.J. Armstrong, admittedly doesn’t play well with either general manager Gar Forman or VP of basketball operations John Paxson, and told the Sun-Times last summer that all that mattered to him was he had a working relationship with board chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.
Then there’s Reggie Rose, Derrick’s brother/manager, who is no stranger to speaking his mind and ticking off the organization. Imagine the propaganda that he’s capable of spewing going into younger brother’s final season playing for the hometown team.
The Bulls made a poor attempt at finding a back-up to Rose back in the 2012 NBA Draft, selecting an unprepared Marquis Teague with the 29th selection overall, and haven’t made a second attempt in the draft since.
Instead, it’s been a series of grabbing undersized veteran point guards off the free-agent heap, taking the bandaid approach.
That can change on Thursday, with the Bulls selecting 22nd overall, and a draft that is guard deep, especially at the point.
Best-case scenario is Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant – Horace Grant’s nephew – dropping down to the Bulls, but that looks very unlikely. Tyus Jones is intriguing and fits the Bulls’ modus operandi of selecting Dukies, especially those coming off an NCAA Championship, but again Jones might not make it into the 20s.
That leaves the likes of Utah’s Delon Wright, Louisville’s Terry Rozier or if they want a combo guard, Rashad Vaughn from UNLV.
Either way, building a team around a point guard not named Curry hasn’t been generating rings around the league. Especially a point guard that is a $20-million a year hit on the cap.
Since Isiah Thomas won the Finals MVP back in the 1989-90 Pistons Championship run, only two other point guards have shared that honor. Chauncey Billups did it in 2003-04 Finals, and Tony Parker accomplished it in the 2006-07 Spurs win.
The Rose investment seems to be on borrowed time, and it should be.