|Bulls hope to blossom with Rose pointing way|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 30 June 2008 10:17|
He hit jumpers. He threw down vicious dunks. He twisted his body like a contortionist while flipping in layups and left a long line of defenders staring helplessly.
The Chicago Bulls hope the trend continues after taking Rose, who grew up on the city's South Side, with the No. 1 pick in last week's draft even though they continue to preach patience.
``We can't sit up here and throw the weight of the world on him,'' general manager John Paxson said at Rose's introductory news conference Monday.
Instead, they threw a No. 1 jersey on him, giving him a uniform number to match his draft spot and his position. They also placed his namesake flower on each chair. Whether the point guard who led Memphis to a record 38 wins and the NCAA championship game can help the Bulls blossom following a dismal 33-49 season remains to be seen.
``This is still a team game,'' Paxson said. ``We think Derrick's got tremendous qualities that will serve him well for the next 10 or 15 years.''
Those qualities led the Bulls to take him over Michael Beasley. Instead of the high-scoring forward from Kansas State, they picked a dynamic floor leader who averaged 14.9 points and 4.7 assists in his lone season at Memphis and who also happened to grow up in the rough Englewood neighborhood a few miles from the United Center.
Rose said there were ``a lot of distractions, kids wanting to go out a lot.'' He chose to ignore those distractions and tag along with his older brothers, spending long days playing at Murray Park until his mom would call him home. That set him on a course that led to stardom at Chicago's Simeon Career Academy and Memphis, where he had the Tigers in position to win the championship until he missed one of two free throws with 10.8 seconds left in regulation. The Jayhawks' Mario Chalmers then hit the tying 3-pointer and Kansas won in overtime.
Rose's new basketball home features six championship banners hanging from the rafters, along with Michael Jordan's and Scottie Pippen's retired numbers. He's old enough to remember the end of that era and this strange habit his brother Dwayne had.
``I remember when they were playing Utah when I was a little kid, every time Jordan got the ball in his hands my older brother Dwayne used to turn off the TV and everybody used to get mad at him,'' Rose said.
He's not sure why his brother did that.
All he knew was joining the Bulls is a ``a dream come true'' and that he's ``very happy'' they picked him.
To that, a grinning Paxson said, ``Better be.''
This was a day for the Bulls to celebrate, to smile. But they still have important issues to address involving Ben Gordon and Luol Deng. The team's top two scorers last season, both are restricted free agents after turning down five-year extensions worth more than $50 million last fall and resolving their situations is Paxson's top priority.
Few teams have the cap space to sign them. Even so, Paxson doesn't expect it to be a quick process.
``I'd like to think it'll happen fast, but it probably won't,'' Paxson said. ``We're going to have dialogue this week with them and their agents, and it's important that we get this process started. They'll know where we stand. We'll know where they stand.''
With Rose's arrival, the Bulls figure to have a crowded backcourt. Incumbent point guard Kirk Hinrich could play shooting guard, although that would put him in a crunch for minutes with Gordon, Larry Hughes and Thabo Sefolosha. A trade would seem to be in order, and Hinrich would be a logical candidate since the five-year, $47.5-million extension he signed before the 2006-07 season is not as lucrative as the five-year, $60-million deal Hughes got from Cleveland in 2005.
Whether they make a deal or not, Paxson vowed the Bulls will be better next season. He expects young players such as Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah to improve, and he envisions Rose becoming the floor leader Chicago lacked.
He'll have to adapt to new coach Vinny Del Negro's system, which will rely on the pick-and-roll and a fast tempo, and he'll have to handle the pressures that come with being the No. 1 pick and playing in his hometown.
``I want pressure,'' Rose said. ``When you have pressure, that lets you know you're doing something right.''