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Derrick Rose plays clueless basketball in the first six minutes on Monday afternoon, hoisting numerous ill-advised shots of the sort he has been missing all season, and a fan thinks maybe those who have called for his benching recently have a point as the Bulls fall behind by 13.
This comes on the heels of Rose giving even more clueless than usual answers to questions in interviews for the last six months, leading that same fan to also wonder whether Rose will ever make the kind of commitment to a team that it must have to even begin to contend for a championship.
But down the stretch, Rose is a big part of a highly satisfying run that enables the Bulls to knock off a nemesis, the Detroit Pistons, 111-101, for one of their most impressive road wins of the season. They enter this week tied for third in the Eastern Conference, with a 24-16 record at the midpoint of the season.
And then later on Monday, the fan watches the Golden State Warriors absolutely obliterate the Cavaliers in Cleveland - a 132-98 final that wasn't even that close - and thinks that none of this stuff really matters anyway because the Warriors are completely dominant. And oh by the way they are coming to town on Wednesday.
The Bulls game was a microcosm of the season's first 40 games - irritating in various ways but successful in the end (I'm guessing most Bulls fans would be good with top four in the conference in the final standings). Rose's 20 points included a couple vintage driving layups late in the fourth that took most of the steam out of the Pistons. It was another compelling chapter in the As the Rose Turns soap opera, but that is only one of numerous storylines playing out with this team.
First and foremost is the fact that Monday's action was the first game of the probable post-Joakim Noah era. And the only thing to be said regarding that is, "What the hell happened?"
How the heck did Noah go from "Defensive Player of the Year" to hobbled has-been (out for the season with a dislocated shoulder and free agent thereafter) so quickly? I am confident in the future I will remember the big guy first and foremost as one of my absolute favorite all-time Bulls, but the team is 10-2 without him this year.
One would have thought rookie big man Bobby Portis would be a big part of the team moving on, but he must have done something to piss off Fred Hoiberg because he played only three minutes against the Pistons and has spent the vast majority of his time glued to the bench lately.
Portis is one of several young players who put the lie to the idea that this Bulls team is on "one last run" to try to contend for a championship. The team is actually transitioning to a new generation of players with whom it will rise and fall, and even though Portis is in the doghouse now, he will have to be a big part of that process.
Yes, veteran Pau Gasol's dominant 31 points were the biggest reason the Bulls beat the Pistons, but even if the Bulls found a way to sign him in the off-season (Gasol has said he will probably opt out of this contract and become a free agent at the end of the year) he is a short-term fix.
Another member of the next generation, Doug McDermott, had a good offensive game against the Pistons (11 points in large part thanks to 3-of-4 shooting from behind the arc) and has improved on the other end of the court this year. But too frequently he still plays defense like a puppy, so eager to please the coaches/owners with his effort/affection that he does aggravatingly stupid things/damages stuff when he overdoes it.
It all adds up to a team in flux. Rose's words of late have been disconcerting but his performance actually continues to improve on the court. He will have to find ways to stay there (i.e., not miss games every three weeks or so with soreness) but his creating a great backcourt with Jimmy Butler continues to be the Bulls' best chance to do special things.
Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays, except when he is our man on Tuesdays. He welcomes your comments.