CHICAGO — Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose is the NBA’s MVP, becoming the youngest player in league history to win the award, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press.
The person spoke Monday night on the condition of anonymity because a formal announcement has not been made. That could come Tuesday, with a formal presentation before Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The news is hardly a surprise.
Rose is the second Bulls player to win the MVP but has a ways to go before he catches Michael Jordan, who won five – but he sure is off to a good start. In his third year, the dynamic point guard led the Bulls to their best season since the Jordan-Scottie Pippen championship era.
“If I get it? It’ll be nice, unbelievable, a goal that in the beginning in the year I said I wanted to achieve,” Rose said recently when asked what the award would mean to him. “It would be huge, not only for me, but for the city.”
He ended the two-year MVP reign of LeBron James, who spurned the Bulls and bolted from Cleveland to form a superstar triumvirate with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. The 22-year-old Rose also supplanted Wes Unseld as the youngest MVP. He was 23 was the rookie of the year and MVP with Baltimore Bullets for the 1968-69 season.
A product of Chicago’s South Side, Rose continued his impressive rise this season.
He established himself as one of the top players in the league after going from Rookie of the Year to an All-Star in his first two seasons with one of the best all-around performances by a point guard.
He averaged 25 points and 7.7 assists while leading Chicago into championship contention.
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For all the groaning over the Bulls missing out on James, Wade and Bosh in free agency, they did quite well for themselves anyway.
Looking for more after back-to-back 41-win seasons and first-round playoff exits, they fired coach Vinny Del Negro and replaced him with Tom Thibodeau. Then, they landed Carlos Boozer and supporting players like Kyle Korver, giving the Bulls the inside scoring presence they were lacking and one of the deepest rotations.
It all added up to this – a 62-20 record and homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs. They advanced past the first round for just the second time since the championship era, and the biggest reason for all that, of course, was Rose.
He showed up to training camp openly wondering why he couldn’t be MVP. Then, he backed it up.
He ranked seventh in scoring and 10th in assists, making him the only player this season in the top 10 in both categories. The only other Bulls player to do that was Jordan in 1988-89, when he led the league in scoring (32.5 points) and finished 10th in assists.
Throw in a 4.1 rebounding average, and Rose joins another elite group. He’s the seventh player in league history to average at least 25 points, 7.5 assists and 4.0 rebounds, along with Jordan, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Larry Bird, Wade and James, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
In the postseason, he’s been just as impressive.
He scored 39 and 36 points in the first two playoff games against Indiana. Then he shook off two sub-par performances not to mention a sprained left ankle to score 25 points in Game 5 as the top-seeded Bulls closed out what had been a tight first-round series with a 116-89 victory.
They stumbled in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Atlanta, losing 103-95. Rose scored 24 points, but he hit just 11 of 27 shots and did not attempt a free throw. He also limped off the court after twisting his left ankle in the closing seconds, sending a chill through Chicago, but he said he expects to be ready for Game 2 on Wednesday.
Rose has been a star in Chicago since high school. He helped Simeon Career Academy become the first Chicago Public League team to win back-to-back Illinois state championships, then led the University of Memphis to the NCAA championship game in his lone college season before the Bulls drafted him with the No. 1 pick in 2008.
Since then, he’s been everything Chicago imagined.
He’s added new wrinkles to his game every season, expanding the range on his jumper to go with those explosive drives to the basket. He went from shooting 22.2 percent and 26.7 percent on 3-pointers his first two years to a more respectable 33.2 percent this season, and his scoring average again climbed about four points after going from 16.8 to 20.8 his first two years.
No surprise there.
He was a fixture at the team’s practice facility in the offseason when he wasn’t getting ready for the world championships, and when he was on the road, he was constantly checking in, asking about his teammates and what he should be doing.
That struck Thibodeau, the long time NBA assistant who finally got a shot to be head coach after helping Boston win a championship and get back to the NBA finals. So did the experience Rose gained with the national team, particularly playing alongside Chauncey Billups.
Now, the kid from the South Side who led his hometown team back to prominence can call himself MVP.