Derrick Rose thanked everybody as he collected his MVP award Tuesday. His teammates. His coach. His organization. His trainer. His agents. His fans. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Anyone with a working alarm clock.
Oh, and his mom.
We knew the Bulls were getting a terrific player, maybe a franchise-changer, when they hit that long shot in the lottery. But we couldn’t have imagined the Bulls were getting a person whose humility shines as brilliantly as his play.
Honest. Genuine. Real. Rose is a legit humble. It’s not an act. He has never seemed comfortable speaking publicly, mostly because he never wanted it to be about him. Still doesn’t. But he has improved that part of life as wonderfully as he has improved every other part of his world.
It was all there Tuesday, right down to saying, ‘We’re just trying to win the next game.’’
Yes, let’s get to the next game, which is tonight, and let’s see if we can help Rose not stink. Hate to pound the kid like that, but that’s apparently what he needs and wants.
During the Q&A after the award ceremony, Rose was asked whether there was a moment that it turned for him, or some such question. He thanked --- blamed? pointed a finger at? --- the media.
He might be quiet, he said, but he’s still watching. Everyone and everything, apparently. Like Jordan, Rose searches out slights, real or imagined. In that case, I’m here to help. Remember, I’m a pleaser, not a teaser, so allow me to provide some fuel for Rose as the Bulls head into a must-win Game 2 against Atlanta:
Rose claimed his ankle is fine, but his shooting needs an MRI.
He missed all seven of his shots in the first quarter of Game 1, part of the Bulls’ inexcusable start, their fifth pathetic start in six playoff games.
Tell you what, unless the Bulls show they can start a playoff game with any kind of focus and intensity, they are heading toward becoming the roundball version of the Vancouver Canucks. Great regular season, sloppy playoff habits, lots of questions regarding their brains and backbones. Excuse me, Derrick, but do you want to be classified as a Sedin or a Luongo?
The players have to wear it. These pathetic starts are on them. Game-day preparation always is. Individuals are expected to prepare themselves mentally and emotionally. The coach is expected to prepare them with a scouting report and practices that emphasize the way to beat the opponent.
The Bulls players failed. No intensity, no focus, little activity that looked like basketball. Winning basketball, anyway. They choked away home-court advantage when they weren’t ready to start the game and proved totally unable to finish it. Nice symmetry, fellas.
And that’s another thing. I can’t stress this enough: During a nine-minute stretch over the third and fourth quarters, the Hawks pantsed the Bulls on a 27-11 run. The Hawks shot 57.1 percent from the floor in the fourth quarter. Against the best defensive team in the league. Awful.
Truth is, the Bulls need to physically punish the Hawks. I’m not talking punishing them the way that slug Jeff Foster cheap-shotted the Bulls in the first round. I’m talking about bodying up the Hawks’ shooters a lot more consistently than in Game 1.
Not just in the fourth quarter when usual playoff disappointment Joe Johnson is suddenly lights out. No, I’m talking about from the first possession on. The first quarter seemed to be a layup drill for the Hawks. Uncontested, untouched, unacceptable.
There isn’t a lot of deep thinking that goes into tonight’s game: Rose can’t stink offensively and the Bulls can’t stink defensively.
That’s not an imagined slight, Derrick. It’s real. It’s as real as your humility in accepting the MVP award. So, when you go for 35 and the Bulls win by 20 tonight, please thank me during your next MVP speech.