Beyond the Arc: Is Rose MVP at quarter pole?

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Beyond the Arc: Is Rose MVP at quarter pole?

Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010
10:58 PM

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

With most NBA teams about a quarter of a way through their schedules, its become apparent Derrick Rose wasnt kidding when he asked reporters on media day, Why cant I be the best player in the league?

Derrick ranks among the league leaders in both scoring and assists, almost single-handedly carrying the Bulls to first place in the Central Division.

How would you rank Derrick among the leagues M.V.P. candidates? Are you surprised at how quickly hes advanced to the superstar level? Do the Bulls even need another All-Star caliber player to contend for the Eastern Conference championship? Please post your comments in the section below.

Even after taking off my Rose-colored glasses, and putting aside the fact I get the chance to watch every second of his games, I find it impossible not to put Derrick among my top M.V.P. choices after the opening 20-25 games. With Kobe Bryant not putting up his customary numbers for the Lakers, and LeBron James sacrificing some of his offense by playing with the new Big 3 in Miami, the race for M.V.P. could be more wide open than its been in years.

Oklahoma Citys Kevin Durant was supposed to emerge as an M.V.P. candidate this season, but he got off to a slow start with the Thunder. Yes, Durant is leading the league in scoring, but hes shooting a poor percentage from the field, and Oklahoma City hasnt taken the step a lot of the experts predicted in terms of being the Lakers top challenger in the West. Matter of fact, you could make the argument that Durant isnt even the best player on his own team, with Russell Westbrook having a bigger impact on both ends of the court.

Right now, my top M.V.P. candidates would be Derrick, Amare Stoudemire, Dwight Howard and Dirk Nowitzki. San Antonio has the best record in the NBA, but no clear-cut number one star. Tim Duncan has slowed down with age, and even though Manu Ginobili is back to All-Star form, hes hardly an M.V.P. candidate. Similar story with the best team in the East. Boston has a share-the-wealth offense, and youd probably have to say NBA assists leader Rajon Rondo is their most valuable player at this point.

Nowitzki has led the Mavericks to the NBAS longest winning streak this season, and he shows no signs of slowing down. Hes right behind Rose in the league scoring race, and always seems to have the ball in his hands with the game on the line.

Similarly, Howard has been able to keep Orlando near the top of the East despite the fact a lot of the teams perimeter shooters are off to slow starts. Howard has increased his scoring average, while still playing game-changing defense. The Magic lead the league in fewest points allowed, and Howard is the single biggest reason, with his ability to block and alter shots.

Stoudemire has been a revelation for the Knicks, who were criticized around the league for giving a five-year, 100 million contract to a player with bad knees and a sometimes questionable attitude. Stoudemire just established a Knicks franchise record by scoring 30 points or more in eight straight games - all Knicks wins. New York looks like a lock for the playoffs, and if theyre able to work out a trade with Denver for Carmelo Anthony, watch out.

But after saying all that, my M.V.P. vote at the quarter pole would go to Rose. Not only has he dramatically improved his outside shooting and scoring, hes also done a much better job of directing the teams offense. Rose is averaging eight assists a game, even without having low post threat Carlos Boozer in the lineup for the first 15 games.

When Derrick goes to the bench for a few minutes of rest, the difference in the teams offense is obvious. The Bulls have trouble getting into their sets, and run the shot clock down to the final seconds looking for an open shooter. And, when Rose returns, the defense immediately has to alter its approach, trying to keep him from getting into the paint where he can do the most damage.

Having Rose on the court makes everyone in the Bulls line-up more dangerous, especially Kyle Korver. Hes been a huge factor in the fourth quarter of recent games, getting open shots because of all the defensive attention on Rose, and to a lesser extent, Boozer. The Bulls schedule for the rest of the month is filled with teams that have losing records. It will be interesting to see what kind of record theyll be able to carry into the New Year.

Carmelo's Power Play

In case you missed it, Carmelo Anthony played at Madison Square Garden Sunday afternoon, scoring 31 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in a 129-125 loss to the Knicks. The fans at MSG gave Melo a standing ovation when he was introduced before the game, letting him know how much theyd love to see him in a Knicks uniform. And, Knicks fans might get their wish sooner than they expected.

Carmelo and his representatives basically told Denver management that hell only sign a contract extension if hes traded to the Knicks. Forget about staying in Denver, or going to the Bulls, Nets, Magic or Rockets. Anthony and his celebrity wife only want to play on the biggest stage in New York, and if Nuggets management cant work out a deal, Melo will just play out his contract and go to the Knicks as a free agent this summer.

Denver General Manager Masai Ujiri thought he could always turn back to a proposed trade with New Jersey for rookie Derrick Favors, two first-round draft picks, and Troy Murphys expiring contract if he couldnt find a better deal elsewhere. Or even consider a Bulls package of Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, James Johnson and a first rounder.

Now, it looks like the Knicks or bust. And, after working in Toronto where that franchise was held hostage by Chris Boshs upcoming free agency, Ujiri knows he cant let Anthony walk away for nothing in the summer. So, look for the Nuggets to eventually accept a Knicks package that includes Eddy Currys expiring contract, Danilo Gallinari, possibly Wilson Chandler or Anthony Randolph and a first-round draft pick the Knicks would need to acquire from a third team.

That type of deal would create another contending team in the East, with Carmelo giving the Knicks a big-time scorer to go along with Stoudemire and much-improved point guard Raymond Felton. All of a sudden, the balance of power in the NBA is shifting East, with a revitalized Knicks team possibly joining the Celtics, Heat, Magic, Bulls and Hawks as potential 50-win teams.

At this point, would you even want to see the Bulls make another bid for Anthony? Or, do you think this Bulls team as currently constructed can compete with the Easts elite teams in the playoffs THIS season?

Should the Bulls consider making a slightly smaller deal to add a scoring threat at the shooting guard position like Jason Richardson, Richard Hamilton or O.J. Mayo?

As always, we appreciate your input. Please post your comments in the section below. It should be a lot of fun this December as we get ready to gift-wrap holiday presents while the Bulls prepare to gift-wrap victories against a very favorable schedule the rest of the month. Enjoy the hoops!

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNet Central, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10 p.m.

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

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AP

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

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Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

It was a gift and the Bulls weren't going to look it in the mouth as Dwyane Wade was poised to finish off another one of his sterling defensive plays with a breakaway dunk with the game tied and Arron Afflalo and DeMarcus Cousins trailing.

Lightly touched by the small of his back by Cousins, Wade miscalculated his liftoff and missed the dunk but was bailed out by the refs for a foul with 14 seconds left.

Then, he bailed the Bulls out.

Wade had his fifth fourth-quarter defensive play, stripping Cousins on a steal on the ensuing possession with the Sacramento Kings having a chance to win, leading to a Michael Carter-Williams dunk and finishing a 102-99 win Saturday night at the United Center.

It was a clock-turning performance for Wade on both ends of the floor, even if his missed dunk is a reminder that he is 35 years old. 

"I took off too far as I look at the instant replay," Wade said. "I should've took maybe one more dribble. Can't say I felt 35, I just took off too far (laughs). But hey, sometimes you get calls, sometimes you don't. I'm a person who hasn't gotten a lot all year so I'm not gonna apologize for nothing."

Stripping Cousins on his spin move was the finale, but he swatted an Arron Afflalo corner triple in the fourth, smothered Ty Lawson at the rim twice for blocked shots to end the third and tortured Lawson again in the fourth for another steal that led to him following up a Jimmy Butler missed layup with a follow and foul.

"Just a read," said Wade on stripping Cousins. "We knew he was gonna go to DeMarcus at that point. Once we forced him left, I knew he had to come back to the right hand. And being in the right place at the right time, the ball was right there for me."

Wade played like a desperate and motivated man, putting up 30 with six rebounds and four assists on the second night of a back-to-back is proof positive he took Friday's loss to Atlanta personally and used his play to back up those feelings.

He took to twitter to apologize for the poor effort against the Hawks, producing his best all-around performance as a Bull.

"We've been good in desperate moments," Wade said. "We haven't been good in non-desperate moments, when we win three in a row or playing a team that we should beat. But (in) the desperate moments I like us."

He scored 13 in the fourth, along with the last of his four blocked shots and all three of his steals took place in the final 12.

"I thought he was terrific," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He was aggressive all game long, taking the ball to the basket, getting to the line 15 times. He came up with two big plays."

Hoiberg threw out different lineups and rotations, playing Paul Zipser as a sixth man and having the second-round draft pick close the game. Zipser took advantage, hitting three triples and scoring 13 points.

"I thought it was night and day from last night," Hoiberg said. "Our energy was really good all night long. We got just enough stops to find a way to win."

Cousins dominated the game with 42 and 14 rebounds in 35 minutes, the only Kings player in double figures all night.

"He was pretty much unguardable for the majority of the game, Taj did a solid job on him," Hoiberg said. "When Robin was on him, they put him on the perimeter and let him shoot threes. He's a monster."

Back-to-back triples from Cousins gave him 40 and tied the game at 97, as a third one rimmed out with a little under two minutes left.

Cousins dominated the start of the third quarter, hitting midrange jumpers over Lopez and taunting the Bulls bench after hitting a jumper to put the Kings ahead, 70-63 midway through the third.

But the Bulls stayed close, with Hoiberg choosing to sit Rajon Rondo for the second half after playing him six minutes in the second quarter, using Wade as a point guard and going with Carter-Williams for defense, along with Zipser, who didn't look scared of the moment.

"I like the wrinkle coach put in there, putting him in early," Wade said. "He gave him an opportunity and he helped us big time."

Butler scored 23 with seven assists and five rebounds in 39 minutes, didn't have to play the hero for once and made fun of Wade's apology tweet.

"He was due for a big night," Butler said. "He can tweet again if he can come out again and give us 30 and some big steals and big dunks."

"I think that's what called of him, to score baskets and guard. It's kinda sneaky. You never really expect it until it happens."

It looked like the worst was over when the Bulls made a short run to end the third, surviving the onslaught from Cousins — and surviving their own experimenting with Zipser instead of going with Denzel Valentine, switching things up altogether.

But the tone was set by the leaders, who can only manufacture but so much urgency on a nightly basis.

"I like this team when we're desperate," Wade said. "A desperate team, we're not bad."