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Derrick Rose knows what’s up: ‘I’m not playing well right now’

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Derrick Rose is congratulated by an onlooker following Chicago's lone win of the season (Getty Images)

It’s nice to see him back, but it’s nearly one week into the NBA’s 2013-14 season and we can’t help but point out Derrick Rose’s current stinkeroo of a season. The Chicago Bulls point guard and 2011 NBA MVP has not played well in his first NBA games in 18 months, showing plenty of rust and poor decision making as he returns from what could have been a devastating ACL tear.

That rust wasn’t in place during the exhibition season, because after some initial struggles Rose turned in an absolutely dominant preseason for a Bulls team that swept the eight-game turn. Chicago has now lost twice in three attempts to start the year, with only a last-second home win over New York to their credit, and Rose is playing terrible basketball thus far along the way. He knows it. He can’t help but know it. From a talk with Aggrey Sam at CSN Chicago:

“You can call it whatever you want to call it,” Derrick Rose said after his 13-point, 4-for-14 shooting, eight-turnover game in the Bulls’ Saturday-night loss to the 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center. “I’m not playing well right now.”

[…]

“I would have to say the turnovers,” Rose responded when asked what bothered him most about his performance. “The missed shots, I could deal with. My rhythm’s going to come. But the turnovers, I had two or three in a row. We couldn’t afford them at the time. But all I could do is work hard and like I said, it’s going to come to me.

“Me just doing too much, overthinking the play,” he continued when asked why they were occurring. “Easily could have dropped the ball to Booz or Jo, but just thinking too much. But it can easily be fixed. We blew a lead and at the end, they got to almost every loose ball, hit almost every shot they needed to win the game.”

Such overthinking is par for the course when someone spends 18 months visualizing just how things would be once Rose’s knee and repaired confidence would allow him to get back on the court. The exhibition season was thought to be the salve Rose needed as he made his way back to live action, and while it’s true that Derrick oftentimes faced poor competition from teams playing with a preseason edge in October, he did also have to take on the starters, playing all out. And Rose thrived in that setting.

That’s a distant memory just three games into the regular season, with Rose averaging just 14.3 points on 28.8 shooting, with 5.7 turnovers per game to just 4.3 assists a contest. Rose is rushing things, working with a rotation that features two unfamiliar parts in swingmen Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy Jr., with former Bulls offensive initiator Joakim Noah clearly out of shape and rhythm after sitting most of the preseason with a groin pull.

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Noah, in talking with K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, isn’t fazed by his teammate’s slow start:

“I’m not worried about Derrick,” Joakim Noah said. “You know, his competitive nature and all that, we’re in this together. When he struggles, we all struggle. We’re all mad that we’re not clicking, but we will. I’m confident in this team.”

Nor, as you’d expect, is Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau:

“I know his makeup,” Thibodeau said. “Derrick’s nature is to work. He’ll be in the gym. He’ll study. The only thing he has to do is play in the game, shake some of that rust off and we have to work as a team in practice. We do that and we’ll be fine.”

Thibs aided in Rose’s approach by putting the Bulls through a massive practice on Monday, one that was well needed after the team blew a 20-point lead to the (should be) lowly Sixers on Saturday night. Rose and Noah’s offensive issues and Dunleavy’s unfamiliarity with the Chicago methods on both sides of the ball are likely the sticking points for a team that had three days “off” in between games.

This flies in the face, as is sometimes the case, of what the New York Daily News’ Mitch Lawrence wrote on Sunday, pointing out that a steamed Bulls front office is having a say in the minutes allotment after Thibodeau rode his players, Noah and Luol Deng especially, into the ground in an otherwise impressive 2012-13 coaching turn. From the NYDN:

Tom Thibodeau is one of the NBA’s top coaches, but when it comes to managing minutes of his top players, he is going to get some help. Even if he doesn’t want it. The Bulls’ front office has been taking an active role in telling Thibodeau how he’ll dispense minutes to Joakim Noah, among others.

Noah is averaging 29.3 minutes per game this season, more in line with his career averages prior to last year, when Thibodeau rode the Bulls center for a worrying amount of time, on his way to a 36.8 minutes per game average that was somewhat lessened by a trio of late season cameos, spurred on by the crippling plantar fasciitis injury that was caused by overuse.

Rose should have no minutes restrictions, because though he is working through a neck strain, his knee injury was spurred on by fatigue, just a freak accident and tear. He looks to be in the best shape of his career, and as athletic as ever.

The difference is his timing. As a shoot first point guard on a team that wants him to shoot first, Rose is having a hard time staying away from telegraphing both his shots, and attempts at playmaking. Only more and more reps, on the court or at practice, will help him ease back into a familiar, MVP-styled, rhythm.

Three days “off” with Tom Thibodeau after a 1-2 start. That’ll help too. It’s early, Chicago.

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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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