Because of his stature as a first overall draft pick, Rookie of the Year, playoff wizard, MVP and starting point man on a team fighting to earn the league's best record two years running, Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose has played a healthy portion of his NBA career on national TV. As a result, his performance against the New York Knicks on ESPN during Monday night was a little shocking. Not the 32 points, seven assists and six rebounds; that's a Derrick Rose night for you. It was his ire, though, that surprised. Dude was ticked at the officials for a series of non-calls.
After the win, while pointing out that he "could [not] care less" about a potential fine from the NBA, Rose went off on the officials to the assembled media. From ESPN Chicago:
"I've gotta be the only superstar in the league that's going through what I'm going through right now," the reigning MVP said. "But I can't say too much about it. How many times did I shoot today?" Rose asked. "I'm the point guard."
Rose shot nine free throws in the win, making six, but the raw totals aren't important. As it is when you point to one team shooting more free throws as some sort of bias, you have to take things on a case-by-case basis. And Rose, more than usual, seemed to be getting hit and/or bumped by the Knicks on his way towards the rim.
Twice in the game he seemed to have earned a technical foul while complaining. One such rant, in the second quarter, saw Rose flailing his arms after a dueling non-call/call went against Chicago on back-to-back possessions. And during one play in the second half, Rose nearly was whistled for an eight-second violation as he kvetched about calls to one of the referees while bringing the ball up court. It's to the referees' credit that they let Rose vent, but it's to their discredit that they seemed to miss a whole heck of a lot in this game. On both sides, to be sure, but with quite a bit going against the Bulls.
For Bulls fans, the frustration with Rose's lack of free-throw attempts is nothing new; with the caveat that things aren't exactly in black and white terms when it comes to Rose's inability to get to the line as much as Dwyane Wade or Kevin Durant.
During his first two seasons, Rose averaged just 3 1/2 free-throw attempts per game, a shocking number for most scoring guards, but especially for someone like Rose that continually attacks the basket. Though he was the victim of some shoddy calls (especially in his rookie season), it wasn't as simple as referee disrespect. Derrick just didn't draw contact. He wasn't afraid of it, and he didn't so much shy away from it as he made the right elusive basketball play in order to finish in the lane.
"The right basketball play," in the NBA, isn't always "the right NBA play." Getting to the line in the pro game is a necessary art, and though you might not like it when players dash into opponents just to score a cheap pair of freebies at the line, that stuff wins games, if not the hearts of sports writers everywhere. And because Rose was more Rod Strickland than D-Wade, his free-throw attempts (and overall scoring efficiency) suffered.
That's changed over the last two years. Rose is taking more contact, accepting that he can't attempt to make every shot when a well-placed respite at the line will help, and he's knocked that attempts average up around 6 1/2 free throws a contest.
To miss out on make-up calls, as the reigning MVP in a nationally televised game between two major markets? That was a strange one. A few times on Monday night Rose drove to the rim to take in contact that he assumed would lead to a make-up call following a whistle or non-whistle gone wrong just seconds before, only to have the refs stay silent, and the anger just continued to build.
And, as a result, he'll likely be handing over a check to the NBA large enough to allow David Stern to buy a brand new Kia. Good thing he could care less.
(I keed. Please don't glare at me, Derrick.)
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