The Jimmy Butler-Derrick Rose backcourt has to continue coming together
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For now, leadership-gate has simmered.
That’s what the business of actually playing basketball games usually does.
Business that continues to heat up as the Bulls return home this week, facing the likes of Toronto and then Indiana, after a solid two-game road trip to Oklahoma City and Dallas that appeared to have disaster written all over it.
Instead, the Bulls went 1-1, but more importantly continued seeing life from the backcourt of Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose.
The duo combined for 84 points in the two games, while Rose was especially solid, shooting 19-for-38 (50 percent from the field) and grabbing nine total rebounds.
While the loss in Dallas had some head-scratching late moments for Rose, the Bulls wouldn’t have even been in position to steal the game if Rose wouldn’t have shot 12-for-20 from the field.
Hall pass granted.
What continued to become crystal clear, however, is Butler and Rose have to not only improve playing off each other in the Fred Hoiberg offense, but a deep playoff run for this team won’t happen without that.
“At times really well,’’ Hoiberg said, when asked how he thought the backcourt was functioning together. “Derrick has done a nice job of throwing ahead. We’ve done a better job of running. Taj [Gibson starting] has made a difference in that by running to the rim and putting some pressure on those backline guys.
“I think they’ve played well off each other. Those two guys, when they’re both in attack mode, we’re a pretty good offensive team.’’
That will continue to be tested.
After the Raptors and Pacers, the Bulls will see the Milwaukee Bucks, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards, the Mavericks once again, and then another game in Detroit. Oh and by the way, all before a second look at defending champion Golden State on Jan. 20, this time at the United Center.
After playing the Warriors, how about a back-to-back trip to Boston and Cleveland, a home game with Miami, and then a seven-game road trip that starts on the West Coast and ends in the house of horrors that has been Charlotte this season?
Play time is over.
That’s why the Butler-Rose combo continuing to come together will be so important.
The Sun-Times reported back in training camp that while Butler might not have much respect for Rose’s work ethic and leadership, especially with the younger players, he has remained friendly with his teammate and knows how important Rose is for the team’s success.
But that will mean little if both continue to play into the hands of the opposing defenses.
Hoiberg acknowledged that defenses have been going under picks on both players, daring Butler and Rose to beat them from outside. Butler entered this week shooting 33 percent from three, while Rose was a dismal 21.7 percent.
Butler shot just under 38 percent from three last season, while Rose, well, it’s never been pretty for the point guard, but this would be a career-low.
Hoiberg’s solution? Patience from both players.
“The thing is, if they do go under, we have to be patient and re-screen it,’’ Hoiberg said. “Or lower the screen and make sure we make contact. We have not been a great screening team this year. We absolutely have to get better at that. When they go under, you have to set that screen lower and lower and re-screen it. That will help. The other thing is getting it on the move, sprinting into those screens, popping your feet, getting a piece of those guys so we can get it going downhill.’’