Tony Parker, Mo Williams and Devin Harris might be All-Stars, but none of them were better than Derrick Rose in the 2009 Skills Challenge. And honestly, Derrick made winning look pretty easy. (He never needed more than two attempts at any station in either round. Half the time, it takes me at least that many tries just to successfully dunk an Oreo in milk. They get mushy, break apart and…but I digress.)
In the first round, Rose zipped through the course in 33.3 seconds. That was 3.3 seconds faster than Harris, 4.2 seconds faster than Williams and — prepare to laugh, or at the very least giggle a little — 17.5 seconds ahead of former NBA Finals MVP Tony Parker. And that rather embarrassing 50.8-second finish made TP the proud owner of the two slowest times ever recorded in Skills Challenge history. (He slogged through the course in 45.5 seconds in 2003.) Duncan face!
Anyway. Rose’s second stroll through the course lasted 35.3 seconds — 4.4 ticks faster than Harris — and he put an exclamation point on the victory with a sick double-pump reverse jam. (Said Rose: “I always saw Dwyane Wade and them dunking like that at the end, so I said why not me?” Why not, indeed.) For the record, he’s the first rookie to ever win the contest. To which I must objectively say: Boo-yah, baby!
Bonus Quotage:Here’s what Rose had to say about the competition: “[Winning] means a lot. I’m a part of history with some of the greatest players in the league that have won this award. The bounce pass. I knew when I got those two in, the crowd got to me and I came up a little short on my jump shots. I was scared a little bit. But the bounce pass was the hardest thing.”
Regarding next year’s competition: “I really can’t wait. Of course the season isn’t over with, but next year — this summer, I’ll work harder, work on my weaknesses and just go hard throughout the whole summer.” But don’t let his jazzy flush at the end fool you; he has no intention of entering the Dunk Contest: “No, no, no. I told you I can jump high, but I’m not creative at all.”
As for the fate of his shiny new hardware: “I’ll give it to my mom. She will probably cry over it.”
In his Rookie Challenge preview, David Thorpe said: “If Rose didn’t have to fly in after his Thursday night game, I’d expect him to dominate much of the action with his dribble-attack game. Or his improved midrange game. Plus his acrobatic finishes at the rim. But since he plays so many minutes for the Bulls, and this game is essentially a back-to-back for him, there’s a chance he’ll chill and let his teammates do the fun stuff.”
Thorpe was right on the money. Rose played fewer minutes than any Rookie starter (20:34). He had a team-high 7 assists — and only Rodney Stuckey of the Sophomore team had more (with 9) – but scored only 4 points on 1-for-5 shooting. He never looked to force the action or assert himself on offense. (Defense isn’t played in the Rookie Challenge, unless by accident.) Most of the time, he was content to bring the ball up and pass it off as soon as he reached the three-point arc.
According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, Rose didn’t sleep overnight and got only three hours of sleep on his 6 a.m. flight. So sure, he was tired. But fellow rook Michael Beasley was in pretty much the same boat, having played (and played big) in the Heat’s Thursday night win over the Bulls in Chicago. Beasley, however, scored a Rookie team-high 29 on 11-for-22 shooting. In fact, only Kevin Durant of the Sophomore team put up more points (a rookie-sophomore record 46 on 17-for-25).
Of course, Thorpe predicted that too: “Beasley might be thrilled at the chance to show off his offensive game without being in D-Wade’s shadow. Although on the Heat he’s just another guy, he’s a very respected talent on this team.” That dude must have a time machine or something.
Overall, the Rookie Challenge is pretty meaningless, so I don’t want to make too much out of Rose’s performance. But the one thing that often worries me about Derrick is his “quiet leader” mentality. He doesn’t always have the hard edge/killer instinct that you typically see in the all-time greats. Despite the limited sleep and general lack of importance in the game, I would have liked to see him assert himself against his closest peers and rookie rivals like Beasley.
Bonus quotage:Here’s what Rose had to say about the game: “It was fun. The crowd got me into it even though I wasn’t really producing. Just being a part of it was amazing. I just want to have fun and watch how players react to certain things. Watch LeBron [James] — he’s my favorite player — and see how he acts toward fans and media. I never thought I’d be here. You think about playing in the NBA, but you never think about playing in the All-Star Game. For me to have this opportunity, it’s a blessing. Hopefully, one day I can be playing with the big boys.”