LAS VEGAS—An acrobatic layup off the dribble, a powerful two-handed dunk via a nifty Kenneth Faried interior pass, a warp-speed coast-to-coast driving layup—all within the game’s first five minutes—were a clear indication that the rave reviews Bulls point guard Derrick Rose received during USA Basketball’s training camp wasn’t mere hype.
Although his performance was eventually overshadowed by Pacers All-Star swingman Paul George's gruesome right-leg injury, in the early going of Friday night’s Team USA Blue-White Showcase at UNLV’s Thomas and Mack Center, Rose was an absolute blur with the ball in his hands and attacked the basket with his trademark explosiveness, displaying that his elite-level physical tools hadn’t diminished in his recovery from a second major knee surgery and subsequent rehabilitation. A fan favorite, the only player whose applause during pre-game introductions rivaled Rose’s was reigning league MVP Kevin Durant and in the intra-squad scrimmage’s initial moments, the crowd cheered when Rose simply touched the basketball for the Blue Team, matching up with Bulls head coach and USA Basketball assistant Tom Thibodeau’s White Team.
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Rose, who finished with eight points, one assist and four turnovers, did have some missteps on the defensive end, where his assignment was Central Division rival Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers’ All-Star point guard, and he picked up two first-quarter fouls. After sitting for the final five minutes of the period—both teams made wholesale substitutions at the 5:00 mark of each stanza—Rose returned for the second frame, mixing in some solid, if lower-profile plays, with some miscues, as his own coach schemed against him defensively while he shared point-guard duties with Warriors star Stephen Curry.
Rose’s team trailed at halftime, following a Damian Lillard three-quarter-court buzzer-beater to give the ever-intense Thibodeau’s squad a 60-43 advantage at the intermission and the Chicago native didn’t start the second half—but don’t be worried, it only appeared as if White Team head coach Monty Williams of the Pelicans wanted to shake things up for his struggling squad. When the Chicago native did return to the floor, he helped the Blue Team trim the deficit to single digits, but a turnover on what would have been the third quarter’s final possession led to a layup on the other end and an 81-71 White Team lead heading into the final stanza.
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Rose started the fourth quarter and committed two more turnovers immediately, but that was quickly irrelevant, as George crashed into a basket stanchion early in the period and the Indiana superstar’s right leg buckled, halting the game as a stretcher came on to the court to cart him off to a local hospital for treatment.