After an impressive preseason, Derrick Rose has struggled mightily the first three games to start the regular season.
Rose finished preseason play with averages of 20.7 points per game on 46.7 percent shooting from the field 44 percent from 3-point range. Compared to the 14.3 ppg on 28.9 percent shooting and 26.7 percent from 3 he’s averaging so far, it’s easy to see why there’s concern.
Perhaps the most jarring stat is Rose’s free throw attempts. In three games, he’s gone to the line a total of 10 times, making nine. This after going to the line 10 or more times in five of his seven preseason games played. He finished preseason play shooting 53-of-66 (80 percent) from the charity strip.
The lack of free throw attempts is more surprising as it’s not from a lack of aggression as 29 of his 51 attempts have been at the rim. That’s 56 percent of his attempts and somehow he’s not generating the calls he received during the preseason.
“I can’t complain about it,” Rose told reporters on Monday after a lengthy practice session regarding the lack of attempts at the line. “It’s just the way the game is going. All I can do is continue to drive and I guess try to get fouled. I guess I’m not getting fouled or I guess (officials) just have to get used to me. I understand I’m creating some contact, so I’m just trying to play through it.”
Just to compare the free throw disparity with another explosive player at the same position who returned to play on Sunday after having missed the entire preseason. He’s also a good friend of Rose’s; Russell Westbrook. Westbrook got to the free throw line 14 times, where he converted 11 makes. He went 4-of-10 on shots at the rim, 31 percent of his attempts.
It’s hard to believe that a player who considers himself a driver and has made a living doing so like Rose will continue shooting only 34 percent at the rim, when historically he’s been above 55 percent in that category.
Normally one to avoid getting into questioning refs, coach Tom Thibodeau spoke up on his player’s behalf.
“I’ll say this: I don’t know of anyone who drives as hard as he does. Nor as fast as he does,” he said. “And I think sometimes he’s penalized for being a nice guy. I’ll leave it at that.”
This isn’t the first time in his career that Rose has dealt with lack of calls from his consistent driving.
During the 2011-12 season, frustrated from no-calls after a win against the Knicks, he said: “I’ve gotta be the only superstar in the league that’s going through what I’m going through right now. But I can’t say too much about it.”
The league fined him $25,000 for the comments and it still remains the only fine he’s received during his career.
A couple of trips to that line could be exactly what he needs to have the breakthrough performance he promises is coming. It could also help jumpstart his outside shoot. He’s shooting just 26.7 percent from three after finishing the preseason shooting 44 percent.
It hasn’t helped him that there’s still an adjusting period of him getting re-acclimated to his teammates and vice versa. Add that Joakim Noah missed much of training camp and all but one game of preseason, along with Jimmy Butler missing three straight games and you can see why things are going to take some time before things start clicking like they’re supposed to.
History tells us that Rose will figure things out and probably the greatest sign in his early struggles is that he hasn’t once appeared overly concerned with his struggles.
“We’ve just got to come in here and keep working on our chemistry,” Rose said. “It’s only three games. Everybody, I guess, is looking at it like its 30 games in because of the expectations of this year. It’s only three games in. I think we’re going to be fine, but we’ve just got to be more aggressive on both sides of the ball.”