Derrick Rose, sitting quietly in front of his locker-room stall before the Chicago Bulls faced the 76ers last night, was asked whether he thought it was "daunting" to step right in as a starting point guard in the NBA.
"I didn't think about it like that," said Rose, who proceeded to put together 18 points and 10 assists in a 103-92 victory over the Sixers that wasn't remotely that close.
The No. 1 overall pick in the June draft, with just one season of college experience at Memphis, recorded the second double-double of his young career, the first with points and assists. He had a handful of moments that should light up TV shows for several days.
In no particular order of excellence, he caught fastbreaking Sixers guard Andre Miller from behind and, as Miller went up for a layup, swatted the ball across the sideline. On the Bulls' final possession of the first half, he used a crossover dribble to leave Miller on his knees and got credit for a field goal when Samuel Dalembert goaltended his shot. He brought a roar from the Wachovia Center crowd on the Bulls' final play of the third period, slamming down a lob from Ben Gordon.
"I think I can help a little, [but] it's going to take more than me to build this franchise up to what it was," Rose said.
He described his role as "easy for me now, [because] I've got a lot of veteran guards on the team. I can ask them questions. We just got Lindsey [Hunter]; Lindsey's just like a coach when he's on the bench."
Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks, said, "For a rookie, a guy just coming in, he has a great command of his team. That's what stands out to me. Rarely do you see rookies command the team."
Cheeks arrived in a similar role with the Sixers in 1978, but he was a very low-profile, second-round draft choice from a weak West Texas State team. Rose made the jump from a Memphis team that lost to Kansas in the NCAA championship game.
"I had Doc [Julius Erving] and different guys who made my job a little easier," Cheeks said. "Him being the No. 1 pick, there's a little more pressure on him . . . No one knew whether I could play. This kid, they obviously knew he could help, and he's proven he can."
First-year Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said Rose has been "like a sponge."
"He's still a rookie, still has a lot to learn," Del Negro said. "He's handled things tremendously. He'll just continue to mature and get better, like he's supposed to. We try to put him in areas where he's comfortable and not throw too much at him early. Sometimes it's better to just let him go out there and just play. Sometimes, when you think too much your feet get slow.
"He has such great athleticism and has great explosion. You want to get him in the open court and make plays for guys. Up to this point, he's done an excellent job of that . . . Some guys are hesitant to take that leadership role on; that just kind of happens with time, and we haven't been together that long." *