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.”
The moniker of the “best two-way player” sounds more like something an agent made up to gain a little leverage contract negotiations. It’s a nebulous concept. It’s an intentional dig at whomever is perceived as a better player, suggesting they don’t play enough defense.
But it’s part of the NBA lexicon now, and Pacers’ coach Frank Vogel thinks he has the best two-way player in the game in the resurgent Paul George. Tuesday night George dropped 40 points on Wizards and Vogel said this after the game, via the Washington Post.
“It’s tough to quantify in words,” Pacers Coach Frank Vogel said. “I mean, he just does so much. He’s capable of going for 40, carrying the offensive load and being the best defensive player on either team. He’s a special player, and the best two-way player in the game. We’re a different team with him out there.”
Paul George’s return to an elite level of play is one of the best stories of this young NBA season — for nine straight games now he has scored at least 25 points, he has pushed the Pacers to a 9-5 record with a top 10 NBA offense and defense. Tuesday night John Wall talked about how George’s improved jumper has made him a far more dangerous, more difficult to guard player. And he’s still a lock-down defender.
But George is not the best two-way player in the game — that’s Stephen Curry. George does not have the offensive impact that Curry brings to the Warriors, plus Curry has developed into a solid NBA defender. Curry gets steals, plays smart, and is a positive on defense, plus he’s the best offensive player in the league right now.
That doesn’t make the return of Paul George any less fun, any less good for the game. It’s great to see George back. Whatever you want to call him.
Sometimes a picture can tell the story better than words.
That’s why above you can see all of Kobe Bryant‘s shot attempts against the Warriors Tuesday, a night where he went 1-of-14 from the floor (and “facilitator Kobe” had two assists). If you want another picture, here is Kobe’s shot chart for the game.
On the season, Kobe is shooting 31.1 percent overall, 19.5 percent from three, and he has a career low true shooting percentage of 41.5 percent. It’s hard to watch. On a team that is supposed to be developing their young stars, Kobe took as many shots as D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle combined. Laker coach Byron Scott is good with Kobe doing whatever he wants.
But Kobe is worried about his shooting performances, right? Not so much. From Baxter Holmes of ESPN.
If Kobe can figure out the Lakers’ system this season, he will be in a club of one.
I could go on a longer rant here, but the bottom line is this is just a sad spectacle to watch. And there’s a lot of season left to watch it.
Pat Riley compared the Warriors backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to one of the legendary guard tandems the game has ever seen — Jerry West and Gail Goodrich. Two Hall of Famers who led the 1972 Lakers to an NBA title.
That West/Goodrich team also won 33 straight games that season.
The Warriors are off to the fastest start in NBA history at 16-0 after destroying the hapless Lakers on Tuesday night, and the question of “when will they lose?” Kobe Bryant thinks these Warriors could get to that legendary 33 mark, as he told Sam Amick of the USA Today.
“Yeah, they could do it – because they’re good,” Bryant said afterward. “It’s a very young league, and they’ve managed to put together a team of extremely intelligent players and extremely versatile players, and great shooters. And so I see no reason why they couldn’t continue to extend (the record).”
The Warriors are not even halfway there and have shown some flashes of one-game vulnerability of late (a rough game against the Nets, for example). They have an upcoming seven-game road trip with a couple back-to-backs where they likely stumble at least once.
Then again, look at their next dozen opponents: Suns, Kings, Jazz, Hornets, Raptors, Nets, Pacers, Celtics, Bucks, Suns, Bucks, Jazz. Teams such as the Raptors and Pacers are certainly playing well, but there is no team on that list that makes you step back and say “that’s a loss.” Get through that dozen and the Warriors are at 28-0 and the Lakers’ record is within shot. The Warriors are not going to stop doing what they do — if the wearable science tells them Curry needs a night off, he’ll sit — but if they can get close, for a team trying to establish a legacy of greatness this would be a step in that direction.
The 16-0 mark already is.
In a disastrous Lakers season, one thing can be counted on (besides Byron Scott saying absurd things about Kobe Bryant): Nick Young will always be able to lighten the mood. He brought some levity to the Lakers’ blowout loss to the Warriors on Tuesday night with a blast from the past: a pair of gold shoes formerly worn by his ex-Wizards teammate Gilbert Arenas.
These shoes, like Swaggy, and like Gilbert before the injuries and the guns, are awesome and should be celebrated.