NBA AM: Pacers Respond To Derrick Rose
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Pacers Respond to Derrick Rose’s Rivalry Comments
The return of former league MVP Derrick Rose to the court has been one of the preseason’s most talked about storylines. Rose sat out the entire 2012-13 campaign recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the opening round of the 2012 playoffs and has looked impressive during the preseason.
Prior to his injury, Rose had led the Chicago Bulls to the NBA’s best regular season record for two consecutive years. With Rose out of the lineup last season, the emerging Indiana Pacers captured the Central Division crown and pushed the eventual champion Miami HEAT to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Pacers have entered this season with legitimate title aspirations. But despite Indiana’s recent success, Rose recently refused to acknowledge Indiana as a true rival of the Bulls.
Rose’s comment caught the attention of Pacers starting point guard George Hill and the veteran still cannot understand how Rose didn’t come to the conclusion that the teams do have a budding rivalry.
“I don’t know how [Rose] can say we’re not rivals yet because we’ve been just as successful as they have been,” Hill told HOOPSWORLD. “But all I know right now is we’re the Central Division champions and for them, they have to come through us to get that. But if that’s what he believes, then that’s what he believes.”
Veteran forward Luis Scola, who joined the Pacers in free agency over the summer, had a different view of Rose’s comments. Scola believes the Pacers should serve notice on the court to erase any doubts on where the unit should be positioned among the league’s elite teams.
“I don’t see anything negative about it,” Scola said regarding Rose’s comments. “They asked him and he answered. We always demand honest answers from athletes and that was an honest answer. It doesn’t matter. We will try everything in our power to be the team to beat for everybody, but we got to prove that. Indiana was a great team last year and we want to be an even better team this year. It’s okay what [Rose] says. It’s okay what everybody says because we shouldn’t be looking at quotes from other teams.”
The last three Central Division crowns have been won by Chicago (2) and Indiana (1). The Bulls reached the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011 but were bounced in the first round in 2012 and eliminated in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2013. The Pacers were eliminated in the opening round of the 2011 playoffs, but reached the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2012. In 2013, the Pacers came within one win from their first Finals appearance since the 2000 campaign.
T’Wolves Exercise Contract Option On Derrick Williams
The Minnesota Timberwolves selected Derrick Williams with the second overall pick of the 2011 draft, but the forward’s career up until this point has been marred with disappointment.
From a numbers perspective, Williams has been productive with career averages of 10.5 points and 5.1 rebounds on 42 percent shooting from the floor. However, the decent stat line hasn’t translated into the meaningful impact Minnesota was hoping for in the win/loss column when they selected him in 2011.
As a result, Williams has often found his name on the league’s trade rumor circuit.
But inconsistencies and struggles aside, the Timberwolves opted to pick up Williams’ $6.3 million contract option for the 2014-15 campaign and the forward will not hit unrestricted free agency next summer.
Williams says Minnesota’s decision gives him a sense of confidence and security.
“I think everybody knows that if they didn’t pick up my option I would have been unrestricted (free agent) and, basically, could have done whatever,” Williams said according to the Associated Press after the team’s practice on Tuesday. “So it helps, the security. You’re guaranteed at least one more year in the NBA, you know? And, as long as you have that, I think everything is good.”
With forward Chase Budinger still recovering from a knee injury, Williams has a legitimate shot to earn a spot in the Timberwolves’ starting lineup on opening night. It is clear that becoming a full-time starter is a distinction the third-year forward would like to add to his mantle.
“I think I deserve to be,” Williams said about being in the starting lineup. “That’s why they drafted me here. They didn’t draft me to come off the bench, things like that. Ultimately, it’s up to Coach. I’m just here to play basketball.”
The Timberwolves finished last season 31-51 and missed the playoffs for the ninth consecutive campaign.
Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo Going Through Growing Pains
The Milwaukee Bucks will enter the season as one of the hardest teams to gauge. On one hand, the team added solid players such as Caron Butler, O.J. Mayo, Carlos Delfino, Zaza Pachulia, Brandon Knight, Luke Ridnour and Gary Neal. On the other hand, the team lost guys who accounted for a large amount of their production last season such as Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, J.J. Redick and Mike Dunleavy Jr.
According to Bucks head coach Larry Drew, the rookie has showed flashes of brilliance but he has also been going through the normal rookie growing pains during training camp.
“He has to learn the pace and the speed at this level,” Drew told Charles Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We’re still trying to work with him from the language side of it, making sure he understands our terminology. I can see at times he’s still lost out there, but that’s going to be part of it with an 18-year-old kid coming from a different country.
“He has definitely shown some flashes. But we just have to continue to work with him and hopefully he can get to the point where we can get him out there.”
The general consensus in Milwaukee is that Antetokounmpo represents the future for the Bucks. But for now the rookie is firmly behind veterans Butler and Delfino (injured) on the depth chart at small forward.
Antetokounmpo says his time is coming, but is also asking for fans to be patient with his developmental process during his rookie campaign.
“Our team is not built with stars,” Antetokounmpo said. “I think my role as a rookie is to play defense, first of all, and not make turnovers. Try to be that guy. Maybe after two years, I’ll be the guy that all the people want.”
The Bucks open the regular season versus the New York Knicks on the road October 30.