Rose Getting Comfortable In Crunch Time
When the Bulls didn't land LeBron James and Dwyane Wade this summer, there were plenty of people who wondered if the team would be able to contend without a player who could close out games or hit a big shot when the Bulls needed it most. As I've been trying to tell people all summer, the Bulls already have that guy in place: His name is Derrick Rose. The 22-year-old All-Star point guard is getting better and better in those crucial situations at the end of games, as evidenced by his game-tying 3 with 1.6 seconds left in Friday's overtime loss to the Mavericks. Rose is playing with more confidence and swagger than at any other point in his young career. He wants to take and make those shots at the end of games. And that's an extremely good sign for Thibodeau and the Bulls, despite the fact that Rose missed another game-tying 3 late in overtime.
When asked if he was starting to feel even more confident in the pressure situations, he just smiled and nodded.
"Yeah," he said. "Especially just getting it all out of my system, like I said, if you leave me open, I'm shooting. No matter what. No matter how I'm dribbling, whatever, I'm shooting the ball. Just getting used to [late-game situations] you grow as a player, and I can feel myself growing."
Who's Heat's Biggest Competition In East?
Hollinger's Player Profiles: Brandon Jennings
BRANDON JENNINGS, PG
Projection: 19.9 pts, 4.1 reb, 6.9 ast per 40 min; 14.36 PER | Player card
• Quick left-hander with good ballhandling skills and solid short-range floater.
• Mediocre outside shooter who fails to punish opponents who play off him.
• Undersized defender who moves fairly well but struggles against big guards.
People talk about Jennings' shaky jumper, but a bigger problem might be his inability to finish at the rim. Jennings made only 39.7 percent of his attempts at the basket, which was the worst mark in the league for any player with at least 200 attempts. Going back to 2004, he's the first player to take more than 200 attempts at the basket and make less than 40 percent (the previous record holder was Ben Gordon, at 41.2 percent in 2004-05).
Worst Shooting Percentage At Basket: 2009-10
|*Min: 150 attempts in basket area|
Moreover, Jennings shot poorly everywhere inside the arc; despite a nice-looking floater, he made a ghastly 32.3 percent on 2s away from the rim. Overall, he made 37 percent of his 2-pointers; among players who played at least 1,000 minutes last season, only Rafer Alston was worse (see Daequan Cook comment).
In fact, 3-point shooting was the best thing he did offensively, making 37.4 percent of his high-arcing deliveries. His form was good enough to hit 81.7 percent from the stripe, so there's hope he can improve his other percentages in future seasons.
He also has to improve as a point guard. His pure point rating fell below the league average, and his forays to the rim were mostly to score rather than to assist. And, of course, he has to add strength. At only 169 pounds, he was a speed bump for power guards.
With all that said, very few rookie point guards play productively right away, and the fact that Jennings did so at the age of 20 offers a lot of promise for his NBA future.
Starting Lineup: Oct. 19
CENTRAL DIVISION CHAT SCHEDULE
Hollinger's Forecast: Cavaliers
One fine week in early May, everything seemed just peachy for the Cavs. LeBron James had just delivered a masterful performance in a 124-95 rout of Boston in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Cavs had a 2-1 lead and home-court advantage for the remainder of the postseason, and it seemed another showdown with Orlando was all that stood between them and the Finals.
Within a week, all hell broke loose. James gained a head start on free agency by checking out of the final three games, eventually leaving the team in about the most tactless way possible following the season. Both the coach and general manager were fired, the owner posted a crazed letter on the team's website that seemed to be written in crayon, and an entire city was left in shock.
Let's try to piece together where it went right, and then where it all went wrong.
2010-11 NBA Preview Pages
Fantasy Outlook: Pistons
Special to ESPN.com
Will Ben Gordon return to his past form?
For those of you without long memories, Ben Gordon was a top-50 player around this time last year. He had just signed a big contract with the Detroit Pistons and most of us thought he'd have no trouble putting up his usual 20 points, three assists and three rebounds. Most of us figured he'd be able to contribute, even in a crowded and confused Pistons backcourt, because he was a consistent player who didn't necessarily need to play huge minutes to have a big impact.
Then, Gordon hurt his ankle early last season and never really got going again (despite hanging on for 62 games) until April, when he lit up opposing defenses for 20 points and four assists on 46 percent shooting from the floor in seven games. That resurgence included a 39-point outburst against a Miami Heat team that finished fourth in defensive efficiency last season. It seems to go without saying that Gordon found his rhythm before the season came to an end.