Derrick Rose may finally have found his footing. The oft-injured but talented Chicago Bulls point guard has appeared in six consecutive regular season games for the first time in more than a year, and on Wednesday made his second start in back-to-back games with at least 28 minutes of court time since Nov. 21 and 22 of last year.
That might seem frivolous or trivial, and could even understandably stoke the enduring fires that Rose is either made out of glass or that the Bulls are coddling him. But it’s unlikely Chicago or its fans really care what outsiders think as long as the Bulls win.
And during that key six-game stretch, the Bulls have gone 4-2, including a 102-84 blowout over the Brooklyn Nets in Rose’s debut at the Barclays Center Sunday. Chicago’s now one game up on Cleveland in the Central division, and could earn arguably their biggest win of the season with red-hot Golden State coming to town Saturday.
"We just want him to keep building," head coach Tom Thibodeau said to the Chicago Tribune. "That’s the big thing. He’s moving in the right direction. We always felt if he strung some games together he would take off. And I think we’re seeing that."
His shot is a touch off, but Rose has played well during the healthiest stretch of his second comeback. Rose is averaging 14.6 points while shooting 40.8 percent from the floor in the last six games, both slightly down from his season averages.
But Rose came up with his first 10 assist game of the season in the 132-129 double overtime loss to Dallas, during which he played deep into the extra periods for a season-high 37 minutes. Rose also kept Chicago alive in that game with a stunning three-point floater as time expired in the first overtime.
At times, even early this season, it seemed like the Bulls and Rose would never get to this point. Minor injuries started to pile up like sprains to both ankles in a single game, and pulled hamstrings that kept Rose out for eight of the Bulls first 17 games.
Also the 26-year-old’s comments about his health and how he doesn’t want to further injury to affect his life after his career is over did not go over well with fans or the media.
A month later and Rose has the opportunity to take on some of the best young point guards in the NBA, while keeping LeBron James and the still-developing Cavs at bay. Rose will matchup against smooth-shooting Warriors guard Stephen Curry and try to snap the team’s 11-game win streak. Then after a rematch with the Nets, Damian Lillard and the Portland Trailblazers come to town on Dec. 12.
But one matchup NBA fans, and perhaps Rose, have circled is Dec. 23’s trip to Washington, where the Bulls take on John Wall and the vastly improved Wizards. As disciples and former students of Kentucky coach John Calipari, and both No. 1 picks, Rose and Wall have oft-times been compared to each other.
Rose burst out of the gate to start his NBA career and was the youngest to win the MVP at age 22 in almost 40 years. Two years after Rose entered the league, Wall’s promise on the court was evident, but he couldn’t turn the previously beleaguered Wizards franchise around until last year.
It figures to be a marquee matchup early in the season, and for Rose it could be just the right time cast aside anymore injury talk.