PHILADELPHIA -- After sitting out almost a year and half as he recovered from reconstructive left knee surgery, Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose admitted after another poor performance Saturday night what has been easy for fans to see.
"You can call it whatever you want to call it. I would have to [say] I'm not playing well right now," the former league MVP said after the 107-104 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. "For me, just continue to go out there and take the shots that they're giving me. I told you, I'm going to wait but I'm going to have that breakthrough game."
Rose doesn't believe his recent struggles are due to rust, although his numbers would suggest otherwise. Rose was just 4 for 14 from the field against the Sixers and turned over the ball eight times, including five in the fourth quarter. Rose dominated during the preseason but is now 15 for 52 from the field in his first three regular-season games.
"If it was up to me, I would blame tonight on me," he said. "Turnovers, missed shots, missed communication on defense. I just can't wait to get in my groove. But I can't hang my head; I know I've worked too hard for that, so it's going to come."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau chalked up Rose's rough start in part to the fact that his starting five hasn't played much together. Rose missed a preseason game because of a sore knee, while starters Joakim Noah (groin) and Jimmy Butler (sore knee) and reserve Kirk Hinrich (concussion) missed chunks of the preseason because of various injuries.
"I don't think he's playing poorly," Thibodeau said of Rose. "I think our team is playing poorly right now. But we have to straighten that out. When things are going well they go well together; when things aren't going well we do that as a team, too. So we have some issues that we have to correct. We got to get in the gym and we got to work our way out of it."
Rose knows otherwise, though. He knows he isn't playing up to his own standards. What is surely most troubling for Thibodeau is the fact that Rose didn't just struggle offensively -- he struggled badly on defense, as well. Sixers guard Michael Carter-Williams repeatedly drove past him, finishing with 26 points and 10 assists.
"Amnesia," Rose said of his mindset, noting that the season is just three games old. "I have games like this. [I'm] coming off a big surgery or whatever, but all I can do is get the most out of every practice, every shootaround, every shooting session, and go out there and play, but it's going to come to me."
Thibodeau and his teammates came to Rose's defense. They know he will have better nights.
"Here's the thing," Thibodeau said. "If you look at all the great players in this league you'll find that they've all had games like that. But when the ball's in his hands, which it's going to be in his hands a lot, more often than not he's making a great play for us. So if he has a bad game you're not going to overreact, you're not going to under react, you study, you analyze, and then you go back at it."
Rose is trying to think the same way.
"Of course I want to perform better," he said. "But I can't beat myself up about that. I know it's going to come to me, and all I can do is work hard every day, polish my game up, and it's going to come."