Bulls' Rose a Champion at All-Star Saturday


Feb 14

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Ah, to dream.

There was a Bulls player here Saturday night, a packed house cheering, a trophy held aloft, a champion.

Just like 1993, eh?

It wasn’t the Bulls who clinched their third of six NBA championships here almost 16 years ago, but Bulls rookie Derrick Rose, who was the winner of the All Star weekend Skills Challenge.

It was amazing,” said Rose.  “This whole experience being here, I never thought that I would be playing in the All-Star Weekend or being a part of it. When you think about playing in the NBA, you think about playing the game but never attending the All-Star Weekend.”

Rose won in a four-guard field that included the Spurs’ Tony Parker, the Nets Devin Harris and the Cavs’ Mo Williams. All will be playing in Sunday’s All Star game. But Rose outclassed them in the contest that included shooting a layup and jumper, dribbling around an obstacle course and making three basketball passes, a chest pass, bounce pass and outlet pass.

Rose was easily the class of the field as he recorded the best times in both rounds. Parker, with the poorest scorer in contest history and who was booed by the partisan Suns fans, was eliminated in the first round along with Williams.

Harris then completed the course in the final round in 39.7 seconds, missing several jumpers to slow his pace. Rose easily outdistanced him and coming to the finish put on a show with a two handed overhead slam dunk with his back to the basket.

“I always see D (Deron) Williams doing it at the end,” said Rose of last year’s winner. Yeah, I knew that I was going to dunk it backwards. Probably won’t see me dunk for two more months.”

But Rose said he wasn’t auditioning for next year’s dunk contest.

“No, no, no, no,” said with a laugh.  “I told you, I’m not creative at all.

Rose talked with reporters after the event and here’s a transcript of the rest of his comments:

Q.  You talked about how you were fatigued, got your legs back tonight?

DERRICK ROSE:  Yeah, got a little rest last night, hanging out with the family and got some sleep.

Q.  How much does being a part of these two events in the All-Star Weekend whet your appetite to be part of the regular game next year?

DERRICK ROSE:  Oh, man, I really can’t wait.  Of course the season isn’t over with, but next year — this summer I’ll work harder, work on my weaknesses and just go hard throughout the whole summer, because playing in the big game is real important to me. One day I wish that I could be playing in it.

Q.  You made it look easy.  What was the most difficult part of the course for you?

DERRICK ROSE:  The bounce pass.  The bounce pass, I knew when I got those two in, the crowd got to me, came short on my jump shots.  I was scared a little bit. But the bounce pass was the hardest thing.

Q.  Derrick, what does this mean to you to win this event?

DERRICK ROSE:  It means a lot.  It means that people know me, little kids are out there watching me, in Phoenix a little bit more, worldwide.  I’m part of history with some of the greatest players in the league that have won this award. And I’m just happy.

Q.  As a contest winner, you separated yourself from the passes.  All the other guys had some difficulty with the passes.  It seemed like you made most of the passes.  Were they all bad passes?

DERRICK ROSE:  Not at all.  I just try to key in a little bit more and follow through on my bounce pass and the passes period.

Q.  How much were you able to practice at all, in particular on this court?

DERRICK ROSE:  We came in this afternoon, practiced for about 10, 15 minutes.  Came back out here before the game started, practiced for about three minutes.  I will say 20 minutes.

Q.  When you were running through the course, at least for us watching it, it seemed like you were going half speed or three-quarter speed.  If someone sees you every day, you are pretty quick.  Was that a conscious decision to take your time and go through it without really going full out?

DERRICK ROSE:  Yeah, I wanted to take my time, make sure I didn’t trip out there because those are sharp turns.  I don’t want to fall on TV.  In Chicago they would make a joke of it.

Q.  If you could kind of summarize the great season that you’re having.  Some people say the point guard position is the toughest to learn in basketball, but you’ve come in right away and adjusted so quickly.  What has been the key to that do you think for you?

DERRICK ROSE:  Just my coaching staff, they have been helping me, almost everyone one on my team, even if they are not guards, they tell me little things and I just key in on them so I won’t make the same mistake over and over again.

Q.  What do you think when people say you are a shoe-in for Rookie of the Year at this point in the season?

DERRICK ROSE:  It is just an award.  I will only get it if I’m winning.  I can’t win it if I’m not winning.

Q.  Given the stage where you are, were you nervous coming in?  Were you thinking about it much, the contest, doing an individual thing in front of a whole stadium which in basketball you are usually not doing?

DERRICK ROSE:  Super nervous.  When you go out there, probably in the back I was kind of calm.  But being on stage and being nervous, watching the other people go, when it is your time, you are super nervous out there.

Q.  Is it fair to say that you are now officially the most skilled player in the NBA?

DERRICK ROSE:  No, no, no, no, not at all.  I still have to learn.  I still have more practices to do and years to go.

Q.  What are you going to do with the trophy?

DERRICK ROSE:  Give it to my mom.  She will probably cry over it or something like that if I tried to keep it, so I will give it to her.  And she will put it in the basement.

Q.  That’s a pretty-good sized trophy.  Did you think it would be so nice?

DERRICK ROSE:  This is my first time looking at it.  I’m happy that I got it.

The fan highlight of the night is the dunk contest, which has returned to prime time interest with the theatrics of Dwight Howard, wearing his Superman outfit last season. Howard’s success helped him become the No. 1 vote getter in the All Star balloting this season, and he ended up losing in the final dunk off to former winner Nate Robinson of the Knicks.

Denver’s J.R. Smith and Portland’s Rudy Fernandez were eliminated early, though Fernandez did what seemed like the most creative dunks, dunking off a ball thrown behind the backboard and another coming from behind after a bounce pass by aide Pau Gasol.

Though the contest, which LeBron James said he’ll enter next season, almost seemed set up for a finals between the 5-9 Robinson and 6-10 Howard.

You’ve got to give the players credit for imagination and creativity as Robinson wore a green outfit to suggest he was Kryptonite to Howard’s Superman. Robinson called himself KryptoNate. Howard brought out a phone booth as a prop to come out of and dunked off an 11 foot basket, eventually losing when he missed his attempt to dunk from the free throw line and stepped just inside while Robinson’s final jump to win was a launch off Howard, who agreed to help Robinson with his dunk

“It is all about having fun,” said Howard about why he helped Robinson. “Hey, he won fair and square.  The fans loved it.  We tried to put on a good show.  That’s what it is all about at All-Star Weekend.  It doesn’t matter who wins or loses.  It is all about having fun.”

And Howard was, even pointing at Robinson as the winner after Robinson’s launch off Howard.

“I saw it already,” said Howard. “He did a good job.  I’m not mad or anything.  I guess the shorter man will win in a dunk contest because it looks real hard for him, it looks easy for me. Yhe better man won tonight and he had the crowd into it.  I’m happy for him.”

Howard had won last year and Robinson in 2006

“I just thank God, I just thank God for the ability to be able to jump.  It is pretty cool.  It is pretty awesome,” said Robinson. “I asked him yesterday in the elevator (if he would help me).  He was like, Hey, I’ll do it.  I thought he was joking.  He said, Yeah, I’ll do it.  I was like, all right, that’s going to be the final dunk if I make it to the finals.  Then I have the green jersey with these green shoes.  When Dwight did the Superman last year, a light bulb went out, ding, ding, ding, there it is.  Kryptonite.  That’s Superman’s weakness.  God has got to let me win this one just because of the great ideas and the preparation for the dunks, preparing for it, practicing.  And it worked out.

“Believe it or not (I get the dunk ideas from) video games,” said Robinson.  “I said, oh, 2K9.  They got the dunk contest, they do crazy dunks, you go back and play NBA Jam, like in the ’90s they got the crazy dunks on there, the two-hand windmill, front flip.  You just got to use your imagination.  When you do that, the sky is the limit. It is going to be fun to see LeBron in a dunk contest next year.  I this is it for me. Unless they really, really want me to do it, and I got to figure out some more dunks to do.”

Though when Howard came up with one off the side of the backboard in an earlier round, catching the ball behind his head with an amazing stretch and dunking, Robinson was shaking his head as if he’d lost. No way to top that one.

“We (were) back there trying it,” said Robinson.  “I was trying it.  And I was like, there is no way, this is crazy.  I tried 15 times and I couldn’t do it.  I said this guy is unbelievable. It was crazy because he had been practicing dunking on the 12-foot hoop and he was doing crazy dunks on it. I would love to share the championship with him, cut the trophy right down the half with him helping me with the dunk for the championship.”

It was a good show again.

In the other contests, Miami rookie Daequan Cook defeated Rashard Lewis in a shootout after they were tied in the final round in what was a fairly low shooting percentage event. Jason Kapono was denied a third straight title.

Amidst the bombast and show business of the contests of All Star Saturday, there was a touching moment when NBA commissioner David Stern announced that the Finals MVP trophy and award will now be named for Bill Russell, the greatest winner in NBA history with 11 championships with Boston, including eight straight. Russell recently turned 75 and his wife died recently and he began to break down making remarks. I’m including a transcript because it’s great reading.

Bill Russell:

“Obviously, David, I want to thank you.  This is a bittersweet award.  I just lost my special person, but I wanted to thank my teammates because we played a team game quite well, and this is — I accept this for my team, and my team included our coach, Red Auerbach, and all my teammates over the years.

It is quite flattering, but I want to explain something to you, all you folks here, this is only the second time I have been out in public since I got my hearing aids.  And so when I thought I was going to be with the guys from the press, I put them in the drawer back in my hotel room.

My wife, Marilyn, used to always ask me why I wouldn’t wear my hearing aids, and she bought some fancy hearing aids.  She said they won’t show and all that.  And I said, The reason I don’t wear them is not vanity; the reason I don’t wear them is because I like what I don’t hear.  (Smiling).

But, David, and the folks at NBA, this is one of my proudest moments in basketball because I determined early in my career the only important statistic in basketball is the final score.  And so I dedicated my career to playing, to make sure as often as possible we were always on the positive side of the final score.

And like David said, it was ironic that I never won a MVP in the Finals.  And it is okay because I will just tell you this, from my second year in the league, I was the most valuable player of the league by the players’ votes, but I was Second Team All-League by the writers vote.

That’s why I didn’t wear them.

But, David, thank you so much.  Very seriously, what I’m going to do next week is visit my father’s grave because he was my hero and I’m going to share that with him.”

Russell also answered questions from reporters afterward:

Question: On winning eight straight titles:

Russell: “Someone said you won eight straight. I said, ‘Are you kidding?’ It never occurred to us because we always took it one year at a time. Last year and next year did not exist for us.”

Question: Was it a different team that way?

Russell: ” For example, all of our players, all five had an assignment on every play, whether they were a shooter or if I was away from the shooter so that every goal scored was a team effort.”

Question: The generation today. Do you like the young players and how they care about winning?

Russell: “I have watched the NBA since 1949 and the players today are just as energetic and just as challenging. The game has evolved. So if you say the players don’t have the fundamentals played back then but they have the fundamentals to play the game today. I think they are incredible players. Unfortunately for me none of them are really good at defense (Russell cackle there). That was always my first approach to the game. Defense first and then offense.”

Question: If you were a free agent what would your priority be?

Russell: “Quality of life. All these guys get a lot of money. But money is not the incentive. The incentive is to build a team where you are able to play and winning part of that. So each guy has to look at what does he consider important. And though money is important, it can never be the final determination.”

Question: It was not easy for you to be an African-American in Boston in the 60’s?

< p>Russell: “Yes it was. I was having the time of my life and that’s not kidding. But I did quite well every time I came into an adversarial situation. I decided to take control of it so that if a guy came up to me and tried to give me a bad day, I made sure he was the one who left with the bad day. And to do so this took planning and discretion and intelligence. That’s the way I conducted my life. I will give you an example. My second year in the league I bought a house in Reading, Mass. It was a nice little house. The first time I went out on a road trip, my garbage cans got turned over. OK.

So the next time I go on a road trip my garbage cans get turned over. Being the citizen I am, I wandered down to the police station and we talked to the captain and said, ‘When I go on the road, my garage cans get turned over and I would like to be able to call you guys from the road to have you patrol a little more vigilantly. And he says, ‘It is probably raccoons.’ So I said, ‘OK. While I am here I would like to get a gun permit.’

The raccoons heard about that, never turned the trash cans over again. I have never had to buy a gun. But the point is I handled all kinds of situations, first of all, with a positive attitude and always as my father said, being a man. So to be a man in my father’s eyes and my grandfather’s eyes, I was having the time of my life.”

Kevin Durant won the new H-O-R-S-E competition outside and across the street from U.S. Airways Center. He degfeated Memphis’ O.J. Mayo and Atlanta’s Joe Johnson. Durant scored a Rookie Challenge-record 46 points to lead the NBA’s sophomores to a 122-116 victory over the rookies on Friday night. The winning shot for Durant was a 3-pointer from the deep right corner, which Mayo missed wide to the left. It was the second straight shot from the arc for Durant, who nailed one from the opposite corner to put Mayo on the brink of elimination.

Team Detroit — former Piston Bill Laimbeer, present Pistons guard Arron Afflalo and the WNBA Detroit Shock’s Katie Smith — won the shooting stars competition, in which players shoot from six locations of increasing difficulty.

Stern also did his annual All Star weekend State of the NBA press conference and said after announcing the Russell Finals MVP that Finals games would now move up an hour to 7 p.m. Central on Sundays. Stern and union chief Billy Hunter said they are discussing perhaps reopening the collective bargaining agreement for change. It ends after the 2010-11 season, though the league can extend it a year. That is unlikely as owners have been advising Stern to seek major concessions on the length of contracts.

“David and I talk from time to time and we just thought it was apropos that we sit down and begin to look at the situation, particularly in view of the current economic climate in hopes of getting another deal in place without some kind of work stoppage, lockout, etc.,” Hunter said.

Stern also said he is confident the NBA’s drug testing apparatus is of four random tests a year is good for now.

 “Could we improve it?” said Stern.  “Sure, you could make it six times. You could hound your players completely, but you do something that you think is rational compared to where you are, and I think we’re almost at the right place. There may be ways we can improve it and we’ll talk to Billy and the union about it, but we’re pretty comfortable that our system is working.”

Stern also said while the league economics are good with TV ratings up, he believes the salary cap could fall for the first time and some teams could find themselves with serious financial issues.

It left Saturday night as a nice prelude to the Sunday All Star game with the storylines of Amare Stoudemire perhaps playing his last game before the home crowd with so much trade speculation. There is Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal playing on the same team for the first time since their breakup after the 2004 season and Bryant facing East star LeBron James.

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