Tuesday night, we watched the Bulls and Derrick Rose more intently than we watched any game all of last season. That makes sense, of course, because this is a new Bulls team with a new coach and a new No. 1 overall draft pick. Excitement is high, even if the team isn't all that much better than last year's.
But when we watched Derrick Rose, to be honest, we were thrilled. His statistical output was just about what we expected, but his adaptation to the pro game -- the way he attacked the defense, saw creases and lob passes and could contort his body and throw chest passes 40 feet on the break -- all of that stuff was beautiful and encouraging in a way that actually surprised us. We knew Derrick Rose would be good. We didn't think he would be that good.
So it's slightly surprising that some people seem to think he didn't play that well, or that he has a long way to go before becoming the player he'll eventually be. I suppose that's true to an extent. Rose will surely develop into a better player than the one we saw in Game One. But if he didn't -- if by some miracle he stopped getting better at basketball this instant -- he would still be the Bulls' best player.
Still, it's easy to sense some sort of gulf in expectation, some idea that Tuesday night's performance was more of a letdown than cause for joy. For example, this Rick Morrissey column:
Let's be clear: This is going to take a while. Not a long while. But there will be good nights and bad nights and blah nights for the kid. But eventually, sooner rather than later, there will be mostly good nights. He will take over games, the way the great ones do.
In his first NBA game, playing in his hometown, Rose had a decent game, probably a bit closer to blah than good. He had 11 points on 3 of 9 shooting, nine assists and four turnovers in the Bulls' 108-95 victory.
That statline doesn't say it all. It doesn't say anything, really. The question is not whether Rose can put up numbers against NBA teams; he did that in the preseason. The question is whether he can be the leader, whether he can command an NBA franchise. For now, that's the expectation. At least, it should be. Save the Chris Paul comparisons for another time, thanks.