You wouldn’t know it from watching Derrick Rose play b-ball in the month of January, but there was a dark time when his brief-but-brilliant career was facing the barrel of the gun. His career isn’t exactly immune to What-If scenarios still, even after returning to MVP-like form in the past twenty-something days, but much of what makes Chicago such a postseason chore is his ability to take over. If his long and tumultuous recovery shows anything, it’s that Derrick won’t simply fade into squalor.
After climbing into form as a top-three team—beating squads like Memphis, Washington, and Toronto in the process—Chicago fell into the lowest point of its season. Before snagging an important back-to-back against Texas powers San Antonio and Dallas, the Bulls dropped six of eight. Two of those to lowly teams like Orlando and Utah, and three others in unconvincing fashion to East foes like Cleveland and Washington (twice).
The Bulls have since dropped another easy win against fringe playoff team the Heat but the former MVP has been playing some of his best ball in the last three years (of which, his critics will say that doesn’t say much at all). Rose’s 20/3/3 willed his team to a contested win against Dallas and 22/5/2 stuck the Spurs into an early grave. Even in their loss to the Eastern Spurs —we’re looking at you, Atlanta—Rose played a great, though poor-shooting game, ending up with 23/10/8.
In the month of January, the former MVP is tallying 19.7 points, 5.3 assists, 3.1 rebounds, 1.o steals, 1.1 fouls, 2.7 turnovers, and is shooting 40.9/43.1/80.0 splits. Yes, it’s not a chart-topping statline, especially the 40.9 percent from the field, but it’s acres better than most would have put the star in this juncture of the year.
The metric, however, that Rose will continue to be judged on is his team’s all-around success and that has been far from ideal as of late; they just let a sub-500 team dominate them in their home arena. And, rather alarmingly, much has to do with the starting five’s defense. Only one of the top-five most utilized Bulls lineups includes their starting five unit. And the two that fare best either doesn’t include Rose playing alongside his starting chums (Rose-Gasol-Dunleavy-Noah-Hinrich) or is some version of the starting unit but without their starting point (Butler-Dunleavy-Hinrich-Gibson-Noah).
Rose won’t so quietly go into the night but neither will the Bulls’ glaring issues. Still, this is a spot Derrick much rather find himself than the one that almost took his legs from under him.