Derrick Rose was once the toast of the city. He was the hometown boy making good and leading this Bulls team back to the top of the NBA’s Eastern Conference. But after leading the Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011, there has been a steady fall in his play. Of course injuries led to a good portion of that fall, but he just has not been able to reach the same level he was before. The team that he was once the leader of has become accustomed to playing without Rose while his various injuries have kept him on the sideline mostly during the past four seasons. One player that grew the most while Rose was injured was guard Jimmy Butler. The athletic swingman out of Marquette was seldom used in his first season. But as time has gone on, Butler has gotten better and better each year. Going into his contract season in 2014-2015, Butler took it up another notch. He averaged 20 points a game and was still the defensive stalwart that many were used to seeing. His play had him being mentioned as one of the top two-way players in the NBA. All while Butler was rising, Rose was still trying to get it figured out once again. He was making things happen on an inconsistent level. Sure, he had some games where he looked spectacular and then he had others where he looked like he was laboring. The toll of the injuries just looked like they had worn on his body.
Despite some delaying on their part, the Bulls made the decision that signing Jimmy Butler to a five-year max contract was in their best interest. And he has shown that last year was not a fluke. Despite a change in system (the Bulls fired defensive-minded coach Tom Thibodeau for more offensive-minded Fred Hoiberg), Butler is still putting up similar numbers to last year. Consequently, Rose is still being the inconsistent player that he has been over the past few year. The glimpses of what he used to be are still there. But so are the times where he looks like he is laboring on the court. There used to be a time when Rose was considered the leader of this team. The Bulls level of success would ride or die on the shoulders of the hometown kid. But as time as went on, the dynamic has changed. Gone are the times when the Bulls are depending on Rose so much that they falter when he is inconsistent. And just like those times have passed, so have Rose’s quiet leadership of the team. The change has been evident on the court all season: Jimmy Butler is now the leader of this team. Amazingly, no one really expected Jimmy to ever reach this level when he was drafted 30th in the 2011 NBA Draft. But through hard work and determination, he has made himself into the most indispensable player on this Bulls’ roster. And he has also become the guy the Bulls look to in the fourth quarter when closing out games. Gone are the days of leaning on Rose when the time comes to finish off a team.
Derrick Rose has not come into a new chapter in his career. He is still one the highest-paid player on this Bulls team, but he is not the guy that leads them anymore. Unfortunately injuries took away from what he once was. In preseason practice, he suffered a broken orbital bone in practice that caused him to miss the preseason. He did not miss any regular season games, as he returned opening night wearing a mask. The result of the orbital bone fracture is double vision that he continues to battle every game. He recently shed the mask, but admitted that the double-vision is still there. But even with the injury, Rose’s role with this team was going to change. Gone are the days when things began and ended with his offense. Now he has to co-exist with another playmaker in his backcourt in Butler. And even he has probably realized that Jimmy is the focal point of this team. For virtually his entire career since Simeon high school, Rose has been the guy with the ball in his hands. With his current situation in Chicago, Rose now has to learn how to pick his spots. He will not be bringing the ball up the court or initiating the offense as he once used to all the time. Some of those responsibilities now fall on the shoulders of Jimmy Butler. But one thing that Rose can do with Butler as the focal point is work on his movement without the basketball. That is one part of the game Rose has never really had to work on coming up. The ball always used to be in his hands. If he is able to work on things like that when the ball is not in his hands, then it will make him a better player.
It seems like yesterday when Rose was the man for the Bulls. Now that torch has been passed to Jimmy Butler. Butler is the one the Bulls follow. Rose is still an effective point guard, but the inconstancies and injuries have taken that time away. Now he has to accept that he will not be the focal point at all times. And if he is able to master that concept and pick his spots for this team, they will be better because of it.