Chicago selected point guard Derrick Rose with the first pick of the 2008 draft, and he has developed into one of the league’s most exciting players while transforming the Bulls into championship contenders.
Cleveland believes point guard Kyrie Irving, the No. 1 pick in last summer’s draft, is destined for similar success.
While Friday night’s meeting between the visiting Bulls and Cavaliers could showcase the reigning league MVP against the early favorite for Rookie of the Year, there’s a chance Rose could miss his third straight game with a nagging toe injury.
Rose has been sidelined for three of Chicago’s last five games because of the injury, suffered Jan. 10 at Minnesota. He was sorely missed in Monday’s 102-86 loss to Memphis, which snapped a five-game winning streak, but the Bulls (13-3) didn’t miss a beat without the two-time All-Star in Tuesday’s 118-97 win over Phoenix.
Carlos Boozer scored 26 of his season-high 31 points in the first half and C.J. Watson, Rose’s replacement, had 23 points and five assists. Chicago had six players reach double figures and finished with a season high in points while totaling 31 assists and just six turnovers.
“We’re a very unselfish team,” Boozer said. “We had a meeting earlier this season saying guys were too unselfish and passing up open shots. We know when we have 20-plus assists we’re moving the ball well and most games we have that.”
That’s usually because Rose is the one directing the offense.
Rose, averaging team highs of 20.8 points and 8.7 assists, finally got some time to rest as Chicago had back-to-back days off for the first time after playing an NBA-high 16 games in the first 24 days of the compressed season. Rose didn’t practice Thursday and is expected to be a game-time decision against the Cavaliers, whom the Bulls held to an average of 83.8 points while sweeping last season’s four-game series.
If he does go, it would set up an intriguing matchup with Irving.
After a forgettable debut against Toronto, Irving is showing why he was the first pick of the draft. The 19-year-old is averaging 21.8 points on 54.8 percent shooting and 5.2 assists in his last six games and has helped Cleveland to a surprising 6-7 start after going 19-63 a year ago.
“I love what I see with Kyrie and the guy has All-Star potential written all over him,” coach Byron Scott said. “Kyrie is getting better each day. He understands his role on this team and what he means to this team. He does understand that there are certain areas of his game he has to improve on. He’s taking those areas very seriously.”
Scott would like to see Irving improve his defense and cut down on his turnovers - two areas that could be exposed against the Bulls if the lightning-quick Rose can go.
Chicago’s defense is also very active. It’s allowing a league-low 85.8 points and has forced 20 turnovers in each of its last two games.
The Cavs, who are also coming off their first consecutive days off, had a season-worst 25 turnovers to 16 assists in Tuesday’s 105-95 loss to Golden State. Irving gave the ball away six times for Cleveland, which appeared sluggish in its first home game following a cross country seven-game road trip.
“We got to do a better job of taking care of the ball,” Scott said. “If we do that then we obviously have an opportunity to win games.”
Cavs guard Anthony Parker, who sat out Tuesday with back spasms, practiced Thursday and could start Friday.