SACRAMENTO --- Derrick Rose stepped to the free throw line less than three minutes into Thursday night's game against the Kings. When he was scoring himself with pull-up jumpers or by driving into the lane, the defending MVP was creating easier shots for his teammates and the Bulls' offense looked as good as it has this season.
"He was in an attack mode right from the start of th game and thats usually who he is," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I thought he set the tone at both ends. He had that one tough call go against him. Really, there were two tough ones that went against him."
Rose said it would be an easy adjustment and he was right. After the offense stalled early in the first two games, the Bulls point guard vowed to be more aggressive early and he was against the Kings in Power Balance Pavilion on Thursday night. The result? For the first time this young season, the Bulls' offense looked like the Bulls' offense of old in a 108-98 victory over the Kings.
Rose knew something had to change when the offense looked lifeless for the second straight game in Monday night's loss at Golden State. By the time the Bulls practiced Wednesday, coach Tom Thibodeau had told Rose what he already knew: It was time to forget about getting everybody else involved and be aggressive like he was during last year's MVP season.
"We were running, playing in a groove, guys were really shooting the ball," Rose said. "My assists are going to be very high this year. We just have ot keep winning. That's the biggest thing right now."
Rose wasted little time establishing himself Thursday night. After taking just four shots in the first quarter of the first two games, he took seven shots in the first quarter against the Kings, making three. He attempted as many free throws (4) in the first half than he had in the first two games.
"Derrick is the MVP," Luol Deng said. "He's that good. He should go whenever it's the time to. It's still early in the season. We're figuring out a lot of stuff and are still able to go out their and compete. He'll be fine. I'm not worried about that at all."
The Bulls scored 15 unanswered points in the first quarter and could've put the young Kings away if not for more sloppy defense, turnovers (18 for 23 Kings points) and foul trouble by several key players, including Rose, who also had several uncharactetistic turnovers late.
Rose picked up his fifth foul midway through the fourth and was replaced by C.J. Watson, who had eight points and nine assists.
"I don't know what it is, man," Rose said. "Last year, the last couple years, I could go a whole game with one foul. Since the preseason I've been getting fouls. It's just something i have to get through and not worry about."
Thibodeau thinks Rose being a good guy might be working against him.
"He's got to drive with more force, I guess," Thibs said. "Sometimes I think him being such a nice guy goes against him, too. He's driving the ball and it has been four free throws, six free throws, and he's attacking the basket. He's getting hit sometimes. We have to have him continue to do it and generate the force and force them to make the call. Right now, he's not getting the call."
Thibodeau even got a technical in the game --- after the refs blew a whistle on the Kings.
"That's a good point," he said when asked if he had ever received a technical after getting a call. "I probably shouldn't have said anything but I didn't like the way the whistle was going."
Carlos Boozer was the of the primary beneficiaries of Rose's more aggressive approach. The forward finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Rip Hamilton added 16 as the Bulls has five players in double figures. Rose finished with 19 points and eight assists.
"I'm getting better every game, man," Hamilton said. "I'm still a long ways away. It's still early in the season. I just try to get a little better every day."
When to make sure he's getting his shots and when to set up others will always be a balancing act for Rose. What he has to remember is he can do both. The best way for him to set up his teammates is by doing what he does better than any point guard in the league --- attack the basket and either score himself or find the open man.
"Derrick is Derrick," Hamilton said. "He can dominate the game in so many different ways. As a point guard he still has to get a feel for everybody on the floor and knowing when to attack and when to initiate the offense and things like that. That's tough. That's not easy. That's not like any other position on the floor where you can be aggressive all the time. He is the point guard. But he makes smart decisions so he can still get to the basket and score and still make the passes."