Saturday, Nov. 13, 2010
Updated 3:22 PM
By Aggrey Sam
As if their ridiculous explosiveness and other similarities weren't enough, Derrick Rose and John Wall - facing off Saturday night at the United Center for the first time in the regular season - both had a shared advantage upon entering the professional ranks: during their lone years in college basketball, the point guards were each tutored by 17-year NBA veteran Rod Strickland.
Strickland, an All-American at DePaul in the late 1980s and regarded as one of the league's best floor generals during his playing days, was an assistant coach at Memphis when Rose led the Tigers to the national-championship game and guided Wall last season at Kentucky. A pass-first playmaker who once led the league in assists, Strickland was also one of the NBA's best finishing point guards, although he lacked the elite athleticism of his proteges.
"They both had that finishing ability even before they got to college. As far as finishing, you've just got to go in there and be aggressive, but they're so athletic and they're physical, so it comes easy to them," Strickland told CSNChicago.com. "As far as their jump shots, even if you're not a great shooter coming out of high school or college, your shot gets better if you work hard on it. They don't have to necessarily be great shooters, they just have to get to spots and make shots to make people think that you can shoot sometimes.
"The hardest thing sometimes when you come into the league is playing against guys you look up to. Now, you've got to be the guy that turns dudes down and makes decisions. That could be a big adjustment for a young PG," continued Strickland about his advice to the two No. 1 picks. "I just told them both to basically go at everybody, always be aggressive, always compete."
A frequent point of comparison for Rose and Wall is concern about their outside shooting - something Rose has started to rectify in his third season and an area in which Wall may be better than advertised - but Strickland believes developing a strong leadership presence and overcoming adversity are more integral to pro success.
"For me it was different, because they the New York Knicks had Mark Jackson Strickland's rookie year. I was more like 'D. Rose' - kind of quiet, got people in spots because of the flow of the game. 'J. Wall,' he's a talkative type, he's going to tell everybody what to do and where to go, real outgoing. It's funny because when 'D. Rose got in the league, I thought that would be adjustment for him, but 'J. Wall,' he's just an outgoing person. 'D. Rose' was one of those guys that might point or slow things down. 'D. Rose' seems to have gotten more outspoken," said Strickland, who also coached last season's Rookie of the Year, Tyreke Evans, at Memphis, as well as Clippers rookie point guard Eric Bledsoe - who's seen an uptick in his minutes under former Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro while starter Baron Davis is sidelined - at Kentucky as collegians.
"With their games, their work ethic, me and everybody around them knew they'd be successful right away and be able to fight through the bad times," continued Strickland. "I'm sure it's tough - coming from a winning program, then losing a lot of games - competitors keep at it. Those guys just make it another challenge. I don't necessarily believe in that - the 'rookie wall.' I never thought I hit it when I played. I thought it was just a mindset. Those guys are competitive enough and their work ethic is great, so even when they struggle - and everybody does over the course of an 82-game season - they'll get past it."
Added Strickland: I'm not surprised about anything either one of those guys does because of their work ethic and way they went about their business in college. You would hear stuff, but I see them every day and I've been in that league and I know what that league's about. The court opens up so wide for them - guys can't leave them and they're playing with better players every night - that what they're doing is not surprising to me at all. They become different people when they get on the court. They love the lights. What Derrick has done, what John is doing so far, I expected that."
Rose talked about Strickland's influence on him after Friday's Bulls practice.
"Spending hours in the gym with him after practice, going over things, just working on my finishing moves and stuff, he helped me out a lot and I appreciate him for that," said Rose. "I still don't know how to finish like he does, but he was one of the greatest finishers in the NBA. I'm still learning."
As for the matchup with Wall, Rose, as always, prefers to focus on the game from a team standpoint.
"He's a good player, a good young player. He's got good vets over there that are helping him out. But I'm not too worried about the matchup. It's all about winning games and that's all I'm trying to do right now, trying to put my team in a position to win every time we step on the court," said Rose. "Every point guard brings something new. He brings quickness and strength. Saturday's going to be an exciting night."
Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.