BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)
All the hype went to prized point guard Jalen Brunson after signing with the Knicks as a free agent this offseason. It shouldn’t be surprising he received the loudest ovation of all Knicks in the home opener Friday night.
Meanwhile, Derrick Rose went through the offseason unnoticed. There was not much reaction for him when he was introduced and when he entered the game. Talk about him being yesterday’s news.
Rose is secure to not get worked up about the lack of attention. At his age, he understands that it’s about winning now. He wants to lead the Knicks back to prominence and keep playing as long as his body allows him to as a 34-year-old backup point guard.
The Detroit Pistons and Knicks traded shots for most of the first quarter, but when Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau inserted Rose in the game with 1:41 to go in that quarter, the Knicks finished the quarter on a 10-2 run. From there, the Knicks went on to a 130-106 victory over the Detroit Pistons at Madison Square Garden.
For all the talk about Brunson being the guy, it’s Rose that makes the Knicks offense go. When the Knicks need a shot and a bucket, it’s Rose that gets it done. When the Knicks need a spark, it’s Rose. We saw this two seasons ago.
It was Rose that made all the difference in the Knicks’ second game of the season. Not only did his presence put the Pistons away, but he helped six Knicks players score in double figures. The Knicks dished out 15 assists in the first half with him on the floor.
Maybe Brunson does the same thing, but there’s no denying what a valuable secret weapon Rose is.
The Knicks struggled last season when Rose was on the injured list. They never recovered from it, which explained why they missed the playoffs and why their offense was stagnant. If he can be healthy all season, they can be a force in the Eastern Conference.
He certainly showed how valuable he can be in this game by having so much to offer. He worked hard to be in the best shape of his life this offseason. One can tell by his physique and his movement. He may be even better than he was when he entered the league by being better a 3-point shooter. He shot three 3-pointers on a 13-point performance.
There’s a reason Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau trusts him. He knows Rose will give everything he got. He knows he can get a contribution out of his backup point guard.
Rose knows how to lead with his basketball intelligence. He has such a good feel for the game. He knows how to set up plays and make shots when the situation calls for it. That can be a hard balance for a point guard. This is what makes Rose so good at what he does.
He gave the Knicks 16 productive minutes. It’s a win for him and the Knicks. It was easy to do when the Pistons basically rolled over for most of the game. It will be interesting how the Knicks will use him against elite teams. He’s going to be just fine if he plays 16 to 25 minutes. It remains to be seen if he plays 25 or 30 minutes.
There’s a reason the Knicks signed Brunson. It wasn’t just to be a point guard. It wasn’t just for his scoring. It’s to make sure Rose does not get overused in a basketball game.
Thibodeau overused Rose a couple of years ago out of necessity since he was their best player. With so many playmakers on the team, the Knicks head coach has options now. This could help Rose.
If the Knicks are going to be a playoff team, it will be because of their backup point guard. He is the type of security blanket the Knicks need. With young players, they are going to be inconsistent. They will vow and frustrate. This is where a sage is needed. Rose provides plenty of that and then some.
When the Knicks couldn’t quite put the Pistons away early on, it was Rose that put the Pistons in their place with his playmaking ability and his shot ability. The type of difference maker the Knicks need to play with the elite Eastern Conference teams. He’s a given as long as he is healthy. It’s rare he has bad shooting nights.
The Knicks and everyone can go talk about Brunson’s impact on the team, and there’s no question he will.
But the Knicks will go only as far as Rose takes them.
This writer can be reached on Twitter at: @LeslieMonteiro6
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