When a team is losing, everybody comes under intense scrutiny: management (who assembled the talent), the coaching staff (who direct the talent), and the players (who are the talent). It’s just the nature of the beast. Fans need someone to blame for their heartbreak.
Derrick Rose has been pretty lucky so far. After all, Vinny Del Negro has been taking most of the lumps for the Bulls’ recent descent into sub-.500-ness. But people are starting to give Rose the stink eye for not doing a little more to carry his team through this slumpiest of slumps. With great power comes great responsibility — just ask Spiderman — and would-be superstars can’t escape suspicion forever.
It’s no fun being under the microscope.
Said Rose: “Yeah, but it’s hard when everybody’s focusing on you on the court. It’s very hard being in the position where I’m the point guard and I’m supposed to pass the ball and everything. People say they want me to shoot the ball more, but I’m the point guard; I can’t do that. I’ve got to pass the ball to people and get people open. Taking over as a point guard is getting people open and shooting here and there. If I was a 2-guard, it would be something else.”
Tell that to Utah’s Deron Williams, who exploded for 38 points and 13 assists last night. Or New Orleans’ Chris Paul, who has made 20-plus-point, 10-plus-assist games seem routine.
I guess what I’m trying to say is: point guards can carry their team by scoring and dishing. And being a team’s franchise player means everybody is going to be focusing on you pretty much forever.
Look, I’m all for Rose distributing first and looking to score second. I am. Rajon Rondo does that, and it usually turns out pretty well for the Celtics. (Although, to be fair, he is passing to Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.) But, frankly, Rose needs to do more than drive-and-dish to teammates who are “open” for contested two-point jumpers. Obviously, a little spacing would help. Unfortunately, the Bulls don’t have any high-percentage three-point shooters at the moment (they are currently 28th in the league as a team at 29.5 percent). That said, I was watching Friday night’s game against the Warriors with Kevin Arnovitz of ClipperBlog. In that game, we counted one genuinely creative assist by Rose, who drew multiple defenders on a hard drive to the basket and shoveled the ball to Brad Miller for a layup.
Those are the kinds of high percentage shots Rose needs to deliver to his teammates with regularity. Passing the ball to Luol Deng so he can chuck up a 20-footer with a hand in his face does not constitute an efficient offense.
Clearly, some of the blame (maybe even most of the blame) falls on Vinny’s sagging shoulders, considering his offensive “system” often looks like something you’d see run in a pickup league by guys who had never met before. And some of the blame (maybe even a lot of the blame) goes to management, who never has addressed the team’s lack of inside scoring and let their best outside marksman (Ben Gordon) walk. Sure, they brought in a guy (Jannero Pargo) who can hit the three, but he’s never done so at a high percentage (36.1 percent for his career and 30.2 percent this season). And besides, Pargo’s barely playing…for whatever reason. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Vinny.)
Bad system, faulty personnel, no spacing. This means, of course, that Rose gets hounded by opposing defenses and has limited options when passing the ball, and the options he does have usually lead to really difficult shots. It’s a classic Catch-22.
So yes, Rose needs to take over. But can he? In addition to Vinny’s system and his team’s inability to knock down shots, Rose doesn’t seem to have that “give me the ball and get the hell out of my way” mentality. He has the talent and the physical skills. Does he have the necessary inner hombre?
It’s hard to tell. I’ve watched every game Rose has played as a pro. I’ve gone over his game logs. He’s had a handful of great games, several very good games, and a lot of games that were just good. But he has yet to play an extended stretch of dominant basketball. You know, the kind where nobody can stop him and he takes his teammates to another level.
Maybe Vinny is holding him back. Maybe his teammates are. Maybe it’s a combination of the two. But if Rose is the team’s future — and management insists that he is — then his transformation into a go-to guy is the team’s top priority. Even over winning.
I just don’t know how that’s going to happen. Or, considering the circumstances, whether it can.