Bulls Insider

Assessing pros, cons of potential Derrick Rose-Bulls reunion

Lonzo Ball's injury status hovers over the point guard position and Rose, the former MVP, will be a free agent

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Seemingly every year since the Chicago Bulls traded him in 2016, Derrick Rose has landed in rumors or speculation about a reunion with his hometown team.

Sometimes, it's based in reality.

In 2021, the Bulls held legitimate conversations about signing Rose in free agency before pivoting to Alex Caruso. Rose instead signed a three-year, $43.5 million deal with the New York Knicks that carries a team option for 2023-24. Given that Rose completely dropped from Tom Thibodeau's playing rotation this season, news that the Knicks will decline that $15.6 million option and make Rose an unrestricted free agent is no surprise.

Speaking on the The HoopsHype Podcast with Michael Scotto in May, the host said it's his opinion that the Bulls would be a good landing spot for the former most valuable player should that happen. Scotto's guests, Knicks beat writers Ian Begley from SNY and Stefan Bondy from the New York Daily News, agreed that it would be, in Bondy's words "a cool thing for Derrick and for that franchise." Begley added that some people in the Milwaukee Bucks' franchise showed some interest in Rose during last season, so he added that as a potential option while also reminding listeners of Knicks owner James Dolan's respect for Rose.

A reflective Rose opened up about his basketball mortality when the Knicks came to the United Center last December for two straight games against the Bulls.

"Who knows how many years I’m going to continue to play?” Rose said then. “It’s a lot of things I’m looking forward to doing. But right now, I’m still invested in basketball. So that’s where I’m giving my everything."

The Bulls' point guard situation is muddled by Lonzo Ball's persistent left knee issues. Ball underwent his third surgery in 14 months in March, this time attempting a cartilage transplant in a move that could be a last resort to salvaging his career. Executive vice president Artūras Karnišovas said on NBA Draft night that the Bulls aren't expecting Rose to play this season.

The Bulls face decisions on restricted free agent guards Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu. Karnišovas also lauded the play of Patrick Beverley down the stretch of the Bulls' season after the local product arrived via the buyout market. Coincidentally, Beverley and Rose are longtime friends and competitors dating to their shared high school days at Marshall and Simeon, respectively.

The pros of adding Rose, who will turn 35 in October, are obvious. He's a beloved local figure who draws standing ovations on every visit to the United Center. He certainly would excite a fan base and do nothing to hurt the Bulls' league-leading attendance. He also is viewed as a sage veteran mentor, one who was named a finalist for the NBA's Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year award won by the Bucks' Jrue Holiday.

As to whether or not Rose can still play, he averaged 5.6 points in 12.5 minutes over 27 games before dropping from the rotation. Beyond his multiple knee surgeries, Rose also underwent a season-ending procedure on his right ankle in February 2022. But those close to him insist his burst and pick-and-roll game remain formidable when healthy.

Rose is a career 31.5 percent 3-point shooter, so his addition wouldn't address the Bulls' main offseason need of improving long-distance shooting. He also isn't considered a strong defender.

The Bulls, both publicly and privately, have expressed their desire to re-sign White, who showed strong improvement in multiple areas of his game last season even as his scoring dropped. Ball's $20.4 million salary likely will remain on the books regardless of his injury status, while Zach LaVine is entering the second season of his five-year maximum contract and will earn $40 million in 2023-24. Caruso ($9.9 million) and Dalen Terry also remain on the roster.

Given the Bulls' backcourt salary commitments, Rose might only command a veteran's minimum salary were he to hit free agency and express a desire to return home. And that's even if the Bulls were interested.

In other words, stay tuned. But make sure to savor the memories.

“I got pictures from (son P.J.) and Kobe (Bryant) here, everything. The book that we’re going to look back at and all the pictures, it’s going to be something to really cry about," Rose said in December. "We maxed out in every area while we were here. Basketball, talking to the fans. We were showing professionalism when we were here with that group."

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