After he scored a game-high 24 points in last night’s let’s-try-to-keep-this-thing-going road win over the Wizards, Derrick Rose said: “I try to remind everybody that we’re going to be in the playoffs, we’ve just got to continue to win. Even though the task is going to be hard, we’re still going to fight and try to come together.”
Statements like that make you wonder whether Derrick has read his team’s injury report. Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and James Johnson are all dealing with foot injuries. Kirk Hinrich has that sprained left ankle. And Rose — who already had a sore wrist — banged up a hip in yet another hard fall.
True, Luol Deng returned last night, scoring 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting in a surprising 28 minutes off the bench. But nobody knows whether that strained calf muscle will allow Lu to suit up tonight against the Bobcats.
Said Deng: “We’ll see. I really don’t know how it’s going to respond. The other day from practice it had tightened up a little bit, so, I’m sure it will be a little bit tight. But, it’s feeling good right now.”
In light of the injury problems and the fact that the eighth-place Raptors — who are still 1 /12 games ahead in the race for the East’s final playoff spot — have a distinct scheduling advantage, Rose’s optimism seems somewhat unfounded…maybe even a little wacky.
But you know what? I like it.
I know, I know. I pooh-poohed Derrick’s positive visualization techniques a few days ago. But after spending a little extra time thinking about it, and after flipping my sarcasm switch to the “off” position, it struck me that this is yet another important step in Rose’s maturation as a player.
Remember: Derrick came into the league as one of those quiet, lead-by-example type of players. The kid was — and, really, still is — humble to a fault and appears at time naturally disinclined to let anything but his own game do the talking.
But now…now Rose is encouraging his teammates to rise to the challenge while putting all the pressure on himself by being the one to guarantee the Bulls will make the playoffs. Remember, this is the same guy who practically had to have words pried out of him with a crowbar last season. This is quite a turnaround.
Don’t get me wrong. Rose is still letting his game do some talking. Last night’s performance included a couple buzzer-beaters to end the first two quarters and this sick role reversal-style alley-oop from “point center” Joakim Noah:
That said, it’s really good to see Rose taking a more active role in leading the team. Let’s face it, Rose is Chicago’s future, and — regardless of whether the Bulls actually qualify for the postseason — this kind of do-or-die, it’s-all-on-me situation is crucial for his development into a frachise player.
And so is tonight’s do-or-die-again game against the Bobcats.
By the way, I just wanted to give a quick shout-out to Taj Gibson, who had a fantastic game (14 points, 16 rebounds, 4 blocks). Tonight he gets to match up against Tyrus Thomas, the player he made expendable. That should be a fun subplot to watch unfold.