OK, no more Mr. Nice Guy for Derrick Rose.
He tried. He thought being professional was the right way. He thought he’d be rewarded for showing respect, for revering the game, for appreciating authority, for simply not acting out like a brat.
So Rose attacked the defense and the basket over and over Thursday in the Bulls 105-96 come-from-ahead loss to the Memphis Grizzlies and got just two free throws on one possession despite 21 shots.
Enough is enough.
“I don’t know what I’ve got to do to get a call,” Rose offered in a rare bout of open post game frustration. “I don’t know if I’m being too physical or whatever. I’m just going to go in and start making them make the call. Go in and go crazy like some of those other players in the league and hopefully they call it.
“You’ll see,” Rose promised. “Definitely, next game.”
It would be too bad if it has to come to that, a kid who wants to do it right, not complain and stop playing and yell at the referees after every drive like Dwyane Wade and LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. But this seems to be what the NBA always will be. The squeaky wheel gets the grease? Sadly.
It’s not fully why the Bulls blew a 17-point second quarter lead and 10-point lead in the third to inexplicably lose to a Memphis team playing the second of a back to back while the Bulls had two off days.
The Bulls were pounded on the boards again, 46-31, with Joakim Noah out probably through the end of the month with plantar fasciitis. There were too many quick jump shots in a 38 percent shooting second half even with Memphis over the foul limit early, and a failure to go for a knockout punch when the Grizzlies seemed disinterested and looking for a quick trip home with a lackluster effort in the first 18 minutes.
Rose finished with 20 points and Luol Deng led the Bulls with 23 points on sharp nine of 16 shooting and showing few ill effects of his knee problems that kept him out of the Monday loss to Atlanta.
But without Noah and with new acquisitions Hakim Warrick and Flip Murray a combined two for 10 for 10 points and not adding much of late, the Bulls margin for error is slight without Noah.
So they need all they can get from Rose, and Rose tried desperately to give it all he could, including an angry looking one handed slam dunk over Zach Randolph on a Brad Miller bounce pass early in the third quarter.
It seemed as much crowd pleasing highlight as Rose statement of frustration over being battered around by a wall of collapsing double and triple teams every time he went to the basket and left to watch he and the ball bounce away.
It’s too bad because even commissioner David Stern has urged players to stop complaining so much about not getting foul calls, and then when someone does the referees seem to ignore him.
“We’ve just got to find a way to end games,” said Rose of the Bulls again blowing a big lead at home. “When we have a team down we have to come out and find a way to put them away. We really want to be in the playoffs. But it’s up to us. Not anybody else. We have to go out there and show how much we want it.”
At this point most observers would say they don’t seem to want it very much.
It was the Bulls third straight loss to fall to 31-30. It’s way more than that. They aren’t playing so much poorly as indifferently, though more in stretches than the entire game. They’ll have great runs, but then settle for jumpers and a lack of body or ball movement.
It also too often seems a funereal atmosphere among the players, little emotion except for several whom seem comfortable with one foot out the door.
“I believe we could have played a lot harder,” said Deng. “It’s not time to panic. We’ve got 21 games left. We’ve got to play with more energy. Early in the game, we did a good job of running out. But we let them back in the game and kept building their confidence. And then with six minutes left or so they made plays and we didn’t.
“I know we did not make shots,” said Deng. “I thought we could have moved the ball better (17 assists). “They had two big plays, and ones (by Marc Gasol) to go up seven (with 3:50 left) and spread out a little. I believe we’ve got a very good team. We just can’t act like we’re a good team. That’s what we did tonight, kind of played like we were better than them.”
This is hardly a roster for overconfidence, even with the nice post All Star game stretch, which was populated more by teams with losing records.
It also didn’t help that it seemed coach Vinny Del Negro also pulled his foot off the pedal along with his players.
The Grizzlies appeared to be going through the motions after an exciting win in New Orleans Wednesday night to move into ninth in the West.
So the Bulls came out flying, moving the ball, outrebounding Memphis 12-9 in the first quarter and shooting 59 percent behind Rose’s 10 points. They led 27-10 when the Bulls started major substitutions, Jannero Pargo for Rose, Warrick for Miller and Murray for Hinrich.
The Bulls still led 32-19 after one, and even with some moves deeper into the bench to open the second quarter, Memphis still seemed disinterested and the Bulls led 49-32 with about five minutes left in the first half.
The Bulls then went with Chris Richard and Warrick again for Taj Gibson, and yes the starters need rest. They cannot play 48. But you just had the feel with this kind of game one more first half spurt and the Grizzlies would have packed it in.
But the Grizzlies got some life to end the second quarter with Gasol and Zach Randolph, who ended with 31 points and 18 rebounds, scoring inside while the Bulls went scoreless on seven straight possessions with three long jumpers and three unforced turnovers.
No sweat, we’ll get ‘em when we need to seemed the attitude.
That enabled the Grizzlies to go to halftime trailing just 51-45 in a game they should have been down 25.
“We are an uptempo, jump shooting team,” agreed Del Negro. “We don’t have a lot of post up guys. When you settle for jump shots, they are going to go in some time and out. You have to guard very well and get up and down the court to get some easy baskets. It makes it hard to control tempo sometimes because if we slow it down without a post up game, we end up running a lot of pick and rolls and isolations with Derrick. We got a little stagnant.”
The Bulls seemed to grab hold of the game again to open the third with that great Rose dunk and Miller, who had 14 points and seven rebounds, with a terrific sequence including a nice cut for a score on a Hinrich pass, a baseline drive and finger roll and then a dunk followed by a gangly arm movement and primal scream (yes, Miller was into it) off another Hinrich feed. The big guy was warmed up.
The Bulls were back ahead 65-55 with 7:10 left in the third, and again I thought they had a chance to make the Grizzlies quit as Memphis went to backup center Hamed Haddadi and already had four team fouls in the quarter. I thought Miller could have head faked Haddadi into a bunch more and spread out the game.
Again, guys like Miller need rest, especially with Noah out. But this seemed one of the more winnable games in this tough March stretch of winning teams for the first three weeks. So you push to get the ones you can without Noah? But Del Negro likes to rest his starters when the opponent goes to the bench, and he took out Miller and Hinrich.
And this is one of those debates you perhaps only make in a loss. A coach gets blamed for playing the starters too much, which has happened this season. So then how can you blame him for playing the starters too little? I don’t. It’s a job open to ultimate second guessing. I don’t fault Del Negro for the loss. Players have to make the plays, and the Bulls are short on those players now. They will need some extraordinary individual efforts this last quarter of the season to make the playoffs. Which may be why Rose has begun his campaign with the officials.
I tend to be more conservative, perhaps like Del Negro, and I like to try to steal as many wins as I can to see if I can hold on down the stretch.
But they always say that’s inexperience and a veteran coach knows how to massage his bench to save the starters. So Del Negro did try that Thursday.
It just didn’t work this time.
Memphis went on a 10-0 run to tie the game as Randolph was just too strong for Warrick, who is more a combo three/four.
“The rebounding and the loose balls, I think, made the difference,” said Del Negro. “Our initial defense was decent. The extra possessions really hurt us. As they got more offensive rebounds, they were making us pay for that. We can’t expect to win when we are giving up 53 percent shooting, that many offensive rebounds and letting them score 60 points in the second half. We were not sharp defensively. We are going to win by defending. We are not going to outscore anyone with the make up of our team right now.”
The Bulls did regain the lead on some hustle plays by Deng that led to free throws and a couple of nice defensive plays by Gibson along with a Deng three. So the Bulls clung to an 80-76 lead after three.
“You have to want it more than the other guy,” said Del Negro pointedly. “We did not put enough pressure on them defensively. They came back after we had a big lead and I’m sure they went into the half feeling confident. When the game got close, they went to Zach and we could not control him.”
Hinrich scored on a drive to open the fourth, twisting his ankle for the first of two times in the quarter, though he said after the game he should be OK for Saturday’s game against Dallas.
But the Bulls had awakened the sleeping giants of the Grizzlies front court and they began to batter the Bulls with drives (a 62-42 points in the paint margin), offensive rebounds, loose balls with the guards flying into the mix and second shots.
Memphis finally took its first lead since early in the game on a Mike Conley floater after an O.J. Mayo rebound at 89-87 with 6:54 left. Mayo finished with 20 points and nine rebounds, including five offensive, while free agent to be Rudy Gay had 17 points, six rebounds, five steals and two blocks.
The Memphis bench isn’t very good, though the Bulls couldn’t take much advantage with their bench five of 16 overall. But Memphis’ starting lineup is far superior to the Bulls’, and this was arguably the weakest team in this three week stretch.
The Bulls got the lead back at 90-89 with 5:29 left on a Hinrich three. But then when Hinrich missed a three on the next possession, Gasol scored on the first of two screen/rolls with Conley in which he successfully sealed off Miller and the Grizzlies pulled away as Bulls errant jumpers shot off the rim in all directions.
“It hurt,” said Hinrich. “We were getting hurt on the boards. At home we’ve had leads and let our guard down. We can’t do that.”
The Bulls top guard, Rose, was down numerous times. But he wasn’t rewarded for the effort. He had three assists, and I counted at least five passes he made out of deep penetration to shooters who missed with no one within five feet of them.
It only gets more difficult from here, so we’ll see how much this Bulls teams has and how much they want or can produce a longer season. So far it doesn’t look promising.
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