This is the Derrick Rose the Bulls have been waiting for.
Even pleading for.
Confident, unselfish, and more importantly, understanding what he does well and what he doesn’t do well, all under the umbrella of playing a team game.
“It’s exciting to see the way he’s played since we got back from All-Star Break, and the biggest thing is it’s not flashes,’’ veteran forward Mike Dunleavy said. “It’s been three-straight games now. I can’t remember the last time he strung three-straight games together. He’s doing his thing.’’
And then some.
Since again taking criticism for sitting out a Feb. 8 loss in Charlotte because of “general soreness,’’ Rose came back from the break the player the Bulls have been pushing him to be for the last year and a half. He’s averaged 26 points per game, grabbed 17 total rebounds and handed out 14 assists.
But it’s the efficiency that he’s finally understanding.
Rose has shot 57 percent (31-for-54) over that span, no longer obsessed with shooting the three-pointer, and seemingly no longer seeing ghosts of injuries past.
“I just feel like I’m back,’’ Rose said. “I’m out there playing. Wherever I can do it to get my team a victory that’s what I’m going to do. I’m out there, they’re giving me mid-range, they’re giving me drives to the lane, just mixing up my game. Just trying to play a solid game when I’m out there.’’
What was also refreshing to hear was Rose feeling like he’s not done, either. The eye injury he suffered on the first day of training camp actually was a blessing because the lack of depth perception forced him to finally add a new dimension to his game.
That’s been the genesis of his mid-range bank-shot.
“It’s an easy shot for me,’’ Rose said. “My eye. My eye is getting a lot better, and I was like you know what just add it to the repertoire and it’s been working. And they give me the shot, they give me mid-range. They just don’t want me getting to the lane. I don’t know when they’re going to learn.
“When it was messed up I had to find like the depth perception because the rim was off, and I knew mid-range going off the glass, I knew how hard to hit the glass. That’s a shot I’m always shooting when I warmed up. I think it’s just been repetition.’’
Repetition that has now turned into a lethal weapon.
bank-shot, it’s kind of funky, but you can see him kind of trying to get to it, and when someone is trying to do that then they have confidence in it,’’ Dunleavy said. “Whatever gives him confidence to make a shot, however he wants to make it, we don’t care.’’
Now the kicker in all of this – Rose has put these games together without Jimmy Butler (left knee) on the floor. The next hurdle for both players is to show they can play together, play off of each other, and put egos in check.
That in itself can save what’s been a season of disappointment.
“I think it’s an unknown ceiling,’’ Rose said of how good he can still get this year. “I mean the way I’m playing right now, the shots I’m taking I didn’t take when I was younger. I’m shooting off glass now. Defense can get a lot better, but I love the way I’m playing offensively.’’
For the first time in a very long time Rose isn’t alone with that thought.