SALT LAKE CITY — Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has talked all season about how point guard Derrick Rose has improved on the defensive end, but Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum apparently doesn’t agree.
After the Blazers beat the Bulls, 109-103, Monday night, Batum was critical of Rose’s defense against Portland point guard Andre Miller, who had 27 points and 11 assists, when speaking with Portland writers.
“We know that Derrick Rose is a good offensive player,” Batum was quoted as saying in the Oregonian. “But you have to play defense, too. He can’t guard Dre. You gotta play defense. He can’t play defense, so that’s why we put Dre inside and try to attack him. He did a great job.”
Rose was asked about that comment following the Bulls’ practice session on Tuesday and laughed it off.
“Ah, man, he threw me under the bus, didn’t he?” Rose said with a smile. “No, everybody has their opinion. I know that I can play defense. It is what it is.”
When asked if the comment upset him, Rose said: “No, not at all. That’s his opinion. Everybody has their opinion.”
The story, though, took a strange turn Tuesday afternoon when Batum backed off his comment, essentially saying he was misquoted even though multiple reporters quoted him.
Batum, who is from France, wrote about the issue in a blog posting on a French website. OregonLive.com translated the blog:
“I would like to start this blog by saying that I never said, ‘Derrick Rose can’t play defense.’
What I said was Derrick Rose is a better offensive player than he is on defense. And, in a game like that, if we can get him to play defense, that can get him in trouble and be better for us, especially if we can get him in foul trouble. This is why Andre Miller attacked on offense so much, because Rose couldn’t foul him, and he couldn’t foul him because they needed him on the court. Players like him [Rose], the Kobe and LeBron type, They aren’t going to foul or take risks, except for at the end of the game, because they are too important to their team. And Derrick Rose, He got a quick foul at the start of the game on Andre Miller and that calmed him down quickly. So, he couldn’t put defensive pressure on Andre all the time because he didn’t want to be whistled for any more fouls. And us, that’s what we wanted, because if you take Derrick Rose out of the game, it’s obviously a better situation for us.
“So, that’s what I actually said. Derrick Rose, he’s a better offensive player than defensive player. And, Andre Miller was right to play aggressively against him and try to draw fouls. And, because Rose didn’t want to commit any fouls, is what contributed to Andre Miller’s big night statistically.
“But, I never said he can’t play defense, because if he wanted to defend, he could take the court away from you. And also … me. I played at the Hoop Summit against him, and when we played against the USA this summer… I can tell you he does indeed know how to defend. Trust me, I’ve seen him at work on the defensive end.”
Of course, only Batum knows for sure what he really meant to say, but there was no apparent ambiguity in his postgame comment.