Last week, the Chicago Bulls faced off against the Oklahoma City Thunder. For the first time in five years, Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose were on the floor at the same time. This was anomaly due to both players battling their fair share of injuries over the past few seasons. The anticipation wasn't as high as it should have been, and in the game neither Rose or Westbrook disappointed.
Rose finished the game by hitting several clutch shots, as Westbrook's Thunder took the loss. Westbrook was his usal self making big plays when it mattered most, but Rose out-clutched Westbrook this time around. This game mattered more for Rose's psyche due to him struggling in the early part of the season. The kid that the city of Chicago calls "Pooh" rose to the occasion, and for once he was back on top again. It has been a tumultuous ride for Rose over the past few seasons, and playing at a high level against Westbrook was something that he and the Chicago Bulls needed.
Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook will be linked forever. The 2008 NBA draft mates helped revolutionize the most important position in the game of basketball – the point guard position. Rose and Westbrook display the size, athleticism, and sheer killer instinct you want in a floor general. A lot has happened with Rose and Westbrook between the years; from multiple knee surgeries to MVP awards (Rose 2012, Westbrook ASG 2015), Rose and Westbrook have had quite the ride in their seven years in the NBA.
For Rose, the excitement is not quite what it once was. Since Rose's MVP season, he has battled injury after injury. Rose first tore his ACL in 2012; and from that point forward, he has battled some type of injury. With a majority of Rose's injuries occurring with his lower extremities, it has limited his explosiveness – a skill that made him a player fans adored.
After battling the injuries, Rose never transformed his game. Prior to the injuries, Rose showed flashes of becoming an improved knock-down shooter. Since becoming an injury-riddled player, Rose has not shot over .435. As Rose continues to battle with injuries, layups, floaters, and dunks are harder to come by.
With the pressure of delivering a title to his hometown of Chicago, it has become too much to bear on the 27-year olds back – let alone his knees. The Bulls are currently in the makeover stage as new head coach, Fred Hoiberg is making his mark on the team. Rose, previously played for Tom Thibodeau for six seasons. Under Thibs, Rose never really recaptured his magic after missing 103 games. Back then, the Bulls seemed to always be on the cusp of taking over the Eastern Conference, but they always fell short – arguably because of not having Rose in the lineup.
And yeah, a guy that goes by the name of LeBron James may have a thing or two to say about the Bulls playoffs mishaps.
The new-look Bulls have a new face of the team in Jimmy Butler. To the casual fan, Rose is still the face of the Bulls, but Butler has surpassed Rose with his play on the court. Rose is not the superstar player that once dominated point guards across the league. That title has shifted to his draft mate Russell Westbrook.
Now on to No. 0.
The engine of the Oklahoma City Thunder – Westbrook – has arguably become the most electrifying player in the NBA. When watching Westbrook, you can expect a montage of moments that make you ask yourself, “Did he really just do that?” Yes. That’s just Westbrook being Westbrook.
He hasn’t been named the Most Valuable Player in the NBA as of yet, but he’ll have his day soon enough. Unlike most MVP candidates, Westbrook shares the floor with another dominant superstar – Kevin Durant. Since coming into the NBA, the critics have bashed Westbrook for being himself. Westbrook doesn’t fit the mold of the John Stockton or Jason Kidd types who look to set up their teammates, but he is still among the league’s leaders in assists per game year in and year out.
Like Rose, Westbrook isn’t the best shooter, but he makes up for it in so many areas. Westbrook has the uncanny ability to get to the bucket at will and he has a pull-up jump shot that is deadly from mid-range. Despite having multiple knee surgeries, injuries have not put a damper on Westbrook’s explosiveness.
It seemed as if Rose and Westbrook switched roles in different stages of their career. Coming into the NBA, Westbrook didn’t have the same fanfare or notoriety as Rose. Westbrook was a popular player in his own right, but it took him longer to come into his own as a player. After being a defensive-minded player at UCLA, Westbrook has morphed into one of the best offensive players in the NBA. After seven years of being in the NBA, people are finally starting to appreciate Westbrook for who he is, instead of pointing out who he’s not.
Playing with a superstar such as Kevin Durant adds an additional spotlight, which means everything that is done will under the microscope. As the years have gone by, Westbrook has improved his play in one aspect or another.
The debate between Westbrook and Rose will be something that will always be discussed. No, it isn't what we thought the rivalry between both players would be, but it was damn sure fun to watch last night's game go down to the wire. Great players tend to bring the best out of each other, and Westbrook brought the best out of Rose. For one night --Rose was the king on the floor and that's perfectly fine. It's a shame that we haven't seen both Westbrook and Rose on the floor at the same time.
The changing of the guard may favor Westbrook, but Rose's performance last night made me believe that he can still be the player that we all want him to be. Five years is a long time to wait for anything, let's hope we do not have to wait that long for another battle between Rose and Westbrook.
Columbus, Ohio born. Ron is a first-ballot healthy hairline hall of famer. He spent the summer of ‘08 eating calamari pasta because of OJ Da Juiceman. He also loves to write about sports while listening to Sada Baby. Follow him on Twitter @Ron_Hamp