In a tumultuous, occasionally desolate season, few bright sports have existed for the Bulls. But in any criticism of the hapless young team (and their hapless young coach) so far this year, one caveat is always there: Derrick Rose. If you're going to criticize the Bulls, by all means, feel free. They deserve it. It's hard, though, to lay any criticism at the feet of their young No. 1 overall pick, who in his first year has played about as well as anyone could have imagine. The Bulls took a risk picking Rose in the draft, and he has vindicated them well.
Does that make him rookie of the year? It's a close race with O.J. Mayo, the Memphis Grizzlies guard averaging 19 points a game, not to mention the Heat's Micheal Beasley or the Clippers' Eric Gordon, who has been scoring like mad in recent weeks. Rose has a good case, even if it's not open-and-shut. Then again, if you listen to Vinny Del Negro tell it, Rose is the hands-down winner. Persuade us, Vin:
‘‘There’s not even a conversation as far as I’m concerned,’’ Del Negro said Monday before the Bulls’ 102-98 loss to the New York Knicks. ‘‘Mayo’s having a great year, and Beasley is an incredibly talented player and is playing well. But no one’s played at the level Derrick’s played from the start to this point. Not even close in my opinion.’’
Hmm. As good as the rookie has been, that's not exactly the most detailed, well-argued case. FanHouse's Brent Polakoff fills in the statistical blanks, pointing out a couple of advanced stats (ESPN writer John Hollinger's PER, for example) that prove that Mayo is having not only the better year, but the more efficient one, while European candidates like Marc Gasol and Rudy Fernandez are in the conversation, too. And even without the stats, there's an argument to be made that Rose's play hasn't lifted all Bulls' boats; sure, he's playing well, but isn't a point guard supposed to make his team better? Are the Bulls really better this year?
That's not to say that Rose isn't a strong candidate for the honor ... just that he's not a slam-dunk one, as Del Negro seems to think. At best, Del Negro just doesn't watch other rookies play. At worst, he's trying to suck up to Derrick for reasons that may or may not be entirely pure. (Like, for example, keeping his job.) Either way, the man needs to tone down the rhetoric a little bit. Supporting your player is fine; hyperbolizing him just makes you look silly.