By David Schuster-
(CBS) Early impressions are usually a bit far-fetched, but sometimes you can base an opinion upon first sight and the following comes from last night’s Bulls’ preseason opener, an 85-81 setback to the Wizards at the United Center.
We start with Derrick Rose, who only played 14 minutes but scored 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting. Rose looked quick and was aggressive going to the basket. He also showed no fear of contact, as he went inside for four rebounds. Obviously, we’ll all have to watch Rose for a prolonged period to see what kind of player he’ll be, but this was a good start.
You also have to remember that he was outstanding in the preseason last year, scoring at almost a point-a-minute average before going incredibly sour once the regular season started. Make no mistake, Rose is still the key to this squad, and his health and progress are paramount to this team’s success.
Along side Rose in the starting backcourt is Jimmy Butler, who shot crooked from the field last night (1-of-7) but brought so much more to the court. He’ll again be tenacious on defense and will never back down, and that was on display as he almost got into two different altercations in only the first preseason game. Butler is a favorite of all his teammates and the organization, and that new contract looks to be a formality by month’s end.
Like Rose, Joakim Noah only played 14 minutes, and his numbers didn’t stand out with just two points. But you can already tell that he will blend well with Pau Gasol on the court. Both players are unselfish and should pair up as quite a duo on both ends of the court.
As for Gasol, he’s a pro’s pro and will do whatever is necessary to win. He’ll quickly become a fan favorite. He’s a low-post threat (hallelujah) and had more blocked shots in last night’s game (three) than Carlos Boozer ever had in a regular-season game in his Bulls career.
Rounding out the starting five will be Mike Dunleavy and as long as he hits his open shots and plays Tom Thibodeau defense, he’ll remain in the starting five.
Coming off the bench first will be Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson, and there aren’t any secrets here. Hinrich will captain the second unit and Gibson should often play end-of-game minutes because of his defense.
Aaron Brooks will also be part of that second unit, and what you saw from D.J. Augustin and Nate Robinson previously you’ll also see the from Brooks. He’s a potential prolific scorer who will come off the bench chucking and is capable of scoring in bunches.
And then there are the two rookies: Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic. McDermott is a dead-eye shooter who will have the constant green light to hoist them up. If he can play defense, he’ll see the court. If not, then he won’t.
As for Mirotic, Noah called him the Bulls’ “secret weapon” last week. But if Mirotic continues to play like he did last night, the secret will quickly get out. He scored a team-high 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including 3-of-5 from behind the arc. He can also put the ball on the floor and is more than capable of scoring on the inside.
What I liked most in our first glimpse or Mirotic is that he has that mindset of wanting the ball late in the close game. We know that Rose is a go-to guy at the end of games and can get his own shot off, but the question has always been who else can? As mentioned, it’s only a first impression, but my feeling is that Mirotic might eventually be that kind of player.
David Schuster is a reporter, update anchor and weekend host for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @Schumouse.