SLAM 117: Derrick Rose

by March 04, 2008

By Jake Appleman

The words that were cut from my story are in regular font, updated opinions and notes are in italics.

Before I start with the essay’s extras, let me mention that I wrote it during and when I came down from a 102.6 fever. This was my “flu game” and I think it turned out well. When I started writing the piece, I wanted to pay respect to a few other guys before making my case for Rose:

We’re all well aware that this year’s bumper crop of diaper dandies is deep enough to put Huggies out of business. Before I make my case for the freshman of the year, I’d like to acknowledge a few other worthy nominees.

LA has found Love and that’s great; rumor has it K-Lo threw an outlet pass so sexy, it nailed Jessica Alba. At just over 19 (his age or his scoring average, take your pick), Jerryd Bayless is a phoenix rising in Tucson. Kyle Singler is so fundamentally sound, I’m pretty sure he sleeps in triple threat position. And the awe-inspiring Eric Gordon and Michael Beasley—the best college player to call Manhattan, any Manhattan, home since Chris Mullin—are arguably the two most singular dominant forces in college basketball.

There’s your respect right there. Not enough space, fellas. Sorry. Oh, and Kevin, next time those Oregonians give you hard time, just shoot some Birkenstocks filled with vegan sandwiches out of a t-shirt cannon into the student section…If you thought that was judgmental and/or rude, read Grant Wahl’s story on taunting in college basketball from this past week’s SI to get some real perspective.

Also, for added Rose-related perspective, check out Wahl’s piece on the dribble-drive motion (DDM) offense that Memphis utilizes. Rose is the key to a system–call it DDM-DR-CDR–that doesn’t give him a lot of statistical credit. This is part of why he’s so overlooked. Anyone who watched him against Tennessee–Memphis’ lone loss, and a game they really should have won–knows that he can take over when called upon and show that he’s the best player on the court.

–Antonio Anderson—his backcourt mate, not the absurdly annoying “star” of K-Ville…

I felt the desire to point out that the Antonio Anderson playing for Memphis isn’t the lunch-box that’s somehow made a career out of being corny as hell.

— The sold-out FedEx forum is rocking, as the Memphis Grizzly Cubs, arguably the NCAA‘s version of an NBA prep school, have captured hearts and lifted spirits in the City Of Blues like none before them.

Really, the Grizzlies should just move and get it over with. Memphis is Tiger town.

–Noting the eerie similarities between his team’s inauspicious start and drunk kids getting shut out in 10-cup beer pong, Gonzaga coach Mark Few calls a timeout and makes his team run a naked lap. Except that he doesn’t at all.

Man, if I had more words, I could’ve made this essay sooooo college. And I guess that would have been fitting.

–It’s worth noting that against Houston, his signature [redacted] moment was when he scored between all 5 defenders.

Buy some magazines to find out what that redacted word is. It means a lot. Seriously.

— That Rose “gets it” to this degree would most assuredly lead Dickie V to call him *special* (accent on the ESHUL).

I feel the need to point out that I missed Dick Vitale. I used to think he was overrated, but I couldn’t believe how heartwarming it was when he came back during the Duke/UNC game.


–Now you can say what you want about Memphis’ conference schedule being weaker than the Bush economy, but the relative ease of a soft in-conference slate is mitigated by the pressure that builds inherently from being the nation’s last undefeated team and their tough non-conference schedule. Moreover, in beating Georgetown, Arizona, USC, Cincinnati, and Connecticut, the Tigers are battle tested.

Um, I wrote the story when they were undefeated yet the story is still very relevant. This is why you should buy this magazine: to learn things–not just from my piece, but from Ben and Bon and Demarco and Cub as well. (Sidenote: Doesn’t Ben & Bon sound like a great sitcom? I’m sure Russ and Ryan will write the first episode in the comments.)

–True to form, Rose doesn’t think he’s the best frosh in the country. “There’s a lot of people better than me, but I’m not too far away,” he says. If he responded by saying, “Of course I think I’m the best, you’ve got to think you’re the best to be the best,” Memphis wouldn’t have been perfect for so long. And I wouldn’t have an argument.

This is funny because you don’t know my argument…

–“We’re very surprised we’re undefeated.”

Here, Rose admits that the Tigers were surprised they were undefeated. Mmm…Humble pie.

–Rose talked about watching Futurama, Family Guy, and The Boondocks.

To put it in “Toon”: He is the future, is a better baller than young Reezy (young Rosey?), and why people still slightly underestimate him is a Quagmire.

Related, there’s something very innocent and grounded about Rose. When I interviewed him two years ago for the big punk (SLAM 102), dude talked about still watching Nickelodeon. It’s something like that, and the fact that he never talks back to his coaches, that bode well for a future that will be spent under an even hotter magnifying glass.

–On the NBA:

“Just focused on right now.”

Generic, much? For what it’s worth, I truly believe that Rose will be a better pro than Beasley and Gordon. In his argument for Beasley, Bon noted that Gordon could become a lot like Gilbert Arenas in the future. I like that comparison. And we’ve heard the Beasley/Derrick Coleman comparisons. Personally, since we’re talking early 90’s I’d rather take a millionaire’s Kevin Johnson–or the offspring of J-Kidd and D-Wade for those looking to keep it modern–than the next DC or next Gilbert.

Rose is a two way player that, with the ball in his hands, changes everything. Plus, his weaknesses (free throw shooting, jumper, turnovers that have a lot to do with the riskiness of the DDM) can be improved, making him all the more dangerous when he gets to the next level. Beasley and Gordon will have to adjust to bigger, more physical guys trying to prevent them from getting their shots off while Rose and his speed and pg skill set are already ready for the league (see: “Paul, Chris” and “Williams, Deron”). Throw in the questions about Beasley’s attitude–he’s already shown he can look past an opponent…his team isn’t even ranked anymore–and it seems like a no-brainer.

I think of it this way: If the Knicks were able to land Rose and smart enough to get rid of Randolph, they could easily be a playoff team. Run Rose and Nate in the backcourt next to Lee, Balkman and JC–grab an enforcer and a 3 point specialist–and just GO. Phoenix-lite at MSG? It’ll never happen, but it’s fun to think about.

–Rose, on his teammates:

“We’re very close. All came from the same background. Coming here is like being back in Chicago.”

Memphis is the new Chicago. You heard it here first.

And Derrick Rose is the best freshman in all of the land. You probably heard that here first, too. Now go read about why.