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Derrick Rose's performance vs. Trail Blazers was worth the wait

Holy jamoly, I saw Derrick Rose on Friday night!

I don’t mean Derrick Rose the human — I’ve seen him a lot; many of us have — I mean Derrick Rose the 2011 NBA most valuable player, the thrilling super-guard with crazy bursts and hops, the guy we thought we might have lost in the shuffle of knee surgeries, fallen hopes and T-shirt slogans.

But there he was, No. 1

in white, with 31 points, five assists, three rebounds and a steal in the Bulls’ 115-106 victory against the Portland Trail Blazers at the United Center. He made 14 of 24 shots, most of them on lightning-quick penetrations to the basket or hiccup-fast teardrops and floaters from six to eight feet.

There were even some pull-up jumpers — my favorite — from 10 to 12 feet away. Basketball 101: Elbow in, eye on the rim, follow through, swish.

You don’t get hurt on those. Rose’s jumpers look so fundamental and easy when they go in, but then you remember they only can come with the separation an elite player can get.

Thirty-one points in 311/2 minutes. We’ll take that any time.

Rose said afterward that the next game and the ones after that might not be like this one. There are always different strategies, he pointed out.

But no matter what, he added: ‘‘My confidence level is really high, like it’s always been. And my goals are still the same — stay healthy, keep stringing ’em out and win games.’’

Coach Tom Thibodeau refused to get too high, seeming matter-of-fact when he said of Rose, ‘‘He’s young.’’ Then again, ‘‘He’s young.’’

His point was that two knee surgeries won’t derail a man who is only 26, especially not one with fire in his belly. And that Rose still has lots of room for improvement, which is a thrilling thought.

‘‘He’s gotta feel it first,’’ Thibodeau said of Rose’s reacquaintance with the game. ‘‘He’s gotta go. That’s the big thing: He’s gotta go.’’

On Friday night, he went.

◆ IT WOULDN’T BE the giving season if there weren’t those who get.

Of course, we’re speaking of college football coaches, the getters who have been weighing down Santa’s bag with so much gold that Dasher and Blitzen have sports hernias, Rudolph’s nose looks like a blown fire hydrant and female Vixen has the muscles of a Soviet shot-putter.

You know about the Nick Sabans and Urban Meyers of the world, head coaches as oil barons. But how about their minions? How about the guys who wander around with clipboards, yelling at receivers and linebackers, intermittently bowing to praise their head coach’s pleated slacks, sometimes lying before him so that he may walk over a mud hole?

Yep, assistant coaches!

According to USA Today’s research, there are 116 college football assistants making more than $400,000 a year for their subservience.

There are 49 who make at least $550,000 a year. And there are five who make more than $1.3 million annually. Want their names? Chad Morris, Clemson; John Chavis, LSU; Cam Cameron, LSU; Kirby Smart, Alabama; and Bud Foster, Virginia Tech.

Can I be sick?

I don’t want to go all nostalgic on you, but back in the day — when I was

a callow lad of 21 in 1971 — our assistant coaches at Northwestern were paid like working humans, such that most of them had summer jobs selling insurance and the like. They lived in rented apartments or small houses. They didn’t have mansions. They didn’t have concubines. They knew nothing about hedge funds.

Seriously, how far do you think $1.3 million goes in Blacksburg, Virginia? Tuscaloosa, Alabama? Baton Rouge, Louisiana? Clemson, South Carolina?

Ah, Christmas for the whistle-tooters. Joyful and triumphant!

◆ LASTLY, I couldn’t call myself a Chicago sports scribe if I didn’t comment on the Bears and their ongoing soap opera.

This is what I see: a group of kids who started out playing tag at day camp and then, because the counselor went off to read a book on astrophysics and sip lemonade under a tree, devolved into a whiny mass of slap-fighters and weeping mommy-wanters.

Does that sound accurate?