Thursday night, Derrick Rose's breakout season crested with another mind-blowing performance, this time against the San Antonio Spurs. He scored 42 points, controlled things from start to finish, and led the Bulls to a double-digit victory over the best team in the league.
And it came at the perfect time in a year that's seen him evolve into a full-fledged superstar. On a night with only two NBA games, and a day before the entire basketball world congregates in Los Angeles for All-Star Weekend, Derrick Rose gave us one more reminder of just how far he's come.
His potential is no longer a hypothetical, and he's not one of the "best young point guards" in the NBA anymore. He's one of the best players, and these days, Chicago's one of the best teams.
'Course, you've been following the NBA this year, then you know this. But that doesn't make his performance on Thursday night any less emphatic. And kind of the perfect response to yesterday's essay by Bethlehem Shoals at GQ, titled "The Case Against Derrick Rose."
I didn't realize there was such a thing. Nevertheless, Shoals calls Rose a "joyless, vacant killing machine," and notes that "He does amazing things, in the same way that Jason Richardson's dunk contest performances were brilliant and utterly forgettable. ... so maybe my problem is that I want more." Shoals isn't questioning Rose's ability so much as taking issue with the way he does it, and the way it makes him feel.
It's a counterpoint to the Rose hype that's been building all year, and that's fine. There have been plenty of others. Just last month, Rohan Cruyff--coolest pseudonym ever, by the way--noted that Derrick Rose's case for MVP lacked statistical support:
Rose has been instrumental to Chicago’s success, but LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have used just as many possessions to even better effect. If you’re not a fan of them teaming up,’s right there with them (and above Rose). Nobody in the league has been as closely linked to his team’s offensive success as Kobe Bryant, and sacrifices mere percentage points of usage while producing almost 10 points more per 100 possessions (about equal to the offensive disparity between the and ). Rose hasn’t even entirely distinguished himself from another high FGA point guard, . And that’s to make no mention of the off-chart trio of Paul, Howard, and Deron Williams.
In conclusion, Derrick Rose has not been one of the NBA’s five most productive players.
And then people like Rick Reilly put Rose on some pedestal, and you start to wonder whether maybe it is all hype, and Derrick Rose isn't as perfect as everyone says:
Rose would sooner tongue-bathe goats than go for the scoring crown. "I can't do that! I'm the point guard!"
This is how out of touch Rose is with superstardom: One of his goals this year is to stop swearing. "My mom yells at me," he says. "She says, 'People can read lips!'"
Which... Well, of course he's not that perfect. Nobody is. I'll never understand why people like Rick Reilly feel the need to attach deeper virtue to players like Rose and Kevin Durant. Why can't they just be kickass basketball players, instead of the basketball Virgin Mary?
But even if Rose's season may be overwraught symbolically, overrated statistically, and underwhelming aesthetically (to some), it doesn't change the narrative of what's happening this year. We're watching one of the league's biggest superstars blossom before our eyes. He's a killer now. Putting someone like Tony Parker in front of him is like locking a lamb in a room with a lion.
That's why Thursday night's game was so perfect. With only two games on television, there was nothing around to distract us from the truth of Derrick Rose. And the truth is, you can say what you want about his advanced stats or his overblown backstory or his joyless, vacant style of play, but Derrick Rose has turned himself into one of the NBA's Goliaths, and positioned the Bulls as giant killers.
In other words, as Derrick Rose has become one of the five best players in basketball, the Bulls have become one of the five best teams. If that doesn't make him the MVP and this The Season Of Derrick Rose, then so be it. But did you see what he did to the Spurs last night?
No matter how who nitpicks what, the lesson of this year is clear: Derrick Rose is going to be dominating with the best of the best for the better part of the next ten years. And as for the next few months? I wouldn't want to face the Bulls in the playoffs this spring.