A week removed from his first 50-point performance, Derrick Rose was cooking Wednesday. And the way he was stroking it from outside, nobody else deserved to take the Timberwolves final shot as they hoped to send the game to overtime or walk off the Staples Center court winners for a change.
The road hasn’t been kind to the Timberwolves this season, so coach Tom Thibodeau went for it with the play he drew in the timeout. With nine seconds to go, he watched it unfold to perfection—a screen and roll featuring Rose and Karl-Anthony Towns that had Rose flare off Towns, shake loose from his defender, and get an incredible look from beyond the arc. He had hit seven threes in the game, so Rose was for sure the guy to take that shot. The Wolves were looking for their first road win in seven tries. For a second, it looked like Rose delivered.
Except the shot clanked off the back iron. Rose protested that new Lakers center Tyson Chandler had fouled him and that he should’ve been sent to the line with a second to go to shoot three shots. If only he weren’t Derrick Rose.
“They’re not going to give me that call, so I’m just going to have to get used to it,” he said after the game.
Keep scoring like the Derrick Rose of his early Bulls days, the way he’s been doing recently, and keep stroking it from three, unlike we’ve ever seen, and he just might start earning those calls. But the final miss and game’s ultimate margin—a 114-110 Lakers victory—certainly didn’t diminish what we saw from the the 2011 NBA MVP in downtown Los Angeles last night.
The resurrection of Derrick Rose continues to unfold on what feels like a nightly basis these days—that 50-point revelation we saw on Halloween apparently wasn’t a mirage. Pouring in 31 points in the loss, Rose showed to a national audience, since the game was televised on ESPN, that he’s completely healthy for the first time in years. And after having a summer to actually work on his game rather than get his body right, for a change, he just might be on the path to rewriting the narrative of a career largely known for its brief brilliance and debilitating injuries.
“I think the big thing is, and I’ve mentioned this several times, this summer he could work on basketball. He didn’t have to work on rehab,” Thibodeau said after the game. “He came into the season really healthy and I thought he had a terrific end of the [2017-18 regular] season and playoffs for us. Just regaining the confidence in his body was important for him. And he’s playing at a really high level right now.”
Averaging 17.4 points per game and shooting a surprisingly high (for him) 36.7 percent from three through 11 games, Rose is playing better than he has in five or six years. While we may never see the Rose who won the league’s top individual honor back in 2011, he continues to show incredible athleticism for a 30-year-old who’s dealt with years of degrading knee issues that robbed him of his explosiveness and joy for the game.
“I feel the same that I felt five, six years ago. It’s just opportunity, getting my bounce back, and having a coach that believes in me,” Rose said.
"People just bash me getting seven minutes. How can you show yourself or show what you do in seven minutes?"
Rose reuniting with Thibobeau up in Minnesota certainly makes a huge difference, since he thrived in Chicago under Thibs. But as Rose told the world following that 50-point barrage against the Jazz, he worked his ass off to get in this position. And the love and support NBA players showed him on social media immediately after that career night—not to mention the same from his fans, friends, and family—hit him hard. In a good way.
But the stat lines shouldn’t be all that surprising, since his summer, Rose said, was spent hoisting up “probably 15 to 20,000 shots.” Rose changed his shot completely, and he’s never stroked the ball better from three than he is right now. The rotation looks pure. His form is more fundamental. His misses are long or short, less side-to-side. And it helps that he’s getting significant playing time right now with Jeff Teague missing the Minnesota's last five games.
“I’m getting the minutes,” Rose said. “People just bash me getting seven minutes. How can you show yourself or show what you do in seven minutes? But it is what it is. I know how hard I worked on everything; it’s just showing now. My rhythm is coming.”
The whole time Rose was answering questions outside the visitors’ locker room beneath Staples—in good spirits, but definitely pissed he missed that final shot—he was holding a weighted basketball. At 4.5 pounds, it’s a beast and a relic from his days with the Bulls. He said he “stole it” from the organization when he would regularly work out with it under the tutelage of former assistant coach Ron Adams, who is now with the Warriors. It’s been with him throughout all his trials and tribulations since he first tore his ACL in 2012. Rose joked that the green basketball, which bounces like a regular ball, is his Wilson. (Google it, kids.)
“Used it entire time I was in Chicago, and that was the best I ever shot the ball,” Rose said.
No longer an NBA castaway, Rose is back making headlines. Not for anything off the court or anything having to do with another injury, but because he’s balling. And when he’s healthy and he’s cooking and he’s stroking it like he did Wednesday, there are few guys more entertaining to watch in the league than Derrick Rose.