ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Growing up, many of my peers could be seen donning the plain white shirt with black trim and rounded red letters across the front reading “VOTE FOR PEDRO”. This shirt was a replica from a movie that was popular at the time called Napoleon Dynamite.
I hated this film. For those of you who haven’t quite wasted a day watching it, I will give you a brief summary. Nothing of relevance happens. There is no plot. Just like the season for the Chicago Bulls last season.
When the former MVP Derrick Rose went down in the first round of the playoffs after the 2011-12 season, the whole city collectively surrendered their chances at a title that year.
Even though none of them will admit it, everyone thought, “Wait until next year.”
If only they knew how wrong they were. Rose proceeded to take more than a calendar year to recuperate from the same injury that Adrian Peterson returned from in four months
The time Rose took to return is not the problem here, but rather the fashion in which he toyed with emotions. Around January there were reports that he could play by the end of the regular season.
Then April came. Its showers didn’t bring any MVP flowers to Chicago, no Rose at the front of a postseason parade.
Rather, Chicago sent an outmanned team to face the defending champions. Everyone waited for Rose to storm back onto the court and carry the Bulls to victory. But despite the constant clamor from reporters and even from Coach Tom Thibodeau that Rose could return for the next game, he never did.
It was as if Jared Hess, director of Napoleon Dynamite, had written the script for the Bulls’ season. It had no plot and the most anti-climactic ending possible: a disappointing, but expected, second-round exit.
Now that everyone has waited through a season of incessant baseball for Rose’s return, we have no idea what to expect. Will he be anything like the 2011 MVP who averaged 25 points per game?
Or will he fall victim like T.J. Ford? And others we can only wonder about had injury not struck.
With the preseason nearly complete, Rose has played extremely well, including a 32-point midseason-type eruption against division rival Indiana. He looks to be the Derrick Rose that has been missed dearly, the one who can carry a Bulls offense into relevance.
“He’s pushing the ball and attacking right from the start,” Thibodeau said with the team streaking to 6-0 in the preseason. “You can’t underestimate how hard he is practicing right now.”
Dear Coach: The issue was never how hard Rose was practicing. The issue was when and how hard Rose would be PLAYING.
Cleveland guard Jarrett Jack understands why Rose delayed until he could be the player he was. “You don’t want to come back and be half of yourself,” Jack said. “You want to come back and be at full strength.”
One constant criticism of Rose’s game has been his inability to shoot from range. But he has shot the 3-ball at a very high mark (8 of 15) so far this preseason.
Even so, Rose insisted his shooting repertoire is short of where it needs to be: “I still have a long way to go. . . . I still haven’t shot my floater yet, except once. I’m trying to get my rhythm back, and it’s coming slowly.”
But I do not doubt he soon will be the superstar he once was and will continue to be for one long time, if his knee is as strong as he claims it to be.
Even so, as the season opens Wednesday (Oct. 29) with the Bulls in Miami against the twice-championed Heat, Rose cannot be confident of wresting their crown from them.
The problem is that he isn’t amazing at tennis. He is an amazing basketball player, which is a five-person game. And in today’s NBA, a “Big Three” is almost a requirement to be successful.
Chicago will be leaning on the aging and undependable legs of Carlos Boozer to help Rose lead the team to a title. Let that marinate. Carlos yell-at-the-rim-while-shooting-free-throws Boozer. At least LeBron had Mo Williams when he was in Cleveland.