CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose remains defiant.
He doesn't care what people think or what the numbers say. He's going to play the way he wants to play and do what he wants to do on the basketball court. That was the message he delivered after dropping 19 points in a 98-85 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night.
Rose started the game strong, attacking the basket and scoring 10 points in the first quarter. When asked if he planned to drive more to the basket, Rose responded quickly.
"No," he said. "No. I'm going to play my game. My game is whatever they give me. I'm going to play the way that I want to play, not the way that people want me to play."
Rose isn't saying he won't attack the basket again, something that has always been a key to his success and helped get open looks for his teammates. He just reaffirmed a side of his personality that those close to him have known for years: He's stubborn and he doesn't like people telling him what to do on the floor. Those are the traits that helped him become the youngest MVP in league history, and those are the traits he's going to need in order to turn his season around.
Rose came into the game shooting just 34.7 percent on shots eight feet or closer to the rim, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Prior to this season he had never shot worse than 50 percent on layups. He came into this game shooting just 43.3 percent on layups. The fact that he was finishing early and pushing the tempo Wednesday is a good sign for the Bulls.
"He was great," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "You could tell on the first possession that he had pop, he had explosiveness."
Hoiberg could tell earlier in the day that Rose was ready to play against the Grizzlies.
"I saw it in shootaround this morning. I actually sent him a message at about 1 this afternoon and told him how much I loved his energy in shootaround, I loved his pop. He sent me back something that said, 'I'm going to have a great game tonight.' But it was fun to see. You could see the explosiveness. He was getting into the paint, he was finishing, there were a couple others that he would have loved to finish that I'm confident he will finish moving forward. But he just set the tone for our team with his aggressive drives to the basket."
The Bulls have talented players on their roster, but what was true five years ago remains true today -- this team is going to go as far as Rose takes them. He is the player who sets the offensive tone and he is the man who can help push them to the next level on certain nights with his play. Rose's start was one of the biggest reasons why Wednesday looked and felt like the Bulls' most complete end-to-end game of the season.
"Overall I think it was probably one of our best wins of the year," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "Just in terms of our energy, our enthusiasm on the court."
Rose and Jimmy Butler combined for 43 points, 6 rebounds and 9 assists. When the Bulls' backcourt duo plays like that, there aren't many teams that can match them. But it's Rose who must see the wisdom in his ways. When he goes to the rim and attacks, his teammates follow.
"It's huge," Rose said of his and Butler's performances. "But that comes with finding our identity. With just playing, figuring out situations during the game, when we're down, when we're up eight, when we're down eight. Like the substitutions that Coach is making, we're all trying to figure that out right now and we're able to win some games along the way."