Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, who also happens to be coaching the Eastern Conference All Stars this weekend, was effusive in his praise of Bulls point guard Derrick Rose during Friday's media session.
"I think he started the year a little slow. I think people would question that, but I think really what he's done is take on more of a role with that team, a larger role," Van Gundy told me Friday afternoon. "Without Ben [Gordon] there, I think that what Derrick Rose has had to do is pretty much take on the responsibility of creating offense for his team.
“I think last year, that was shared a great deal more. He's had to assume the primary role and their secondary guys are really not close to his role. I think it showed up in our game [on Wednesday] when he went out. So, that's a tough step for a player to make, any player, but especially a young player. And I think that he's been able to do it so well says a great deal not only about his talent and his skills, but his mentality."
Van Gundy pointed out that Rose seems to be on a different level when compared to younger players.
All-Stars impressed with Rose's progress
How much improvement has Derrick Rose made over last year to this year?
I posed that question to several All Stars this afternoon. Here are a few of the answers that they gave me ...
Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets: "I think he's proven himself. I think early in the season, in the beginning, in the first two months, he was dabbling with a couple injuries and stuff like that, but the last month, month and a half, you can see he's getting his explosiveness back. He's playing the way he played in the playoffs last year."
Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets: "Tremendously. It's all about confidence. The more games you play, the more aware you become. The more you understand where your shots are going to come from. Just watching D-Rose play now, he's a lot more decisive. He comes off that high ball screen now, he knows what point he needs to get to to knock that the free throw line jump shot."
Deron Williams, Utah Jazz: "I think he's improved a lot. He was a great player when he came in, but he's just a year seasoned now. Had the playoffs under his belt. He's more confident. He's having a great year, and he hurt for most of the first part of the year so there's no telling what kind of year he would of had if he wasn't hurt for the first part of the year."
Amare Stoudemire, Phoenix Suns: "I think one thing about Derrick Rose, as a rookie it's always kind of uptempo. It's kind of hard to stay under control. As your years go on, you start to slow down and really take [your time]. The game starts to slow down for you. I think that's one of the areas Derrick Rose has improved at is the fact that he's slowed himself down and is really taking his time on the basketball court. And going to his spots and areas where he can score and be effective."
The problem with bringing another star to Chicago
As I noted yesterday, Bulls management has a specific end-game in mind heading into the already legendary Summer of 2010: Add a superstar (such as Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade) and another star or semi-star (say, Joe Johnson or David Lee). That would provide the Bulls with a three-star core and the best collection of talent the team has had since the Jordan era.
It might work, or it might be a pipe dream. We won’t know until, well, this summer.
Some people — ESPN’s Bill Simmons, for instance – think the Bulls have a shot at landing LeBron James. No way. LeBron wants to be as big as Michael Jordan some day…maybe bigger. That won’t happen in Chicago, where he would be playing in Jordan’s giant (and, really, inescapable) shadow. Anything less than six or seven championships in the Windy City would mark him as MJ’s inferior. I just don’t believe LeBron’s ego could take that, or even the possibility of it.
At any rate, two other names that keep popping up in the “to Chicago” rumors are Wade and Bosh. Wade because he grew up here and still has family in the area, and Bosh both because his current team — the Toronto Raptors – isn’t going anywhere and because he fills the Bulls’ biggest need. Namely, a proven frontcourt scorer.
On TrueHoop, Marc Stein reported that Bosh’s desire to be The Man could have a major impact on where he goes.
Said Bosh: “I was just looking at what people say and it’s like, ‘Chris is going to go here and play with him or this, this and that.’ I’m like, ‘Wait a minute.’ I feel like I should be built around. And maybe that’s just my ego talking, but I feel that I’m a very good player in this league and I’m only going to get better. So … maybe we should be getting somebody [in Toronto].”
Which is why I’m not holding out hope for a hero.
I’m not saying it’s inconceivable that the Bulls could land Bosh and/or Wade. Just that it’s improbable. Don’t forget, the Bulls had this same plan several years ago, and they ended up with Ben Wallace because nobody else wanted to come here despite a collection of young and talented players. And we all know how that turned out.
I’m still excited at the possibility that the Bulls will pull off a major free agent coup this summer. But I’m also kind of scared they won’t, because…what then?