“When I can’t attack no more, it’s time for me to go [retire].”
Dwyane Wade spoke those words in 2013, but the sentiment could be attributed to a number of relentless, attack-minded guards.
This attitude reflects a certain obstinate grit, which is a prerequisite to succeed in the most competitive ecosystem imaginable. However, you can point to a number of Springfield-bound guards — including Wade – who adjusted the frequency of their rim raids for the sake of health.
Derrick Rose needs to learn from these examples if he wants to play into his 30s and, more immediately, lead the Bulls out of a wide-open Eastern Conference next year.
Now before you mention that Wade is seven years older than Rose, the changes I’m referring to were made well before LeBron James moved into — and out of — Miami.
In the 2004-05 season, a 23-year-old Wade took 54.25 percent of his shots at the rim, an even higher percentage than Rose (42 percent) attempted in his 2011 MVP season. However, like Rose, Wade suffered two major injury setbacks early in his career (knee and shoulder), during the 2008 season. When Wade returned the following year, and put together the best season of his career (2008-09), he relied more heavily on his midrange game and as a result, significantly decreased his drives, taking 38 percent of his shots at the rim.
But here’s the thing: When you look at the wear Wade has shown the last few seasons, in hindsight, he probably should have driven even less and made long-term health more of a priority.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have the cerebral Chris Paul, who scored a similar percentage of his points (38 percent) at the rim in his fourth season, but after coming back from an injury, drastically adapted his game. The transformation is undeniable— last season, Paul scored just 22 percent of his point at the rim, instead feasting on midrange jump shots.
Although it’s a small sample size, we didn’t see much of a shift in focus last season during Rose’s failed comeback, as you can see below in his shot distribution.
Part of that is because of the rust and a jump shot that was nowhere close to 2011 levels. Assuming he can get back to being a slightly above average three-point shooter, then he should rely less on getting to the basket. At the same time, the Bulls aren’t doing him any favors. The roster isn’t exactly overflowing with ball-handlers to lessen Rose’s shot-creation responsibilities. Kirk Hinrich is little more than a caretaker point guard, and losing Luol Deng and to a lesser extent, D.J. Augustin, doesn’t help either.
Still, even if Rose keeps attacking the rim at the same rate, just as important as the numbers of drives, is his style of play. Wade and Rose both hit the lane like running backs, absorbing every ounce of contact, while fearlessly trampolining into seven-foot defenders. For every poster-worthy dunk, there are dozens of painful topples and free throws, not to mention the torque Rose puts on those precarious knee ligaments with each emphatic directional change.
Perhaps the best — and most realistic —player for Rose to emulate is the Spurs point guard. Tony Parker takes just as many point-blank shots (50.11 percent last season), but absorbed a fraction of the punishment. Parker’s drives are more probing than powerful, calculating than calamitous, and as a result he plays like a much younger 32-year-old than Wade.
Rose needs to closely examine Parker, Paul and Wade and decide who he wants to be in the next decade and adjust his game accordingly. The answer should be clear.