“Should’ve taken Beasley” has been a running joke for my close friend, Patrick Bovard, ever since Derrick Rose was drafted by the Bulls in 2008. The Beasley we’re referring to, of course, is the Chinese League MVP Michael Beasley. At first, the joke was a nice reminder of what those Bulls teams would have been without our MVP, but over the years as Bovard drove this joke into the ground, Rose’s injuries did the same to his athletic ability. He established his place as a budding superstar during the classic Bulls vs Celtics first round series in 2009, and only 3 years later was writhing in pain from a torn ACL on the floor of the United Center. The sinking feeling I felt in my stomach on that day, in what feels like an eternity ago, came rushing back on Wednesday when the news broke of his untimely departure from the only place he has ever called home.
Maybe I’m holding onto the past a bit too much, but seeing the haul that the Bulls received for Rose was hard to stomach. Getting only Robin Lopez, a mascot fighting ogre, Jose Calderon, a slow Spaniard, and Jerian Grant, Horace Grant’s nephew, seems like nothing for Chicago’s former golden boy. It was like seeing a favorite childhood toy get sold for $2 at the summer garage sale; you understand the price now, but shit it’s hard to let go.
Knicks fans won’t truly appreciate the flashes of brilliance he will inevitably pull off from time to time, because they don’t remember how it used to be so commonplace. The displays of devastating athleticism that Rose used to execute were awe-inspiring, and now any dunk he manages to put down is both surprising and nerve wracking, because every Bulls fan holds their breath anytime he so much as stumbles or falls. I will never get used to seeing him play with Carmelo and Porzingod in the Garden, but I sincerely hope that Rose regains at least some of his old self, just to throw it back in GarPax’s faces.
One aspect of this trade that is kind of liberating, though, is that we can go into the season now without having the pretense of “if Rose is healthy” when projecting the Bulls chances this season. For 3 years now, Bulls fans have convinced themselves that this is the year that Derrick comes back his his old self, much like Cubs fans and the elusive World Series title. Rose was our wild card every year, the guy that if healthy could put us back in contention. Well, it never happened, but at the least now we can look at this team objectively, and realize we’ve got a long way to go.
Fandom aside, this trade still doesn’t make much sense. Dumping Rose makes the Bulls worse, but with Jimmy Butler still on the roster, there’s no way they finish much lower than last season. They need to commit to a plan soon, by either going into a full rebuild by dealing Jimmy, or spending some cash this offseason. Acquiring Lopez indicates that Pau and Jo are mostly likely on their way out, but I certainly hope that the front office has enough sense to sign a center that doesn’t have an issue fighting gravity, because Robin Lopez is just another name on the long list of athletically challenged Bulls’ bigs to have graced the UC, going all the way back to the incomparable Othella Harrington.Fred Hoiberg’s fast pace system calls for a center that can run the floor with Butler and take advantage of open lanes in the pick & roll, not a plodding 7-footer like Lopez. But his contract goes for another 3 years at a cool $13 mil/year, so unless this move is the first of many, it looks like Robin is a Bull for the long term.
As for Calderon, he seems to merely be a placeholder at the point guard position this year, as his contract is up at the end of the season. Jose is a respectable floor general and a great standstill shooter, but he is also incredibly slow, and can’t defend most of the starting caliber guards in this league. He’s essentially the anti-Rose, and it will be a fairly sobering experience to see Calderon at the helm of our offense. Splitting time with him, though, will be the promising guard Jerian Grant, whom the Bulls coveted during last year’s draft. Grant is huge for a PG at 6’5″, and displayed incredible court vision at Notre Dame, but struggled in his rookie year for the Knicks, only averaging 5.6 points a game and 2.3 assists, while shooting below 40%. He’ll be given a much bigger opportunity with Chicago, and hopefully can become a dependable backcourt mate for James Buckets.
The Bulls plan moving forward still seems to be a bit murky, since we haven’t really been given any indication if they are trying to move Butler or not. If they don’t, which I am expecting, the keys have officially been passed over to Jimmy, and we will get to see what he can do as the official leader of an offense. With over $18 million in cap space this summer, the Bulls front office needs to find a piece to complement Butler, and guys like Ian Mahinmi and Bismack Biyombo seems to be a promising fit. Both can protect the rim at a high level, rebound effectively on both ends and are agile enough to defend on the pick and roll, all of which the Bulls were severely lacking in last season.
Whichever avenue the Bulls decide to pursue this offseason, one thing’s for sure, this team won’t feel the same without the Windy City Assassin running the point. Best of luck in NY, Derrick.