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Derrick Rose finally playing up to expectations, believes his ceiling is still ‘unknown’

This is the Derrick Rose the Bulls have been waiting for.

Even pleading for.

Confident, unselfish and, more importantly, aware of what he does and 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 the All-Star break, and the biggest thing is it’s not flashes,” 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 taking criticism for sitting out the Feb. 8 loss at Charlotte because of “general soreness,” Rose has been the player the Bulls have been pushing him to be for the last year and a half. In the last three games, he has averaged 26 points and totaled 17 rebounds and 14 assists.

Rose also is finally being efficient, shooting 57 percent (31-for-54) in that span. He isn’t obsessed with the three-pointer and seemingly isn’t seeing ghosts of injuries past.

“I just feel like I’m back,” Rose said. “I’m out there playing. Whatever I can do to get my team a victory, that’s what I’m going to do. They’re giving me mid-range [shots], 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.”

It also was refreshing to hear Rose isn’t done. 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 add a new dimension to his game — a mid-range bank shot.

“It’s an easy shot for me,” Rose said. “My eye is getting a lot better, and I was like, 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 [my eye] was messed up, I had to find the depth perception because the rim was off and I knew mid-range going off the glass how hard to hit the glass. That’s a shot I’m always shooting when I warm up. I think it’s just been repetition.”

Repetition that has turned into a lethal weapon.

“The 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.”

The kicker in all of this is Rose has put these games together without Jimmy Butler (left knee). The next hurdle for both players is to show they can play together, play off each other and put their egos in check.

That can save what has been a disappointing season.

“I think it’s an unknown ceiling,” Rose said of how good he can get this year. “The way I’m playing, 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.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com