What Does Derrick Rose Need to Regain Trust of Chicago Bulls Fans?
"It is much easier to destroy than to create." In honor of the newest Star Trek movie there is nothing better than quoting the great Mr. Spock. Such words hold great value in all walks of life. The world of professional sports is no different. It took O.J. Simpson less than a week of bad decisions to unravel a lifetime of work. Obviously things aren't that bad for Derrick Rose, but the former MVP has a tall task ahead of him.
Chicago Bulls fans, and indeed Chicago fans in general are a forgiving bunch but they never forget. A lot of people didn't expect the team to do much in the 2012-2013 season. Instead through grit, determination, fierce defense, excellent coaching from Tom Thibodeau and great leadership from Joakim Noah the team still collected the 5th playoff seed in the eastern conference and upset a healthier, more talented Brooklyn Nets team in the first round. Yet that accomplishment isn't what fans chose to focus on. While their underdog heroes took on the Miami Heat and “King” LeBron James, their eyes kept shifting to the Bulls bench where Rose sat. He’d been medically cleared for months and word out of team practice was he had consistently dominated 5-on-5 scrimmages. Yet there he sat, physically healthy, cheering on his teammates in a suit.
Meanwhile visions of what the Bulls were when he played late last season wouldn't stop dancing in their heads: 96 points per game (93 without him), seven assists per game (Kirk Hinrich managed five a night when healthy), and the only person on the roster who averaged over 20 points a game. That kind of offensive threat kept the Bulls in games all last season and it's what the fans feel Rose taunted them with throughout the playoffs. Instead they had to endure periods of offensive ineptitude from a hobbled roster. In fact Chicago failed to crack the 80-point mark three times in twelve playoff games.
The true stick in the craw of fans isn’t that Rose wasn’t tough enough to return. Their beef with the star point guard lay with his unwillingness to make a decision. Right up until the end of the Heat series he kept the hope alive that he might come back. As any true sports fan will say, there is nothing worse than having high hopes dashed. Rose could’ve saved himself from so much bad press and unwanted attention if he simply declared before the playoffs he wasn’t returning. At least then the fans could focus their energies on what was important. Sadly that is the reality of athletes. The pressure and the desire to compete make such a decision very hard. Thibodeau even said after the Miami series ended that Rose did the right thing by not returning.
It’s too late. Derrick is not hated in Chicago by any stretch but his aura of love, that unconditional trust he built with the fans since his rookie year is gone. Moving forward they will look at him less as a savior and more as a great player who, in the back of their minds, sacrificed an opportunity to get to a championship because he didn’t trust his knee was healthy enough despite clearance from highly qualified doctors. Whether that’s fair or not doesn’t matter. It is reality.
So what must Rose do in order to bridge this divide between him and the fans? Obviously media experts will say nothing less than a championship will save him now. That isn't true. Chicago is a hard city to please but are quick to bring their support if the right stipulations are met. For Derrick it starts with regaining the form that made him the best offensive point guard in the NBA. That means scoring 25 to 30 points a night and providing a full list of highlight reel plays. However, the quickest way for him to soften the hearts of Bulls faithful is one game-winning buzzer beater. His penchant for late-game heroics is what endeared him to Chicago in the first place, reminding them so fondly of Michael Jordan. One big three pointer at the horn to knock off New York, Indiana or, dare to dream, Miami would wash away all the sour taste of a fruitful but lost 2013 season.
Given how young the Bulls are and their ever increasing amount of playoff experience, there is no reason to think they won’t contend next season. Whether they have enough to beat the Heat is still unclear. Thibodeau has proven he can get the most out of his players when things are at their worst. Is it too wrong to think he and Rose can’t get them over the hump when they are at their best? The only way to find out is waiting for next season. That of course is the hardest part.