Derrick Rose has said he's a better player after his return from knee surgery, but the results have been mixed through three games.
Our panel weighs in on what we've seen from Rose and how his decision to sit the playoffs last season looks now.
1. What has been encouraging and discouraging about Derrick Rose's play in his first three games?
Nick Friedell: Rose has shown no fear going to the rim, which is very encouraging. But he doesn't look like he has a feel for the game at the moment. He's making mistakes that teammates and coaches aren't used to seeing him make -- especially turnovers late in the fourth quarter Saturday night. Also, after dominating in the preseason with his improved shooting, Rose has missed shots all over the floor and is shooting just 29 percent from the floor.
Scoop Jackson: Encouraging: 1. Taking (and hitting) the game winner against the Knicks. 2. The fact that there hasn't been any setbacks or strong indications that there was once a career-altering injury. Discouraging: Just how the preseason hasn't carried over into the regular season. Personally, I think he's pressing, trying to do too much because he feels that these games matter and to prove that he's officially back. He keeps talking about a "breakout game." He doesn't need one, that's not what it is about. He just needs to trust himself and ball. Everything will then fall into place.
Doug Padilla: Just the fact that Rose is back on the court is encouraging. We'll get to his struggles, but simply having a recent MVP back from injury, and a young one at that, ultimately makes you a better team. As for discouraging, watching him force himself into another gear with the start of the regular season has been head-scratching. It's hard to use the preseason as an example for anything, but Rose did seem to be playing with less anxiety before games counted. Call his poor start more mental than anything.
2. Do Rose's early struggles validate his decision not to come back in the playoffs last season?
Nick Friedell: Yes. Fans wanted him back, but he didn't want to come back on the floor until he knew he could dominate again. He knew it would take him some time to get back in a rhythm. Many fans will argue that Rose wouldn't be struggling as much now if he had come back last season -- the difference is that Rose wasn't confident enough in his game then. Now he is, even though his shot is off right now.
Scoop Jackson: Of course. But understand I don't think his struggles have anything to do with his injury, I just think he's having a subpar opening season -- no different than LeBron and the Heat -- because he's overplaying. He's trying too hard to do too much. If he's doing this now, how much do you think he would have tried to do in the playoffs against Deron Williams in one series and with LeBron James guarding him in another? Trust me, coming back during the playoffs wouldn't have changed anything.
Doug Padilla: There are plenty of those out there saying that if Rose would have just come back last season, he could have already knocked off the rust instead of having to go through it another six months later. That's crazy. If Rose wasn't ready to return to the court last season because of mental or physical reasons, what type of player would he have been if he reluctantly took the court? Playing the "What if" game is well within a fan's right, but it creates more pessimism than optimism.
3. What is the biggest reason for the Bulls' struggles through three games?
Nick Friedell: Aside from Rose's struggles, the biggest issue is that the Bulls' offense is not clicking. Aside from the first half against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Bulls have looked bad offensively. Carlos Boozer has been consistent over the first three games, averaging 22.3 points, but he is the only starter who has. Tom Thibodeau believes his team just needs to practice together. The larger issue for the Bulls is the same as it has always been: When Rose doesn't have it going, where will they turn late in games?
Scoop Jackson: The same as the Heat, the same as the Knicks and the Nets, the same as the Clippers' opening night, the same as the Grizzlies. It's just a slow start to a long season. It's not like the Lakers' going 0-5 to open the season last year after not winning a game in the preseason. The loss to the Heat is explainable, and the Sixers have proven that right now a loss to them isn't a fluke. They're that hot squad. That said, the Bulls' intensity, commitment and communication on defense has been nonexistent in three games. If there's been anything that can be used as a reason, that would be it.
Doug Padilla: It's hard to not blame Rose here and what seems to be his conscious decision to force the action to get back into the flow from the outset of the season. It has caused the exact opposite of the desired result, though, and as a result his shooting and playmaking has suffered. It seems odd to say, but the guy in charge of ball distribution is going to have to sit back and let the game come to him. It is one thing that Rose isn't playing well, but his struggles aren't making his teammates better, either.