Pippen: With a better understanding of his body, expect an MVP-type season out of Rose
As someone who endured a lot of physical pain throughout the course of his 17-year NBA career, Scottie Pippen knows a thing or two about injuries that are seemingly inevitable if you play the game of basketball long enough.
This week, as the Bulls began regular season play with point guard Derrick Rose in the lineup returning from a torn ACL in his left knee, Pippen was reminded of a situation he experienced following his rookie season in the summer of 1988 when he underwent back surgery for a herniated disc.
“It was sort of a wakeup call for me that lasted throughout my entire career,” Pippen recalled. “For me to have longevity, I had to make sure I maintained a strong body and took care of my core, specifically, because of my back.
“That’s sort of what I see going on with him now,” Pippen said of Rose. “Derrick has a serious injury behind him now but the rehabilitation in a way never ends, especially when you want to play at a high level and be the best. I think it will help as he continues to mature and understand what is most important to him.”
While some were surprised by how quickly Rose re-acclimated himself to the NBA game this past month, Pippen was not. Rose appeared in seven of Chicago’s eight preseason games, leading the team in scoring (20.7) and assists (5.0). He shot 47.6 percent from the field as the Bulls went 8-0.
“I’ve seen the Derrick of old, really,” Pippen said when asked for his assessment of Rose. “I think he’s come back a lot stronger physically and mentally. He’s also better off in terms of understanding what he has to do moving forward. A big part of that is focusing on taking care of his body day in and day out. He looked great in the preseason—his timing and his rhythm have come full circle.
“I expect this to be an MVP-type of year for Derrick because I think he has a bit of a chip on his shoulder after missing a whole season and dealing with everything,” Pippen added. “He wants to prove that his judgment was the right one. And I don’t think anyone can disagree with him at this point.”
Rose has certainly had the support of his organization and teammates all along. As for the starting lineup that joined Rose on the floor as the season opened in Miami, Pippen believes it is a group which can compete with anyone.
“It’s a very impressive lineup,” said Pippen. “Having a refreshed Derrick Rose excites me more than anything. But it’s also been about the emergence of Jimmy Butler. The leadership of Joakim Noah and the energy he brings to the team, especially the way he played in Derrick’s absence last season. Carlos Boozer is still one of the better power forwards in the game in terms of his overall production and consistency. And Luol Deng is now a two-time All-Star, someone who does all the little things so well. Our team as a whole I feel very good about in terms of what we’ll have on the court this year.”
Whether it is filling in for the starting group throughout the course of a season or stepping in when there are injuries, Chicago’s reserves have proven to be a vital part of the team’s success over the past few seasons. This year’s bench is highlighted by sharpshooting Mike Dunleavy, acquired via free agency this past summer, Taj Gibson, who turned in a strong preseason, and backup point guard Kirk Hinrich.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how our bench is able to respond,” said Pippen. “Our first unit will be among the very best in the NBA, but our bench will ultimately define who we are as a team.”
Above all, this year’s Bulls will be remembered for what they are able to do in the postseason. In Pippen’s opinion, the experienced gathered by the core, coupled with overall growth and maturity, will pay dividends.
“We have a team on the court that has been tested,” noted Pippen. “They’ve been together and they’ve been challenged. Now, they’re at the point where it’s time to go to work, tighten things up, and take it to another level. This is a season where we’ll find out if we can indeed compete with a team like the Miami Heat. And, more importantly, if we can ultimately beat them.”