Sam Smith: Coming up Roses

Coming up Roses

Sam Smith

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Posted by Sam Smith | | 04.22.09 | 8:30 a.m. CT

In his first ever NBA game, Derrick Rose had nine assists. That equaled the second most ever for a rookie in his first game, tying LeBron James. Jimmy Walker had 10. In Rose’s first ever playoff game, he tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most points (36) in a rookie playoff game.

Rose scored in double figures in his first 10 games, the first Bulls rookie to do so since Michael Jordan.

And like Abdul-Jabbar in 1970, Jordan in 1985 and James in 2004, Rose Wednesday likely will add his name to theirs as the NBA Rookie of the Year.

The Bulls have scheduled a major announcement for Wednesday afternoon, and it is expected to be Rose’s rookie award.

That is no surprise anymore, and had the voting been done after Rose’s amazing Game 1 of the NBA playoffs in Boston, the vote would be unanimous. Now, the only question likely is whether the vote was unanimous and whether any voter is willing to stand up and explain why the vote was not for Rose.

The numbers are, perhaps, pedestrian.

Rose, the Chicago native who grew up rooting for the Bulls and idolizing Jordan, finished the regular season averaging 16.8 points, second to O.J. Mayo. Rose led rookies in assists at 6.3 per game and was first among rookie guards in shooting at 47.5 percent. Rose also was in the top 10 among rookies in rebounds, steals, free throw shooting and minutes. He was named Rookie of the Month three times.

But his play and his game transcended his numbers.

Rose quickly became the leader of the Bulls team, though he was so unselfish and humble his teammates could not help but go along.

In the Bulls opener, they outscored the Milwaukee Bucks 20-1 in fast break points. The signs were there to start.

In Rose’s third game, he scored 26 points. Rose dominated Steve Nash when the Bulls beat the Suns in November in Chicago. When the Bulls went on the road in November for the famed circus trip, Rose kept it from becoming a disaster after 42-point loss in Portland by making every big basket down the stretch and scoring 25 points to lead a win over Golden State in the very next game.

Rose became the streak breaker, the basketball equivalent of the baseball pitcher who breaks losing streaks. The Bulls then lost in Denver, but beat the Jazz on a last second shot by Larry Hughes. The Bulls got to that last shot when Rose took over and made the four previous scores to hold off the Jazz at home.

Rose would miss some last second attempts as the season wore on. But he never wore out, and never really hit that so called rookie wall.

Rose averaged 14.5 points in the first two games in October, and never averaged less than 15.3 points in any month. He was consistent and reliable all season, and created highlights almost every game.

His ankle breaking moves on Andre Miller and block from behind against the 76ers back after Thanksgiving were classics.

Rose went to the All Star game and out performed Tony Parker, Devin Harris and Mo Wiliams in the contest of speed and skill. NBA observers were aghast watching Rose this season, trying to find comparisons at his position to his speed, quickness and athletic jumping ability. It was difficult to come up with anyone.

Rose has proven an iron man as well. He missed one game with a bruised wrist and led the Bulls in total minutes played with 3,000 and averaged 37 minutes per game. Rose started at point guard from Game 1.

He had 21 points and 13 assists to beat the Nets in December, and when the Bulls came down the stretch fighting for the playoffs, Rose scored at least 20 points in 10 of the last 19 games and averaged 20.3 points, 7.5 assists and and 4.6 rebounds the last eight games when the Bulls pushed to seventh in the East after being as far down as 19-27 in January. Even when the Bulls were finishing the regular season with a stinker against the Raptors, Rose was pushing hard with 20 points and 11 assist in that game. And then he shocked the basketball world with his phenomenal opening game performance against the Celtics.

Rose would become the third Bulls player to be Rookie of the Year joining Jordan in 1985 and Elton Brand, who shared the award with Steve Francis in 2000.

Walt Bellamy in 1962 and Terry Dischinger in 1963 were each named Rookie of the Year for the old Chicago Packers/Zephyrs, who moved to Baltimore and now are the Washington Wizards.

Among the top 10 rookies this season in scoring, only Rose and Michael Beasley are in the playoffs. Beasley was a reserve all season on a team dominated by Dwyane Wade. Rose was the leader and playing point guard of the Bulls team that surprised most in reaching .500.

Since Jordan was named Rookie of the Year in 1985, I’d rank Rose among the top 10 Rookie of the Year award winners in the last quarter century who are going to have the most impact on their teams and the league in their career.

Here’s my list:

1. LeBron James, 2004
2. Shaquille O’Neal, 1993
3. Tim Duncan, 1998
4. David Robinson, 1989
5. Chris Paul, 2006
6. Rose, 2009?
7. Patrick Ewing, 1986
8. Grant Hill/Jason Kidd, 1995
9. Allen Iverson, 1997
10.Brandon Roy, 2007
11.Chris Webber, 1994
12.Amare Stoudemire, 2003
13.Vince Carter, 1999
14.Mitch Richmond, 1989
15.Pau Gasol, 2002
16.Kevin Durant, 2008
17.Larry Johnson, 1992
18.Mark Jackson, 1988
19.Chuck Person, 1987
20.Derrick Coleman, 1991