Derrick Rose is upset whenever he has to miss a game for the Chicago Bulls, especially so on Friday night when his team faced the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. That's because the Cavs have one of the most promising young point guards in the league in rookie Kyrie Irving.
The 6-foot-3 former Duke star has averaged 22 points in his last five games, including a 26-point outing against the Phoenix Suns and Steve Nash last Thursday. He is averaging 17.7 points and 5.2 assists while playing just over 28 minutes in 13 games this season.
Irving sat out the majority of his lone season at Duke because of a serious foot injury. Yet, after working hard during the prolonged offseason, he hasn't missed a beat and has shot much better than many followers expected -- 48.6 from the field and 38.2 percent from three-point range.
The reigning league MVP -- who missed his third straight game on Friday -- had nothing but praise for the 19-year-old whom plenty of NBA followers believe is a frontrunner for this year's Rookie of the Year award. Although, it's hard to believe Irving weighs more than Rose, listed at 191 and 190 pounds, respectively,
"Somebody that I would love to play tonight," Rose told reporters Friday morning when asked about Irving. "He's a great player. Even at a young age, you could tell that he knows a lot about the game. A skilled player. [Cavs coach] Byron [Scott] is letting him do a great job of playing through his mistakes. And I know he won't do nothing but get better."
Given the way the Cavs lost LeBron James in the summer of 2010, it's easy to root for Irving to succeed in Cleveland. With Rose out, C.J. Watson started at point guard and will spend a lot of time matched up against Irving. John Lucas III will back up Watson.
Boozer, Noah finding groove: Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau will tell you otherwise, but starting big men Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah have truly played well together in only a handful of games this season. Both had arguably their best collective performance in Tuesday night's 118-97 drubbing of the Suns, combining for 44 points, 18 rebounds and a plus-minus of plus-48.
Boozer finished with a game- and season-high 31 points on 14-for-21 shooting. He knocked down eight mid-range jumpers and had a key second-quarter stretch that essentially put the game away. The Bulls led 49-41 with just over five and a half minutes left in the stanza and they received 12 points from Boozer to finish the first half on an 18-6 run. The 6-foot-9 power forward credited his teammates for finding and looking for him -- but his best night of the campaign came at a crucial time for the Rose-less Bulls.
Meanwhile, Noah collected his third double-double of the season with 13 points and 12 rebounds. He exhibited the type of energy that Bulls fans expect to see night in and night out. At this point a season ago, Noah had piled up 11 double-doubles. The 6-foot-11 center knows he has lots of room for improvement, and it's a safe bet that he will continue to work hard in hopes of getting back on track.
Plus, even if he and Boozer struggle, you won't hear a peep out of Thibodeau's mouth.
"I think that they played well," the reigning Coach of the Year told the assembled media after Tuesday night's game. "They played high energy, the ball moved freely, they were playmaking. Jo made a lot of good plays with the ball. They're fine, they're fine.
"I thought Joakim was great to start the game. Very active, going after every ball, hustling. Knocked down a couple shots."
Rose passes LeBron: In the second returns of 2012 All-Star game balloting, Rose ranked third among all players and first among Eastern Conference guards with 1,040,210 votes. He was one of three stars who received over 1 million votes, behind Dwight Howard's 1,161,797 and Kobe Bryant's 1,110,379. In the process, Rose passed up Miami Heat star LeBron James, who has just under a million votes.
Noah is second among East centers, although he is far behind Howard. Luol Deng will not win the fan voting but remains the Bulls' best candidate to join Rose February in Orlando.
While fans can still cast their votes through Jan. 31, the starting lineups appear set. For the East, Rose, Howard, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony are set to start, with Bryant, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Andrew Bynum for the Western Conference. It would be Rose's third straight All-Star berth, second as a starter.
You can check out the full ballot below.
Forwards: LeBron James (Mia) 972,580; Carmelo Anthony (NYK) 779,945; Amar'e Stoudemire (NYK) 281,617; Kevin Garnett (Bos) 268,980; Chris Bosh (Mia) 209,640; Luol Deng (Chi) 166,671; Paul Pierce (Bos) 145,077; Carlos Boozer (Chi) 101,612; Andrea Bargnani (Tor) 93,456; Hedo Turkoglu (Orl) 80,694.
Guards: Derrick Rose (Chi) 1,040,210; Dwyane Wade (Mia) 972,015; Rajon Rondo (Bos) 394,672; Ray Allen (Bos) 274,233; Deron Williams (NJN) 143,941; Jose Calderon (Tor) 84,881; Richard Hamilton (Chi) 64,757; John Wall (Was) 61,160; Kyrie Irving (Cle) 53,300; Joe Johnson (Atl) 40,718.
Centers: Dwight Howard (Orl) 1,161,797; Joakim Noah (Chi) 141,683; Tyson Chandler (NYK) 107,735; Joel Anthony (Mia) 67,210; JaVale McGee (Was) 41,249; Al Horford (Atl) 35,860.
Forwards: Kevin Durant (OKC) 973,152; Blake Griffin (LAC) 619,913; Dirk Nowitzki (Dal) 354,434; Pau Gasol (LAL) 327,596; Kevin Love (Min) 232,656; LaMarcus Aldridge (Por) 188,829; Tim Duncan (SA) 133,575; Lamar Odom (Dal) 96,080; Metta World Peace (LAL) 63,055; Danilo Gallinari (Den) 59,646.
Guards: Kobe Bryant (LAL) 1,110,379; Chris Paul (LAC) 835,026; Ricky Rubio (Min) 248,423; Steve Nash (Pho) 188,537; Russell Westbrook (OKC) 167,996; Kyle Lowry (Hou) 132,972; Monta Ellis (GS) 105,926; Manu Ginobili (SA) 79,821; Jason Kidd (Dal) 79,783; Chauncey Billups (LAC) 73,429.
Centers: Andrew Bynum (LAL) 777,365; DeAndre Jordan (LAC) 214,883; Marc Gasol (Mem) 182,992; Nenê (Den) 144,066; Marcin Gortat (Pho) 92,511; Kendrick Perkins (OKC) 66,380.
The Friendly Confines: At 6-0, the Bulls are one of three teams that currently boast an undefeated record at home. The others two, the San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers, can't say they have stifled opponents on their home court like the Bulls, though.
Before Tuesday night, the Bulls hadn't allowed over 75 points at the United Center. After Friday night's game in Cleveland, Thibodeau's bunch will get a chance to do some home cooking, playing their next four contests in Chicago.
Bulls players, as most around the league, love the atmosphere their home arena provides. However, they know the importance of taking care of business. The Bulls lost only five home games last season and are hoping for similar, if not better success this year.
"I think in order to be successful, you've got to always take care of home," veteran shooting guard Rip Hamilton told reporters Tuesday. "So when somebody comes in your house that's unwanted, you've got to take care of business. And I think the fans do a great job of really chearing, getting loud and giving us an advantage out there."