2014 USA Basketball Men's National Team Practice

Derrick Rose: “I’ve become a smarter player, but I’m mad it took me seven years to learn it.”

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LAS VEGAS — During one of the last scrimmages on the opening day of the Team USA training camp in Las Vegas, Derrick Rose brought the ball up, gave it up, quickly got it back and found himself open at the three-point line. Old Derrick Rose might have put that ball on the floor and gotten to the rim.

This Derrick Rose set his feet and knocked down the three.

It was just one snippet but was a nice example of what Rose says has changed about his game — it has matured.

“I’m able to control my body a little bit more, using my speed more, being smart with my speed rather than just running wild out there,” Rose said. “I’’ve become a smarter player, but I’m mad it took me seven years to learn it.”

Rose made one vintage Rose play at the Team USA scrimmage where he drew the contact, made the and-1 shot and hit the floor hard. But he’s not seeking contact like he used to on his drives.

“Trying to use a lot of floaters, a lot of pull-ups, stuff like that so you aren’t touched as much,” Rose said.

Rose added the last comeback taught him things about patience, something that he wants to apply on the court.

“I think when I came back last time I wanted it too bad. I was trying to force the game,” Rose said, having missed a full season then getting injured on a cut just six games into his return. “This time around I’m trying to let the game come to me, of course be aggressive at times, but be in control of the game and be smarter, and be able to run the team at the point guard position.”

Run a team that brings in Pau Gasol to pair with Joakim Noah, forming the best passing front court in the NBA.

“When you think about Gasol coming in, winning championships and bringing that experience to our team, him being around our bigs like Joakim and giving them advice and talking to them, I think that’s what we needed,” Rose said.

But right now he’s focused on Team USA. When USA Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski was asked about this kind of setting being an ideal spot for Rose to slide back in he laughed.

“Any setting with Derrick in it is an ideal setting, when he’s healthy,” Krzyzewski said. “The ideal thing is he looks like he’s healthy and he’s put a lot of work in and he really wants it and we’re excited about him.”

Rose should make a Team USA roster that runs a lot of three guard sets and often uses guys pigeonholed as point guards in the NBA as two guards (and occasionally threes) working off the ball. Rose says he is good with that and would be willing to do some of that in Chicago.

“I can just shoot it, I can do a lot of catch-and-shoot, just running off floppy,” Rose said of a common NBA play most teams run that can free up a shooter for a quick shot. “Just trying to make the game easier and find ways to score, find ways to effect the game when I’m not scoring.”

Rose still has some Chicago fans to win back. After two years of injuries a guy those same people used to call tough gets another label. Krzyzewski just doesn’t get that at all.

“He’s one of the great people and one of the great players and to get multiple injuries like that can defeat anybody mentally. I don’t see that,” Krzyzewski said. “He should be applauded for what he’s doing. I’m a Chicago person and I’ve very happy he’s back, not just for Team USA but the Bulls.”

Heat players past, present throw support behind David Fizdale heading to Memphis

David Fizdale
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The Memphis Grizzlies have found their man — Miami Heat assistant coach David Fizdale has been offered the head coaching job in Memphis. He’s a smart coach who earned the trust of elite players and was a key part of the staff that helped Miami to a couple of rings.

It’s a good hire. Don’t just take my word for it, check out what a couple Heat players from that era had to say.

Mario Chalmers had a first-hand view — he was traded from Miami to Memphis in the middle of last season. The point guard who went the other way in that deal, Beno Udrih, also helped push the deal along.

Fizdale is going to be a popular hire with the players. That said, if the Grizzlies can’t keep Mike Conley in free agency the team is going to have struggles this season, regardless of who coaches them.

Watch Kevin Love drop 25 points on Toronto

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Before Game 5, Cavaliers’ coach Tyronn Lue told Kevin Love just to stay aggressive. Channing Frye told him the same thing.

Love took that advice to heart. From the opening tip of Game 5, Love was attacking — backing down the overmatched Luis Scola and knocking down threes. Love had 12 points in the first quarter on his way to a game-high 25, helping spark an easy, 38-point Cavaliers win in Game 5.

Now, can Love do this on the road in Game 6?

Cavaliers’ defense foundation for blowout win

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers gestures in the second half against the Toronto Raptors in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Cleveland blitzed Toronto from the opening tip.

Literally.

Cleveland cranked up their defensive pressure by getting back to aggressively blitzing Raptors’ guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan every time they came off a pick. Or they would chase DeRozan over the top of the pick and trail him, never letting him get comfortable to pull up from the midrange. Whatever the defensive scheme, the Cavaliers were physical with Lowry and DeRozan — the pair was 4-of-14 shooting in the first half.

From the start, the Cavaliers defense dictated the flow of the game and set the tone for a 38-point blowout win.

It is that defense they will need to close out this series on the road Friday night.

“We understood that coming back from Game 3 and Game 4 we just didn’t play our defense the right way,” LeBron James said after the game. “We didn’t play how we should have played, and they took advantage of every moment. We had to get back to our staple; we had to get back to what we wanted to do defensively in order for us to play a complete game. That’s the most satisfying thing, the way we defended, holding these guys to 39 percent shooting.”

Defense triggered the offensive runs by the Cavaliers in the first half — Cleveland had eight steals and scored 20 points off turnovers before halftime. Playing with a renewed energy, the Cavs did a fantastic job fighting over screens and disrupting plays, and they closed out on shooters at the arc. It was their best defensive game of the series. It was the polar opposite of how they played in Toronto.

“I think our intensity picked up, our aggressiveness picked up, we were very physical to start the game and it just kind of led to us getting out in transition, us getting steals and getting easy baskets,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said.

“They were locked in, from the start to the finish,” according to Raptors coach Dwane Casey.”The force that they play with is different here and we didn’t meet it.”

Back home and with their backs against the wall, you can expect a very different, very desperate Raptors team. Lowry and DeRozan will shoot better.

But if the Cavaliers pack their defense and take it north of the border this time, they should close out the series.

LeBron James was dunking all over the Raptors (VIDEO)

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With their defense creating turnovers to get breaks — and the Raptors’ defense just breaking down — the Cavaliers put on a dunking exhibition against Toronto Wednesday.

LeBron James led the way, with 23 points and plenty of dunks. Here is another.

To change things up, here is an and-1.