I was afraid this would happen. Derrick Rose is beginning to make me feel like writing a sonnet.
How do I love thee? Derrick.
I love you when you aren't supposed to be able to shoot, but you pull up for consecutive three pointers after the Indiana Pacers pulled within one point late in the third quarter. You score a dozen points in the quarter on the way to a game high 23 as the Bulls win 104-91.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height and, geez, the kid is, what, 6-3, 6-3, and in the fourth quarter after the Pacers shaved an eight-point deficit to 85-83 with Rose on the bench, Rose came back in and—Boom!—the Bulls too off.
Rose drives and is fouled, making two as the Bulls hit 25 of 27 from the line, then Andres Nocioni, with 20 points and 11 rebounds and nine of 13 shooting, finds his spot and hits a three for a 94-86 Bulls lead with six minutes left.
"It is really easy for me," Nocioni says later. "He has great ability to attack the basket. Teams double him, so I need to work to my space and find a spot to shoot. I know my man will go after him when he drives to the basket. I know I need to pop out and shoot."
Then it's Larry Hughes, with 12 points and playing the entire fourth quarter and doing a good job on Danny Granger in a small Bulls lineup late, leaking out as Granger shoots, Rose rebounding and throwing full court for a Hughes layup, and then another Granger jumper and this time Rose having picked him up on a switch leaking out and taking a full court pass from Ben Gordon for the layup.
I love thee freely... I love thee purely... I love thee with a passion…
What! That's been used? Who's this Barrett Browning? Who'd he play for? She?
Yes, I think we're going to be composing poetry about this wonderful point guard the way Rose is going after still another brilliant performance Saturday in the Bulls win to go to 5-5. Rose had 23 points, eight assists, four rebounds, three steals, a block and only one turnover in almost 41 minutes.
I think I saw him delivering popcorn and sodas courtside and doing a flip in the Benny the Bull outfit, also.
"The minutes? No, no, no, I never imagined anything like this," said Rose, averaging a team high 38.6. "Things happen. Kirk (Hinrich) is out. I've got to suck it up. I'm not used to scoring like that. I'm looking for my teammates. Coach tells me to score. I continue to be aggressive. I'd be a fool not to shoot. If I don't shoot, my teammates will yell at me or tell the coach to get me out of the game. I'm just taking what they give me now. They can criticize me about whatever, but I know I can shoot."
"An All-Star in the making," marveled Pacers coach Jim O'Brien. "He is a rookie who is going to blossom sooner than many think. He's knocking down threes already."
Forget the comparisons. There are no other Jordans in the pipeline, but Rose now had scored double figures in every game this season, the first Bulls rookie to do so since Jordan in 1984.
OK, you want comparisons.
Rose is now averaging 18.9 points, 5.6 assists and 5.0 rebounds.
Here are the only players in NBA history, according to Elias Sports, to average at least 18, 5 and 5 in their rookie seasons.
Not bad company. Not bad at all. Remarkable, really.
"He's still very young," said Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro, who eschews heaping too much individual praise on one player. "But Derrick has a calmness about him. He has the right demeanor. He just keeps coming at you. And he works. He's one of those guys who figures it out. You have to throw him out of the gym."
Rose helped run the Pacers out of the United Center on a night when the Bulls were handled on the boards by the bigger Pacers, who out-rebounded them 59-48 and had eight more inside points, many on second opportunities with 17 offensive rebounds. Though he got 10 rebounds, seven after halftime, it's clear Drew Gooden is still bothered by his ankle injury. Gooden conceded he doesn't have the explosion yet he had earlier in the season when he fought valiantly against Dwight Howard and Amare Stoudemire.
Joakim Noah started and had eight rebounds and a block. He was active and impressive early in the game, knocking balls loose, picking up a pair of steals, and keeping balls alive. But he faded after halftime and played just six minutes in the second half.
The Bulls didn't shoot well, just 39.8 percent as Luol Deng and Ben Gordon combined for 10 and 35 shooting, and it's remarkable to win a game when that happens.
But the Bulls defended the Pacers aggressively and kept Indiana curiously shooting mostly on the perimeter with their high scorer Granger four of 15 and kept on the outside by Deng and Hughes.
"Luol played him tough and Larry was right on him," said Del Negro. "Danny was a big part of our game plan. We wanted to control him. We did a nice job with our transition defense (finally)."
That last emphasis was mine, though Del Negro is leaning more and more on smaller lineups for quickness with the Bulls inside players wildly inconsistent. Tyrus Thomas drew a quick hook after trailing on a fast break and pulling up for a jumper and played just six minutes.
It also was clear as the fourth quarter dawned with Gordon handling the ball, the Bulls suffered. Lindsey Hunter finally got in the game with a minute left, but it's obvious Del Negro has come to rely on Rose as they do in Phoenix with Steve Nash, in New Orleans with Chris Paul and in Cleveland with LeBron James.
"We tend to pound the ball too much (when Rose is out)," agreed Del Negro. Derrick helps us move the ball and I don't like Ben Gordon handling the ball too much. When Derrick gets penetration he can find Ben."
Rose is now a credible 36 percent shooting threes, and says the players' daily shooting games help.
"We have them every day," said Rose. "Today I lost, but we'll win next time."
"We let you win last week," joked Gordon from two cubicles away.
You get the feeling you don't have to give Derrick Rose much. He's taking the NBA by storm after just a few weeks.
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