After spending 18 months away from meaningful NBA action due to an ACL injury, Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose was thrown into the fire on opening night against a swarming Miami Heat defense notorious for its aggressive trapping on the perimeter. Rose and the Bulls had seen these traps before, but it's something they struggled to handle in the past, as evidenced by some of the offensive issues during the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals.
The Heat traps are often difficult to beat for any player, let alone one who hasn't seen regular season action in a year and a half. And no matter how good Rose is or how comfortable he looked for the majority of the preseason, facing a locked-in Heat defense takes things up several notches.
Sure enough, Rose was thrown off his game the entire night, finishing with just 12 points and four assists while shooting 4-of-15 from the field and turning it over five times in an ugly 107-95 loss. Joakim Noah noted to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune how the Heat disrupted Rose and the entire Bulls' offense in general:
"They did a good job of trapping Derrick, getting the ball out of his hands. But if they put two on the ball like that, we have to make them pay. It's on all of us."
Rose was given a rude awakening on the very first play of the game, with Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem converging on him at the top of the key. The result was a Rose turnover that turned into an easy dunk for Haslem on the other end:
While most other teams aren't as adept as Miami at trapping on the perimeter, Rose knows it's a strategy many opponents will attempt to deploy on him in an attempt to force other Bulls to beat them. One of the big criticisms of Chicago is the lack of a secondary shot creator who can take take pressure off Rose when the ball is forced out of his hands.
On some nights, Noah can be that guy who can help break the trap, using his deft playmaking skills to make teams pay from the high post. However, the All-Star center was noticeably out of rhythm Tuesday, which was no surprise after he missed the majority of the preseason with a groin injury.
Jimmy Butler may have the potential to be the secondary shot creator the Bulls are searching for, but he's still developing in terms of being able to consistently get quality looks for himself and others off the dribble. Butler does his best work off the ball, whether it be spotting up or cutting to the basket. He's also very good on the offensive boards and in transition.
On the bright side for Rose, he looked just fine health-wise. Mixed in with some of the struggles were some flashes of vintage Rose, with several beautiful forays to the rim that resulted in layups.
Rose and the Bulls will have plenty of time to work out the kinks and improve as the season wears on. Some rust had to be expected considering the long lay-off, because it's simply part of the process when returning from a torn ACL. But what happened Tuesday night brought back some bad memories, and if the Bulls are going to dethrone the Heat, they're going to have to figure out a way to beat that pressure defense.