CLEVELAND — LeBron James slung some serious man-to-man defense at Derrick Rose during the 2011 playoffs, leading the Miami Heat past the Bulls. Iman Shumpert, now a teammate of James’ with the Cleveland Cavaliers, has been deployed in a Rose-stopping role in the past as well.
Rose will be matched head-to-head with Cavs All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, of course, in the Eastern Conference playoff series that begins Monday night at Quicken Loans Arena. But he knows he’ll face swarming defenders and has to be able to handle whatever comes his way.
“In the NBA,” he saidpriorto Monday’s morning shoot-around, “you have to stop people with team defense. I know in the playoffs, they’re not going to let me get to the basket the way I want to. Just got to find ways around it and play smart.”
For the most part, though, Rose expects Irving to be tasked with defending him from the first quarter through the fourth. The Bulls are far more versatile offensively than they were in 2011, which would make it hard for Cavs coach David Blatt to switch James on to Rose even if he wanted to, plus Irving is — we mentioned this already — an All-Star. He’s supposed to be ready for this moment, right?
Rose calls the Bulls’ confidence level “very high,” which is great, but he’s also very high on the 23-year-old Irving, who started at point guard for Team USA at the FIBA World Cup in Spain last summer, when Rose was used in a reserve role.
“Just seeing how hard he works and for him to be so young and have so much on him [was impressive],” Rose said. “He prepares himself for every game, prepares himself for every moment. … As someone who’s a little bit older, you see how great players become great. You see the preparation. I was looking at it like, ‘He’s going to be in this league a long time and be one of the top players.’ “
In four games against the Bulls this season, Irving averaged 21.3 points and 6.5 assists. Rose averaged 22.7 points and 4.3 assists in three games against the Cavs.