The highly anticipated return of Derrick Rose to the court occurred on Saturday, as the Bulls made their preseason debut against the Pacers. All eyes were on Rose, of course, who was seeing his first game action in almost 18 months after sitting out all of last season to rehabilitate his torn ACL injury.
If there’s one thing we learned in this exhibition, it’s that Rose will be all the way back and then some this season. He showed plenty of the speed, explosiveness, and fearlessness that we remember from the former MVP, with no signs of an injury hangover that would limit his ability in any way.
Rose finished with 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting, to go along with three assists and four turnovers. The shots he made were all right at the rim — either layups, a dunk, or a putback in traffic. Where he struggled was to find a rhythm on his outside shot, although only a couple of his misses were jumpers in the true sense. Most came on drives where he pulled up short with a defender in the way, resulting in an awkward attempt.
A couple of his turnovers could simply be chalked up to not quite being used to playing in the flow of a game against an opponent at NBA speed, so no worries there, either. None of the assists came in spectacular fashion — all three were to Luol Deng, and the passes from Rose were pedestrian at best, with his teammate knocking down jumpers (twice) or slashing to the basket to finish.
The outside shooting will come, as will the comfort level of once again playing with his teammates. The most important parts of Rose’s game are already in place, however, and Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau summed up what we all saw quite nicely afterward — in essence, that Rose is back.
“The speed and the power that he plays with,” Thibodeau said, “there’s no one like him.”
Gregg Popovich is a basketball lifer.
He’s the NBA’s most experienced active head coach. Before that, he was the Spurs’ general manager. Before that, he was an NBA assistant. Before that, he was a college head coach and assistant. Before that, he was a college player. Before that, he was a youth player.
The San Antonio coach has seen everything.
Except the right quadriceps tendinopathy suffered by Kawhi Leonard, whom Popovich said more than a week would return “sooner rather than later.” Yet, Leonard still hasn’t played this season.
Popovich, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN:
“Never, never,” Popovich said when asked whether he has seen such a condition hampering one of his players. “What’s really strange is that [point guard] Tony [Parker] has the same injury, but even worse. They had to go operate on his quad tendon and put it back together or whatever they did to it. So to have two guys, that’s pretty incredible. I had never seen it before those guys.”
“I keep saying sooner rather than later,” Popovich said jokingly. “It’s kind of like being a politician. It’s all baloney, doesn’t mean anything.”
The 26-year-old Leonard is one of the NBA’s biggest on-court stars. He might be the league’s best defender, and he has built himself into an offensive force. The Spurs (11-7) have fared fine without him so far, but they’ll need him to accomplish their main goals – this year and beyond.
Hopefully, Leonard’s health is better than it sounds here, because Popovich’s answer sure isn’t encouraging.
The Knicks went on a 28-0 run.
They earned the right to showboat late in their win over the Raptors last night.
Tim Hardaway Jr. called a ref, who slipped on the baseline, safe rather than contest Serge Ibaka‘s 3-pointer. Perfection!
Luc Mbah a Moute is a quietly good player.
He’s an effective and versatile defender. Offensively, he shoots 3-pointers well enough to score efficiently and spread the floor. Most of all, the 31-year-old just understands how to play and plays within himself. His teams tend to perform better when he’s on the floor.
That’s an understatement for Wednesday night.
In a 125-95 win, the Rockets outscored the Nuggets by a whopping 57 points in Mbah a Moute’s 26 minutes. That’s the best single-game plus-minus in the Basketball-Reference database, which dates back to the 2000-01 season. It tops Joe Smith’s +52 in a 2001 Timberwolves win over the Bulls, a 53-point game that also produced a +50 for Wally Szczerbiak and +48 for Terrell Brandon.
Mbah a Moute’s traditional stat line was impressive, though not overly so: 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting with four rebounds, four steals and an assist. He played well, contributing to winning in all the small ways he often does, and the Rockets happened to play excellently around him.
Now, Mbah a Moute tops the leaderboard in single-game plus-minus since 2000-01:
Russell Westbrook chases triple-doubles.
That hardly makes him unique. He’s just close enough to the feat more often than other players, so he chases them more often.
But he still chases them.
Late in the Thunder’s 108-91 win over the Warriors last night, Westbrook was heading toward his final line of 34 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. His teammates shot off his passes on three of Oklahoma City’s final four possessions before he took a seat (including one assist). The exception came when he passed to Steven Adams, who passed rather than shoot – clearly upsetting Westbrook.
Was Westbrook mad because he missed his chance at a triple-double? Maybe.
Was Westbrook mad because Adams passed as the shot clock neared expiration? Maybe.
It could be both!
Watch Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry on Golden State’s bench. They clearly found something funny.