Friday night’s game between the New York Knicks and the Chicago Bulls was still very much in the shadow of Wednesday night’s World Series victory by the Cubs. Two days later, the championship is still inducing goosebumps and attracting literal millions to the streets of Chicago. The fans who made the trek to the United Center after 48-hours of Cubs pandemonium got to see a whole bunch of awesome basketball.
The game was the first return of Chicago’s lost son, Derrick Rose, since being traded away this offseason. Joakim Noah, a former fan-favorite of the Bulls was also visiting the United Center for the first time. It was clear from the line-up announcements that these two players are held in vastly different regard to the fans of Chicago. They cheered for Noah, and erupted in a cacophony of boos and claps for Rose. It’s not my place to wax poetic about what that means, but someone certainly should.
The United Center continued to boo Rose every time he touched the ball in the first quarter.
“I’ve been getting boos ever since I was younger, I was getting boos ever since I was in 6th grade being a south-sider playing Patrick Beverly from the west side Sharon Collins from the west side, it all comes from just competing.”
The jeers let up after the Bulls played a tribute video for Rose and Noah. Again, I’ll leave the beautiful prose on what Rose meant to the team to the people who truly loved the Chicago kid.
“There was a lot of love in the building tonight, but I was just trying to stay focused on the game. But it feels good because I know we didn’t win a championship here, but I know how hard and how bad Derrick wanted to win and I know how hard and bad I wanted to win, but it didn’t happen. But no regrets, because I know I gave everything I have for this city.”
The last chapter in Rose’s Chicago saga centered on the ill-advised sentiment: “D-Rose is back.” It’s sad, because he never was “back” as a Chicago Bull no matter how hard fans wished it. He’d have promising bursts, and follow them up with inefficient flops. As a Bull, he never regained the explosiveness that electrified the league in 2011. He still isn’t that player, but Friday night might have been the closest that Bulls fans have ever gotten to see in person to the ghost of Rose past. Rose attacked the basket, drawing multiple defenders on each drive. He dished the ball with jaw-dropping core strength, while displaying surprising court vision. A healthy Derrick Rose is fun to watch.
With the loss of Rose and Pau Gasol, many, like myself, counted the Bulls out this season. They had the look of a confused team that would lose more often than they won, but when they would win: it would feel as empty and boring as a loss. I was probably wrong about this team, although they did come up short against the Knicks 117-104.
Coach Fred Hoiberg was Vegas’s favorite among coaches to lose their job first this season. If you looked at the box score, and listened to the man himself, you’d take that bet.
“Just didn’t get back, just inexcusable things, made baskets coming back not getting matched up, hittin’ trail threes, no real urgency coming out the gate tonight… we’re letting them throw the first punch and we’re retreating, we’re on our heels all night long.”
However, if you watched the game, you would see a team that shows legitimate signs of progress. Dwyane Wade played an inspired game, and through five games, the 34 year-old is proving that he can still be an elite wing player in 2016. Also he’s apparently become an elite three-point shooter, hitting 5-7 in the game. Last year he hit seven all season.
Nikola Mirotic showed off the best side of himself during the second quarter, notching 10 points. Mirotic, along with Doug McDermott, give the Bulls a young duo of bench players to space the floor. Although, McDermott has been so impressive, it might be hard to keep him out of the starting line-up all season.
Jimmy Butler is doing what he needs to do as the leader of the team. The 27 year-old is getting to the line with ease, and converting when he gets there. He had a cool 26 points on 15 shots. As we like to say in the sports biz, “Where he go, they go.”
Now that the Cubs have won the World Series, literally anything is possible. Maybe Derrick Rose will put together an All-Star season in New York. Maybe even the anachronistic Chicago Bulls could make a run at the Finals.