Derrick Rose has so much energy stored in his spindly, 6-foot-3 body that he appears to be bouncing around on pogo sticks. At least that's what he must've been wearing the other night when he tracked down Andre Miller on a fast break, took off from the bottom of the circle and swatted the unsuspecting point guard's layup attempt into the first row.
Greg Oden mopes. Not on purpose, and not with any statement about his attitude, intensity or ability. He just mopes. Some call him Eeyore, the sad-sack Winnie the Pooh character, and in truth he carries himself with a hangdog look of someone who is trying to get somewhere but realizes he's late, so very, very late, and will never make it on time.
|Derrick Rose's worst game, coincidentally, came during a Nov. 19 loss to Greg Oden's Blazers. (Getty Images)|
When Oden missed his entire rookie season after microfracture surgery on his right knee, Rose was busy leading Memphis to the NCAA title game. Months later, Rose is still in the lead, starting all 18 games for the Chicago Bulls while Oden registered career start No. 6 Tuesday night against the Knicks. With two points on 1-for-5 shooting, Oden had the lowest-scoring debut for a No. 1 pick at Madison Square Garden since Jimmy Walker in 1967.
Rose isn't just starting and playing, he is playing historically well for a rookie guard. He hit double figures in his first 10 games, the first Bulls rookie to do that since you-know-who. If Rose keeps it up, he could become only the fifth rookie to make the All-Star team since 1993. The others are Shaq, Grant Hill, Tim Duncan and Yao Ming.
The other guy had to endure the Oden-or-Kevin Durant debate, then his lost rookie season, and then his ankle injury in the season opener. He has been saddled with unfair -- absurd, really -- comparisons to Bill Russell, and he is viewed through a prism in which Rose is shining like no other rookie has in years.
It's not fair, but it's accurate. Rose, for the most part, has arrived. Guards of his talent and pedigree come already assembled, ready to make an immediate impact. Guards don't need instructions. Big men do, but the game doesn't come with them.
"I'd rather be winning than dominating," Oden said Tuesday. "I don't need to dominate."
That's good, because it will be a long time before he does. Fortunately for Oden, he has landed on a team coached by Nate McMillan, who understands the growth curve Oden faces and doesn't need to rush him. There's no hurry because McMillan works for Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard, who has few peers when you look at the youth and diversity of talent he has assembled. Portland, the second-youngest team in the NBA, has run out to a 13-6 start; the Blazers were 7-12 at this point last season.
"He's nowhere near where he's going to be," Pritchard said of Oden. "First of all, bigs take a little longer to develop. What we do like is, he works his tail off. He does everything we've asked. Most guys who go through microfracture, it takes 18 months. We're looking at 13 or 14 months right now. So we think his ceiling is super high, and he's going to get better and better."
Through 18 games, Rose is averaging 18.7 points, 5.8 assists, and 2.9 turnovers -- a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio that is still too low, if you ask Rose. Hand him a box score after a game, and the first column he looks at is the one that says TO. The Bulls (8-10) still have a long way to go, but they're pointed the right way with Rose's steady, mature floor leadership and occasionally spectacular play.
"I can't believe I'm playing these minutes that I'm playing right now," said Rose, logging 38.1 per game.
You have to dig deeper to find Oden's impact. Stalled by a six-game layoff with the ankle injury, Oden is averaging 7.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 21.2 minutes. Though it was hardly the case Tuesday night, his defensive presence has been profound at times. Portland has allowed 90.1 points in the 13 games with Oden, and 100 in the six without him.