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Bulls Mon Jan 24 2011
The title of Most Valuable Player means different things to different people. Some believe it should be synonymous with the best player in the league, while others (myself included) believe it should be awarded to the player who is most integral to the success of his team. Sometimes, these two descriptions represent the same player. This year, they don't.
I suppose it starts where all good point guards should start: in their head. Derrick Rose can play, there's no doubt about that. MVP season stories are rife with tales of summers spent in the gym, honing a 15-foot jumper or defensive footwork. Rose's story has that too, but it's the intangible improvements he made this year that are making the difference. He knows that as a former No. 1 overall pick, he's expected to be a leader in more than just points and assists. The attitude adjustment he made this summer was the first step towards taking the reins, as Bulls front office assistant Randy Brown told Michael Wilbon :
"He had to become more vocal, and he knew it. But it's not in his nature. He just decided to do it. The only thing I told him was, 'You don't have to cuss guys out; you can say something nice, pat them on the back.' He knew he was the point guard on a team with guys who aren't that vocal, so he had to do something about it. I am surprised he did it so quickly."
Furthermore, Rose leads by example, night after night. Averaging career highs with 24.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 8.0 assists per game, he's the only player in the league to be in the top 10 in scoring and assists.
Defensively, the work he put in this summer and this season under new head coach Tom Thibodeau has made him one of the Bulls' most valuable assets. It's a remarkable improvement, as Rob Mahoney details for the New York Times' NBA blog. Crediting stats from Synergy Sports Technology, Mahoney writes:
Rose has allowed just 0.77 points per possession overall on defense this season, an elite mark for any defender, regardless of position. Chris Paul (0.86 points per possession allowed), Rajon Rondo (0.83 PPP allowed), and Russell Westbrook (0.92 PPP allowed) -- all excellent defenders -- have been trumped statistically this year, and by no slim margin.
He takes entire games on his shoulders when he needs to, more often than not earning the win. And therein lies the key difference between Rose's MVP campaign and perhaps his biggest challenger, LeBron James. LeBron might or might not be the best player in the league, but the fact is that while he was in Cleveland, particularly the last few years, he was absolutely instrumental to their modest success and deserving of the last two MVP awards. Carrying that team to the playoffs was no small feat, and the Cavaliers' league-worst 8-35 record this season proves how badly they miss his abilities. But James has plenty of help now in Miami, diminishing his individual importance.
Rose has the chance to become what LeBron never could, fulfilling the "Local Boy Makes Good" headline that Cleveland was dying to write for seven years. What's more, he seems to want to be the local hero; he's proud to bring Chicago back to the top of the NBA. No doubt the Bulls' front office deserves credit for giving him the pieces needed in the form of Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, but what makes this season so spectacular is that despite dozens of lost games among both players this year due to injury, Rose hasn't whined, given up or buckled.
Despite those injuries, Chicago is 30-14, a close third in the Eastern Conference behind Boston and Miami, heading into tonight's home game against the Bucks. And Rose has carried more of a burden than the stars from those two contenders. That sounds like an MVP to me.