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RACE TO THE MVP
0121-derrick-rose-608.jpg
The intense way Derrick Rose approaches his minutes could wear him down quickly.
Randy Belice/NBAE via Getty Images

Hard-charging way makes -- and could break -- Rose's MVP run

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com
Posted Jan 21 2011 1:11PM

Jason Terry, the Dallas Mavericks' dangerous sixth man, noticed immediately when Derrick Rose shifted over to guard him in the second half of the Chicago Bulls' 82-77 victory at United Center Thursday night.

"That's gonna wear you down, young fella," said Terry, determined to do what he does best and preserve or extend Dallas' 60-56 lead after three quarters.

11_Columnist_Banner_Race.jpg

Rose smiled back at the 12th year veteran. "I'm young right now," he said.

And so he was, scoring 10 of his game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter to boost the Bulls to a 19-4 home record and their 20th victory in their past 26 games. Terry played the entire fourth quarter as well and came away with both respect and a little concern for the Chicago do-it-all point guard.

"They better get him some help," Terry said afterward as the visitors' dressing room cleared out. "Because he's doing everything out there. My hat's off to him, he's having an outstanding year. But if they don't get him some help ... it's a big load. Jordan couldn't do it [by himself]."

The load that Rose is carrying for Chicago rarely has been more evident than it was during TNT's broadcast Thursday. Rose scored 26 points against the Mavericks, facing and eventually thwarting a variety of defensive tactics; the other four Bulls starters scored 26 points while Dallas was fixated on their point guard. Rose shot six free throws to his fellow starters' two, had nine assists to their three and matched their two blocks.

It is the sort of heavy lifting that earns players the top berth in The Race, but it also is a burden that can grind down such a one-man team. Rose ranks 10th in the NBA in minutes played, averaging 38.0 nightly -- teammate Luol Deng is fourth at 39.2 -- and it's the intensity and activity of Rose's minutes that might wear him out more than sheer court time.

But Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau told me late in the evening that, while aware, he isn't worried about Rose's workload. "He's young," Thibodeau said, "and he's got a high motor. He's a lot like Kevin [Garnett] when he was younger. You see Derrick in practice, he's going just as hard, just as long, as he does in games. He doesn't like to come out either, same as Kevin."

Separating oneself from one's supporting cast while winning at a high frequency is the surest way to earn consideration for the Maurice Podoloff trophy. And with Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer sidelined by injuries, Rose surely has done that at United Center, where the "M-V-P!" chants start when their guy is at the foul line ring a little more true than when, oh, the folks in Oakland do it for Monta Ellis.

"When they start chanting, earlier [in the season] I was like, 'I dunno about that one,' " Dallas center Tyson Chandler said. "But the more and more as the game went on, I could understand why they were chanting. He's having an incredible year and, without him, it's not a close game.

"He just puts so much pressure on you. I know me, as a big, coming over and trying to block his shot and Kurt Thomas ends up getting nine points ... With his aggression and going to the basket, even if he misses, he's still putting guys in a position to succeed."

Said Terry of trying to stop Rose right now: "It's the Jordan rules."

Jason Kidd, the Mavericks' future Hall of Fame playmaker, was a little more conservative in his praise of Rose. Not that he was grudging -- he was just more studied, given his doctorate in point-guard-ology.

Kidd didn't begin the game trying to defend Rose; Mavs coach Rick Carlisle used DeShawn Stevenson for that rigorous duty. But near the end, Kidd did find himself checking the Bulls' young star. On a pivotal play in the final minute, Rose came to a jump shot in the lane and Kidd knocked the ball loose. But it wound up back in Rose's hands and he promptly sank a 20-footer that made it 80-77.

"He's so athletic," Kidd said. "When they give him the ball, he doesn't need a pick-and-roll to get to the basket or make something happen. It's just understanding the time to score. That's the biggest thing for a young guy.

"The next step, being around Chris Paul and Deron Williams, is understanding what it takes to be the best. My big thing was just to be patient. You don't always have to force it, because he's athletic. But also to talk. Everybody's talked about it -- I was in that same situation. You don't have to be a guy who's a rah-rah, yeller. You just have to learn how to communicate with your teammates to get the best out of them."

Given a night when no one else on the Chicago roster cracked double digits in scoring, and the Bulls still beat a solid Western Conference contender, there should be plenty of "best" still to be tapped.

1. Derrick Rose, Bulls (29-14)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
4238.024.74.78.01.00.7.449.380.813
Last Week's Rank - 3
Rose posted his first career triple-double at Memphis (22 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists) and ranks fifth (first among guards) in points+rebounds+assists (37.3).

2. Dwight Howard, Magic (27-15)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
4036.021.913.11.21.22.2.569.000.587
Last Week's Rank - 5
None of the other MVP candidates on this list contributes more defensively than the Magic center. He is averaging 3.4 steals + blocks per game, while scoring at a career-high pace.

3. LeBron James, Heat (30-13)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
4138.025.67.17.21.50.4.477.358.771
Last Week's Rank - 2
A slow week and an unsatisfying stretch for the Heat. James, after sitting out losses at Denver and Chicago, scored 10 of his 34 points in the overtime period in Miami's defeat by Atlanta.

4. Amar'e Stoudemire, Knicks (22-19)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
4137.226.48.82.60.92.3.506.533.780
Last Week's Rank - 1
STAT is bearing down on the Knicks' record of 29 consecutive scoring at least 20 points -- he has 26, three shy of Richie Guerin's stretch in 1961-62 -- but New York has dropped five of its last six.

5. Kobe Bryant, Lakers (31-13)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
4433.225.15.14.71.30.1.456.315.819
Last Week's Rank - 4
The Lakers reached the season's midpoint at 30-11, the third straight year they have won at least 30 through 41. Only San Antonio, from 2001-04, can match that over the past decade. Bryant has scored 20+ points 39 times.

6. Manu Ginobili, Spurs (36-6)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
4231.719.04.04.81.80.4.438.364.878
Last Week's Rank - 9
The committee was feeling very team-oriented this week, and it is impossible to ignore San Antonio's .857 winning percentage. Ginobili's Swiss Army knife-like contributions earn him best-player-on-way-best-team status.

7. Deron Williams, Jazz (27-15)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
4238.022.13.89.51.20.2.461.382.857
Last Week's Rank - NR
Would you trade one assist per game for 3.4 more points? That's a pretty good deal for Williams and the Jazz, because that's what he's down (9.5 assists from 10.5) and up (22.1 points from 18.7) from 2009-10.

8. Kevin Durant, Thunder (27-15)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
3839.328.26.22.91.11.0.468.327.884
Last Week's Rank - 7
Mail continues to pour in (OK, digitially appear) from Thunder fans who can't seem to agree on the relative value of Durant vs. Russell Westbrook. The point guard had a better week but the NBA's leading scorer (who lost 0.3 points off his average) still gets the nod here.

9. Rajon Rondo, Celtics (32-9)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
3037.610.74.613.22.40.2.522.292.460
Last Week's Rank - 10
See No. 6, regarding a focus on team success. Not that 33 assists to just six turnovers in three victories isn't compelling enough for Rondo. By season's end, health permitting, the point guard could rank eighth in Celtics history in assists.

10. Blake Griffin, Clippers (16-26)
GMPGPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3P%FT%
4237.422.612.83.40.70.6.519.556.609
Last Week's Rank - NR
Uh oh, there's been a bending of the ... OK, not rules but guidelines favored by The Race. The Clippers remain underwater at 16-26 and sub-.500 teams don't often generate MVPs. But they have won 11 of 16, a midseason kick that could get them into contention for a playoff spot. And there is no denying this guy's impact. Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki would appear here, except he came back too soon and ought to shut down a bit longer.

Dropping out: Dwyane Wade (No. 6 last week); Nowitzki (No. 8)

Honorable mention: LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland; Monta Ellis, Golden State; Kevin Love, Minnesota; Dwyane Wade, Miami; Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City.

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA for 25 years. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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