“You can be a fool if you want to.” Something for the haters, you know who you are. I still got a lot a love for DRose, thorns and all, and I’m sure this year he will win back many of the fans that have turned their back on him. Roll back all the “he looks great” comments from years past, but the reason for optimism is more tangible this season due to his first non-rehab summer. Physically he was able to push himself further in his summer drills focused on game improvement, not rehab. He once again was able to train with his athletic equal Russell Westbrook in California, just like the summer sessions the two friends began the first years of their career’s to make each other better. I imagine Rose working out again with Westbrook is like a shot of adrenaline in Rose’s veins, especially considering Westbrook’s rise to superstardom as Rose watched the last 3 years. After a seemingly amazing summer of work, Rose took to the floor for the first Bulls practice of training camp and promptly got his eye broken by a Taj Gibson elbow on a baseline drive and kick to the corner. Ouch. I mean c’mon, man. Here is how Rose described his experience post- eye surgery: “Throbbing; it felt like a blowtorch on your face. Just having to stay in the house for two weeks like I was in jail or something.” He had to stay in darkness for those two weeks due to the sensitivity of his eye and the need to not raise his blood pressure. I will never understand how people could blame Rose for his injuries.
Anyway, after all that he was able to play in the last preseason game this past Friday night and looked fantastic. He was a blur again, and accelerated the offense to the pace The Mayor, a.k.a new head coach Fred Hoiberg, prefers. He showed he could still attack the hoop and could see the floor well enough with some clever passing, even with double vision. The new offense should allow Rose to flourish not only as a scorer but more importantly as a playmaker with all the hired guns he has played so few games with before this season. Rose will combine with Jimmy Butler to form da Bullies, an elite backcourt second to only the Splash Bros, at least for now. Rose and Butler are not the shooters Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are, but their athleticism is far superior, which allows for the combined growth potential to be better two-way players overall. It will be fun to watch. Last season Rose had some highlight moments but ended the season on a terrible note as the Bulls fell to his nemesis in the playoffs. A lot was made of Rose seeming to defer to Jimmy Butler, creating this bizarre gossip magazine conversation of trouble between the two star players. I have always seen ample evidence of Rose being a team player, so this was odd to me for a couple reasons. Rose had returned recently just in time for the playoffs after 2 months off and was still finding his way. All season he watched Jimmy take the team by the reigns and at times take over games offensively. When Jimmy wanted the ball late, I assumed Rose was being a team player and gave Jimmy the respect he earned all season. On top of it, by the time Rose returned in the second half the game was going off the rails already and the entire Bulls team was in a funk. It really looked like Thibs had beat his own team down with his micromanagement. It has been widely reported that Thibs called plays offensively and I think he visibly struggled to coach that playoff series with his future at stake. In the end, I believe Thibs chose to go down with the ball in his Ironman Jimmy’s hands. Shake it off Bulls fans, with The Mayor leading the team the freedom will be given to both Rose and Butler to create and run like the athletic freaks they are. Rose will be a revelation to many who have dismissed him due to his freedom in the offense, the new cast of shooters, and his co-pilot Butler. Make no mistake, I am not proclaiming them as great since that would be blashphemy, but I see them becoming a great albeit different type of duo, sort of in the roles of Bulls’ greats Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, where Rose is the natural born killer offensive force yet quiet like Pippen, and Butler a hyper-drive, defensive powerhouse with plenty of game on offense and a mouth to match the famously great trash-talker Jordan. We can only hope they can reach their own athletic prowess and peak potential, and the show will be fun to watch as the Bulls make their run to contend this year. Just make sure Rose starts with the ball first, top of the key, when you need a game winner. Go Bulls!
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