By all accounts, Derrick Rose is one of those players who becomes more assertive as he becomes more assimilated.
Saturday night at the United Center, in part prodded by a pregame talk from coach Vinny Del Negro, Rose's pass-first, shoot-later mentality changed.
Taking a game-high 20 shots, Rose opted for aggressiveness over assists as he finished with a game-high 26 points and just three assists to help the Bulls hold off the Grizzlies 96-86 before a sellout crowd of 21,785.
"All I'm trying to do is win games," Rose said. "If that takes me scoring 20 or five points, it doesn't matter as long as we win."
Rose continues to drive to the rim seemingly at will but also displayed an accurate jumper that belies the knock on him in that area.
"They were backing off, and I know I can shoot," Rose said. "So I was just shooting more. Before the game, [Del Negro] told me he didn't care if I shot 100 shots. Just do whatever it takes to win."
The Bulls won despite shooting 38 percent, thanks to 20 rebounds from Drew Gooden, second-half defense led by Thabo Sefolosha's three steals that limited Memphis to 36 points and 42 percent three-point shooting.
Kirk Hinrich came off the bench to drain five from downtown, scoring 18 in just 25 minutes.
"I should've played him more," Del Negro said.
Rose made a strong comment after Friday's debacle in Boston, saying the Bulls aren't a very good half-court team and that they need to play up-tempo.
"I think he's right," Del Negro said.
It was in transition that Rose absorbed a flagrant foul from Grizzlies guard Kyle Lowry with 4 minutes 15 seconds remaining, drawing boos from fans who know a meal ticket when they see one.
Rose drained both free throws for a 90-80 lead.
The Bulls trailed 50-42 at halftime after picking up where they left off offensively Friday night in Boston.
Save for Rose, Hinrich and Andres Nocioni, nobody could shoot straight. Luol Deng, Tyrus Thomas, Ben Gordon and Gooden combined to shoot 1 of 16 in the first half for seven points.
Hinrich scored 11 points in 11 first-half minutes, including three three-pointers. But the veteran guard sat rooted to the bench for the next 16:50.
"Everybody's in new roles right now," Hinrich said. "It's a matter of getting comfortable and figuring it out. I'm trying to watch and be ready when it's time to go."
Del Negro has maintained his lineup and rotation are fluid, although there are no current plans to alter the starters.
"It's so early," Del Negro said. "I want to give these guys an opportunity as a unit."
As long as Rose remains in that unit, the Bulls have a chance.
"He competes," Del Negro said. "He was more aggressive and had more control of the game. That will continually get better."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times