It has taken two-plus seasons, but the long-awaited first matchup between Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving finally takes place tonight on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 6:30 with Bulls Pregame Live, hosted by Mark Schanowski and Will Perdue. Also, stay tuned in for Bulls Postgame Live following the final buzzer at the United Center.
When the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Lottery in 2011, they really only had one pick. Though point guard Kyrie Irving had only played 11 games for Duke during his freshman season -- a right toe injury sidelined him for much of the year -- the McDonald's All-American averaged 17.5 points, 4.3 assists and shot better than 53 percent from the field. Irving exploded for 28 points in the Blue Devils' Sweet 16 loss to Arizona, eventual No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams' coming-out party (he had 32 points and 13 rebounds in the Wildcats' upset win over top-ranked Duke).
So even though he had missed time, the Cavaliers, which had won just 19 games after LeBron James' departure, had no find their future point guard and selected Irving.
It added another stellar, young point guard to the Central Division as Irving joined Chicago's Derrick Rose and Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings.
But in his eventual Rookie of the Year campaign, Irving faced a Rose-less Bulls team on two occasions -- on Jan. 20, Rose missed with a big-toe strain; on Apr. 26, the top-seeded Bulls rested their starters -- and in the third meeting between the two teams, Irving was fighting a flu bug and missed the game. Rose missed all of last season recovering from ACL surgery, while Irving exploded for 22.5 points and 5.9 assists per game and his first of many All-Star appearances.
But now the two are healthy, rested and ready to battle each other as two of the top point guards in the NBA.
They're also struggling.
Through seven games Irving has shot just 39 percent from the field, though his assists (8.0) and rebounds (5.0) are both career-highs in the early going. Rose has struggled out of the gate, too, averaging 14.4 points on 32 percent shooting and five turnovers per game.
Still, the two also enter tonight's game riding some momentum. In Saturday night's win over the Sixers, Irving went for 39 points and 12 assists. Rose was efficient in the Bulls' blowout win over the Jazz, scoring 12 points and handing out five assists.
It should make for an impressive matchup that has been more than two years in the making. Both teams are searching for a win -- Cleveland sits at 3-4, just percentage points better than the 2-3 Bulls -- to get back to .500, and tonight's winner likely will be the point guard who amasses better stats. These two have been waiting for this battle as much as the fans, and it will be a star-studded battle between two division foes.
It's all happening tonight on Comcast SportsNet. Stay with CSN all night, follow @CSNBullsInsider and @BullsTalkCSN for updates and analysis during and after the game and join the conversation by checking out Bulls Pulse.