Rose, possibly playing even better than expected after being selected No. 1 overall, leads the Bulls on Friday night as they face a Warriors team that may have uncovered a rookie gem in Morrow.
Rose’s play has not been shocking. After leading Memphis to the NCAA championship game in his lone college season, the prized rookie is averaging 18.3 points, a team-high 5.5 assists and 4.4 rebounds for Chicago (5-7).
First-year coach Vinny Del Negro insisted Rose wouldn’t be rushed, but the 20-year-old point guard has played more minutes than any other Bulls player while orchestrating the offense for a team trying to get back into contention in the Eastern Conference.
But Rose is coming off his worst game of the season, scoring six points while shooting 1-for-8 from the field with one assist in Chicago’s 116-74 loss to Portland on Wednesday night. It was the first time Rose has been held under 10 points.
Rose, though, has shown immense talent and is sure to have better days. Expectations for Morrow were never nearly as high.
Morrow, a shooting guard who went undrafted, has had back-to-back dazzling games with the Warriors (5-6) in his first two NBA starts. Morrow followed a 37-point starting debut in Golden State’s 121-103 win over the Los Angeles Clippers last Saturday with 25 more Tuesday night in a 111-106 victory in Portland.
Morrow was a solid player at Georgia Tech, leading the ACC in 3-point shooting as a senior and setting a school record for career free-throw percentage. But he didn’t draw much attention from the NBA, and he thinks his low profile has been an advantage.
“There’s not really any pressure, because none of the guys put pressure on me,” Morrow said. “They just tell me to play off of them, and just do what I do.”
“He’s the real deal, and we haven’t even learned how to play with him yet,” Nelson said. “I told the team that we’d better know where this guy is at all times. We’d better get him open, because he looks like the real deal.”
Morrow set the NBA record for points by an undrafted rookie making his first start, and is the first Warriors rookie with back-to-back 25-point games since Marc Jackson did it in December 2000.
Morrow will be matched up with Chicago’s Ben Gordon, another top Bulls draft pick (No. 3 overall in 2004). Gordon leads Chicago with 20.6 points per game, but was held to 11 on 4-for-12 shooting versus the Blazers.
Gordon has topped 20 points in each of his last three games against Golden State.
The Bulls could be short-handed at small forward, with Luol Deng nursing a groin injury. He missed Wednesday’s game after being hurt Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Lakers, and his status is day-to-day.
Deng is Chicago’s third-leading scorer, averaging 14.4 points.
Last season, these teams split two meetings and the Bulls ended an eight-game road losing streak versus the Warriors despite missing Gordon, Deng and Kirk Hinrich due to injury.