Rose wins latest battle with Rondo
GAME TIME: Bulls 96, Celtics 83
The accepted wisdom is that Steve Nash, Chris Paul and Deron Williams are the three best point guards in the NBA. However, there are two more young veterans who are on the verge of breaking into this select category -- Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose.
Both Rondo and Rose, of course, were at the forefront of last year’s incredibly thrilling to-the-max playoff series between the Celtics and the Bulls.
Earlier this season, the Celtics continued their mastery over the Bulls, easily winning their two scheduled games. In so doing, Rondo’s numbers demonstrated what his primary role is in Boston’s game plan, shooting a combined 7-for-15, while averaging 15.0 assists and 9.0 points. The bulk of Boston’s scoring was the responsibility of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
Over those same two games, Rose was limited by a sore ankle, and was 13-for-27 from the field, while recording 2.5 assists and 14.5 points. With Luol Deng being Chicago’s only other creative scorer, Rose had to look for his shots much more often than did Rondo.
But circumstances were dramatically changed in the third meeting of these two teams. Rose was healthy, and the Bulls had won six of their past nine. Meanwhile, the Celtics were struggling to overcome a plague of injuries -- variously to Rasheed Wallace, Marquis Daniels, KG and Pierce. It was incumbent on Rondo, therefore, to supply more of a scoring punch than usual.
Here’s how the latest confrontation between Rose and Rondo turned out.
Except for a brief stretch at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarters, Rondo looked tired. All told, he demonstrated his normal aggression on defense on only three sequences:
• One ball-hawking gamble allowed Rose to score an uncontested layup.
• He was saved when another unsuccessful gamble gave Rose an open 20-footer that missed.
• And his energetic scrambling led to a jump ball that Boston won and eventuated in a triple dropped by Eddie House.
Otherwise, Rondo was somewhat passive on defense. If his legs were dead, his hands were very much alive -- hence his three steals. But on several possessions, Rose was able to either turn the corner on high screen/rolls or pull up on the nether side to uncork open jumpers. Rondo’s lack of fire in these situations certainly wasn’t helped when the Celtics' bigs routinely failed to show and force Rose to unload the ball.
Unfortunately for Boston, Rondo stunk up the court at the other end of the game. He missed three layups (one of which was blocked), missed all three of his jumpers and committed five turnovers. For the game, he totaled 6-for-14 from the field and 3-for-7 from the stripe for 15 points.
To a man, the Celtics say Rondo is the team’s most indispensable player -- and with Wallace and Garnett out of action, the expectation was Rondo would pick up the slack.
For sure, Rondo and his teammates were road-weary, and he has been logging too much court time lately. Indeed, Boston’s inability to maintain the necessary focus was demonstrated by their being guilty of three shot-clock violations. But the bottom line is that, in the game at hand, Rondo sank to the occasion.
Not that Rose had a spectacular game. Although his numbers appear to be quite formidable -- 8-for-16, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 turnovers, 17 points -- his performance was spotty at best.
His springer was working -- 4-for-7 -- and he took full advantage of Rondo’s (and the Celtics’) lackadaisical defense of S/Rs. But six of Rose’s points came late in the game when Boston had to play catch-up and take chances on defense.
Still, Rose looked quick, strong and energetic.
For the most part, his defense on Rondo was satisfactory -- although his opponent’s shaky jump-shooting allowed Rose to go under every proffered high screen without yielding any points.
Throughout his brief NBA career, Rose has exhibited poor judgment when he brings the ball into the paint -- and this trend continued against the Celtics.
• When he tried to force a drive through heavy traffic, Rose was rightly assessed a charging foul.
• A behind-the-back dribble in a crowd resulted into another turnover.
• A forced shot was easily blocked.
• When he left his feet and attempted to complete an interior pass, the Celtics came up with the ball.
In other words, Rose’s education is ongoing.
Even so, he gave the Bulls exactly what they needed: Getting the ball into the hands of Luol Deng -- 8-for-13, 25 points. Making non-assist but invaluable reversal passes. Not panicking when the Celtics threw some flash-double teams at him late in the game. And making Boston pay dearly for its defensive mishaps.
This round goes to Rose by a unanimous decision. And the basketball public can anticipate many more games (and years) of intriguing confrontations between these two talented point guards.
Some random thoughts on this and that:
• A continuing problem for several NBA teams is the injuries suffered while their key players are competing for their native countries in various international competitions.
Pau Gasol’s hamstring difficulties are a direct result of Spain’s summer-time schedule and have certainly hamstrung the Lakers' efforts to get in sync. Manu Ginobili is still not fully recovered from representing Argentina in the NBA’s offseason. Worse still, the exacerbation of Yao Ming’s leg fracture during the Beijing Olympics has cost him virtually all of the 2009-10 season.
What to do about this situation?
Here are some suggestions:
The reality, however, is that nothing can be done about this unfortunate turn of events. Instead, the immediate and often long-term fortunes of some NBA teams will continue to depend on what happens to their foreign-born players in offseason competition.
• I’m constantly annoyed, but not surprised by how many players publicly complain about not getting enough shots to satisfy their wants/needs. The latest examples are Andray Blatche and Hedo Turkoglu. Notice how these guys never said anything about winning or losing ball games.
It’s amazing how many non-superstar players believe that teams should adjust their game plans to suit their own specific skills instead of worrying about how they can satisfy the specific needs of their teams.
• Watch what happens late in a game when a player scores even a slightly difficult basket with his team on the short end of the score. Odds are that he’ll run back on defense loudly yelling at his teammates to buck up and start playing better.
The implication is that just because the guy has just scored, he’s the only one who’s playing hard.
This all-too-frequent scenario is one more indication of the vast number of NBA players who believe that they are situated at the center of the universe.
I'm 5'6" and I loved to play basketball as a high school student at the parks in Culver City, LA. Non-stop effort and a dangerous if streaky outside shot kept me in games. When I went to UCLA in 1973, they had a six-foot-and-under, one-on-one intramural competition, so I signed up. The games were played at Pauley, and though I had viewed UCLA games there a couple times as a kid, I didn't know my way around. So, instead of taking the outside staircase to floor level, which I discovered later, I found an elevator. When the doors opened at floor level, in walked the tallest guys I had ever seen in my life. Being a fan, I identified Bill Walton and Richard Washington, but the others didn't seem to be much shorter. Walton must have sensed in the turnabout situation the unique opportunity it presented, because as I was trying to squeeze by to leave the elevator, he said to me, "Why are you so short?" A bit humiliating then, humorous now, but above all, with the perspective of years and your column, so humanly understandable! -- Yehushua Kahan
TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY
Jayson Williams is a really nice guy. He’s friendly, enthusiastic, more intelligent than might be expected, and he has a terrific sense of humor. His only problem -- and it’s a huge one -- is his habitual bad judgment.
Here’s the first time that I witnessed one of Williams’ bad decisions:
The Nets had recently drafted Keith Van Horn, and before training camp convened, Williams happened to be at the team’s practice site and observed the rookie working out.
“The kid is amazing!” Williams told me a few days later. “He was throwing down three-sixty dunks, tomahawk dunks, and all kinds of reverse dunks like the basket was only eight feet high. Man, he can sky! “
Williams went on to rave about Van Horn’s shooting. “He hits 3-pointers like they’re layups. Pull-ups right and left. Fade-aways. Turnarounds. Jumpers off the wrong foot. Amazing! I promise you, Charley. The kid’s going to be a star. A perennial All-Star. Before he’s done he’ll even be the MVP. I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes it into the Hall of Fame. No question about it!”
Although Van Horn did have some 20-ppg seasons, he was eventually revealed to be soft and useless in the clutch. But Williams’ over-the-top endorsement revealed more about Williams himself than it did about Van Horn.
Good luck in the joint, JW. Here’s hoping you’ll learn the difference between good calls and bad calls.
If you have a question or comment for Charley Rosen, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and he may respond in a future column.