Derrick Rose’s Rapid Maturation Makes Bulls That Much Tougher in Eastern Conference


Derrick Rose is not the world's greatest point guard. Not yet, anyway.

But he is playing that position on the world's largest stage, beating out Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook and others to take the helm of the USA squad in the FIBA World Championships.

And he has flourished — not with big numbers (8.5 points, 2.8 assists), but with the self-control and poise needed to lead a young, star-heavy cast (one that embarrassed itself in this same tournament four years ago) over far less-talented, far more unified teams.

Rose's shining moment thus far came back on Aug. 26 in an exhibition matchup with Spain. With time running out and the USA in danger of losing, the 21-year-old kid from Chicago calmly shifted by Ricky Rubio and Marc Gasol for a one-handed layup, then knocked down the game-winning free throws just a possession later.

"I thought, 'I've got to hit them,'" Rose said after the 86-85 win, according to The Associated Press. "Over here, people are going to remember me for this."

It's the type of late-game heroics Eastern Conference fans have come to expect from Rose over his first two seasons with the Chicago Bulls. Take, for instance, his single-handed 31-point outings in both Games 3 and 5 against the Cavs.

Those performances prompted LeBron James to call Rose "one of the best point guards that we have in our league. He's a tremendous competitor, he played hard. The sky's the limit for him. There's no point guard in the league that has the type of athleticism that he has" (Um, Rondo?)

It wasn't the first time the young gun had impressed. Celtics fans will remember the first round of the 2009 playoffs, when then-Rookie of the Year Rose extended Boston to a Game 7 with a 28-point, seven-assist, eight-rebound performance in Game 6.

And his adventures in Europe this summer will only make Rose better: more experience playing in big games; better tutelage under Mike Krzyzewski that he ever got with Vinny Del Negro; and more confidence for a kid already high on it.

It is a scary proposition for the rest of the East, especially given the Bulls' upgrades at a number of other positions:

1. Carlos Boozer adds depth and low-post scoring ability (which Chicago desperately needed) to a paint squad that already includes Joakim Noah (maybe the best rebounder in the NBA), last year's First-Team All Rookie power forward Taj Gibson and Omer Asik, a 7-footer from Turkey with reasonable upside potential (more than, say, Semih Erden).

2. Kyle Korver, a lengthy shooting guard (6-foot-7), who can play in and out and gives Chicago the legitimate 3-point shooting threat they have lacked (he shot 54 percent from beyond the arc last season).

3. Ronnie Brewer becomes the slasher and defensive stopper in that mix. Between him, Rose, Noah and Boozer, Chicago could lead the league in forced turnovers.

4. Tom Thibodeau, "The guru" of the Boston Celtics' defense for three seasons, replaces Del Negro as head coach — no doubt an improvement for a club that finished 13th in defense in 2009-10. In 18 seasons in the NBA, in fact, Thibs' teams have finished in the top 10 defensively in 15 of them.

The Bulls, in other words, are a team stacked with young talent, now led by an experienced, proven coach and a point guard ready to compete for the title of world's best.

It is a club perhaps not yet polished enough to compete for an NBA title, but certainly enough to have the rest of the teams in the Eastern Conference looking over their shoulders, hoping Derrick Rose takes just a bit longer to grow up.

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