And Then Derrick Rose Rested. Bulls Prepare for Game 2.


Apr 19

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Now a basketball nation really knows Derrick Rose. No one will admit anymore they didn’t vote for him for rookie of the year. He was the star of every postgame sports highlight show Saturday night after the Bulls impressive 105-103 overtime win over the defending champion Boston Celtics in the opening round of the NBA playoffs.

It gave the Bulls a 1-0 lead in the series, and, technically, home court advantage. If the Bulls beat the Celtics at home they cannot lose this series.

Rose, with a career high 36 points in his first ever playoff game, pushed ahead of Wilt and Tim Duncan and tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for best playoff debuts. The last time they were making this much fuss in Boston about a Bulls player was Michael Jordan in 1986—23 years to the day Monday for Game 2—when Jordan had those 63 points in a playoff double overtime loss.

Wait, this is getting scary. Twenty-three years ago when No. 23 did it. Thirty-six points, which is 63 turned around. A nation turning it’s lonely eyes to a new star.

So what is life like for someone like that?

Who was the first person Rose talked with after his and the Bulls’ big day?

“My mom,” Rose said after the Bulls finished practice at Emerson College across from the Boston Common and the Cheers bar. “She was calling me and saying how proud she was and all that stuff. That’s the first person I talk to after all my games.

“I (could have) the worse game in the world, my mom says I had the best game,” Rose was saying with a shy smile. “She’s definitely one of the people that I talk to after the game to let me know everything will be all right.”

And then? Partying with the guys given it was an early game and a light practice Sunday?

“I watched two or three movies,” Rose related. “I try not to watch that stuff (game highlights).”

Asked what movies he holed up with in his room, Rose said, “The Mummy and little kid stuff, Coraline. It’s an animated movie. The other was a hero movie. I forget the name.”

I thought he meant Madeline, about the orphaned little girl in France who is brave and kind, like Rose. But it was this 3-D animation movie about some parallel world. It must be where basketball players like Rose come from as well.

The majority of NBA players, especially when they have good games, love to go back to their rooms first and watch themselves on the ESPN SportsCenter shows. Rose said he didn’t do that, and doesn’t.

“I know what I did in the game,” he said. “I think about the days I didn’t have a good game. Would I still look at that? Would I still look at TV? So why would I look at it if I had a good game? If your routine is to look at ESPN and if you go on there seeing yourself having a bad game, no. That’s not me.”

But, Derrick, you’re now a true star. People notice this when you do it in Boston against the Celtics. Larry Bird likened Jordan to God, and Jordan lost. Rose is the weekend story of the opening of the playoffs. Everyone in the NBA is talking about him. On Sunday, he rested.

“I haven’t looked at a paper or nothing,” said Rose. “People were calling and texting me, but I really didn’t get to it. I had my phone on silent when I’m watching my movies. I missed a lot of calls, but they know I’m here for business. My brother (Reggie, who often travels with Rose) and my friend weren’t here. My brother was in Denver, got snowed in. Colorado had a snow storm, like three or four inches of snow. My AAU team was out there playing. He got stuck in the snowstorm. It delayed his flight, so nobody was here for me. I was just by myself.”

Rose seemed to have enjoyed himself immensely.

I know we often talk about what wonderful guys our sports heroes are. But this kid is amazing. I haven’t seen many like him in a quarter century around the NBA. I’m sure he has ego. Everyone does, even if it’s the guy yelling, “You da man.”

But I haven’t run across many guys who are big time NBA players, which means they have been in the spotlight for years, who are so humble and nonplussed, so committed to the game for the sake of the game.

Perhaps Rose will change. He should, at least, some. At least get newer movies.

It was, predictably, an upbeat Bulls team at practice Sunday.

As a few players spoke to reporters on the sidelines of a small college gym a block from the team’s hotel, there was a boisterous three-on-three game going on at one end. At the other basket, Joakim Noah was endlessly shooting jumpers.

Noah, as we’ve seen so often this season, had turned down another wide open jumper Saturday, preferring to move the ball. Noah was terrific, by the way, showing the hustle and activity that was expected of him when drafted as an NCAA champion. His 17 rebounds and three blocks were, in a way, as vital as Rose’s performance because it nullified the Celtics’ supposed edge of interior physical play.

Coach Vinny Del Negro remarked he’d asked Noah at practice why he thought he was so open on that shot. Because no one was guarding him. Why? Yes, opponents know he doesn’t want to shoot, and he at least has to make himself a threat.

So Noah shot.

Though criticized for being out of shape earlier this season, Noah has worked hard and continues to do so. As Noah kept throwing up those sideways spinning shots, I asked Del Negro why someone didn’t try to teach him the proper rotation.

“Oh, the tornado,” Del Negro laughed.

It seems the team calls Noah’s unique shot “the tornado” for it’s sideways rotation.

Del Negro gave one of those looks that says in exasperation, “We’ve tried.”

The Bulls players seem to get along well when together, bantering easily in the locker room and at practice. But then later you almost always see them alone. Rose was taking a walk alone on a brilliantly sunny and brisk afternoon Sunday, and then later I saw Tyrus Thomas walking down famed Boylston Street by himself checking out the shops.

This isn’t uncommon in the NBA anymore with so many players making so much money they, in effect, hire friends to hang around with them and most are out with their own groups after games.

A word about Tyrus, by the way.

Much maligned, he came up huge Saturday with six points in overtime and the winning basket, all on jump shots.

The draft trade of Thomas for LaMarcus Aldridge has been much discussed and criticized. But Aldridge started his first playoff game Saturday as well, and Aldridge was an ineffective three of 12 for seven points in a blowout loss.

One for Tyrus.

The Bulls know it will be a tough one Monday in Game 2, and we know the young Bull will have a bulls eye, as it were, on him. You come in and embarrass a champion team like the Celtics, you’re going to get their attention.

“The defense is going to crank up for sure,” Rose acknowledged. “(They’ll) play harder, I guess, and finish their plays. (They’ll) probably (force the ball out of my hand), but we’ll have to see.

We have a lot of people that can push the ball up the floor and I can get the ball back running our offense.

“It’s just going to be fun out there (for Game 2),” said Rose. “I know there’s going to be a little more attention for me out there. That’s what you want as a player. Hopefully, my teammates will be ready for the game. I know they will. The coaching staff is going to be ready. And we’re going to go out there and battle.”

There’s a few things I expect the Celtics to do.

Yes, they’ll trap Rose and try to get the ball out of his hands, though the Bulls have had others bring the ball up at times and then get it to Rose beyond half court. I think they can deal with that.

“It’s going to be way harder,” said Rose. “Fouls, everything is going to be harder. They’re going to know every play and crank up their defense because that’s the type of defensive team they are. They’re real good and going to play hard.

I got great teammates with me. They know how to go through the offense without me having the ball in my hands. That’s what teams are going to do, force the ball out of my hands. But we got other good players on our team.”

The Celtics also figure to trap Rose more aggressively on the pick and roll with big men coming out harder in a blitz. Celtics coach Doc Rivers was critical of his team’s pick and roll defense. There’s always a counter when teams adjust, so the Bulls big guys, the screen setters like Noah, have to be ready to dive to the basket with the Celtics’ big guys coming out hard on Rose. There will be opportunities to finish.

Though he had an awful game shooting, Brad Miller should have opportunities to pick and pop.

Losers talk as well, so there was a combination of bluster, which sounded like frustration (desperation?) coming from the Celtics after their practice Sunday.

“Everybody has their night,” said Kendrick Perkins. “I know it won’t happen again. He’ll never have another game like that against us. It wasn’t anything that they did. It was all on us.”

The Bulls did a terrific job in transition, which also infuriated Rivers. The Bulls had a 24-13 edge in fast break points, and when Rajon Rondo drove, the Bulls threw ahead even on made baskets with Rondo often unable to get back. It had the older Celtics playing too often at the Bulls’ pace, and even Rondo admitted after Saturday’s game how tired he was, a rare admission for a player after a loss.

I mostly expect Paul Pierce to become Kevin Garnett.

Not that most of us didn’t know before. But the Celtics success was because of Kevin Garnett and all he brings. It’s those little things. He demands so much focus on defense and offense that your players always are looking for him. It enables his teammates to get easier shots. It stalls your offense as he roams the middle with those long arms and his activity.

Pierce, obviously, cannot do that. But he has to take that Garnett role of trying to embolden the team with his play. Pierce was passive to open Game 1, trying to get his teammates involved first. I think you’ll see him aggressive to start, and when the Bulls begin to eye him, then I see Pierce involving his teammates more.

That’s Allen, especially, whom the Celtics say they failed to set enough screens for. But Allen had two rounds like this in the playoffs last year until he found his shot, and it seems he’ll be more than offset in this series by Gordon, who is the classic baseball closer. He had a dozen in the fourth quarter and was barely aware he was having a bad game.

“I have a very short memory,” said Gordon. “I never dwell on whether I missed a few shots or turned it over. I’m always looking toward the next play and seizing the moment. I think regardless of what’s going on I can be effective and make plays down the stretch. I didn’t take many shots in the first half. I knew it was a matter of time.”

Del Negro has a tendency to burn through timeouts early in the game. And the Bulls almost were caught again when Pierce gagged that potential game winning free throw with 2.6 seconds left—what would we have said if a Bulls’ player did that?—and the Bulls were out of timeouts.

“I didn’t think the game should have gotten to that level,” said Del Negro. “If you think about the game in the third quarter, they made that run – we were up nine at the half–and I didn’t call timeouts, because, one, I think as a young team that’s a good learning tool for us. We have to realize, they’re scoring, we’re not scoring, they’re getting back in the game. We have to get after it defensively. When you’re not scoring, you rely on your defense. That’s what’s going to get us to the next level.”

I think Vinny also said he’d watch the timeout situation more carefully. Though that was a heck of a political answer. He did make the right moves Saturday, but perhaps moreso, Del Negro seems to have these coach weary players from three in a year trusting what he is asking them to do.

Ben Gordon, criticized for his defense, also did a nice job of using his lower body strength to get into Ray Allen low and bother Allen, who shot one of 12 and declined to talk with reporters Sunday.

Now there are reports out of Boston Garnett will need surgery, and it was the Bulls in Game 1 with more rebounds, more assists, more blocks and far better free throw shooting.

Heck, Rose even got a dozen free throws after a season in which many wondered where all the calls were with all his penetration.

“I made sure I was getting body contact,” Rose said. “Making the refs call the calls and not giving up on the play. You see all the veterans search for a body when they are in there. Sometimes you are not going to get it. But I don’t complain and say nothing to the refs. I just laugh it off and keep playing.”

Yes, he’s learning and getting better. This is just the beginning. It could be a heck of a ride once again.

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