LeBron James and the newly revamped Cleveland Cavaliers took on the streaking and newly reinforced Chicago Bulls, as James became the latest witness that Derrick Rose is back. Rose gave his fans his best performance since returning to play along basketball’s elite, where he looked quick, explosive, sharp, and comfortable. The game took place at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio, home to the Ohio State Buckeyes. The intent was for the somewhat declarative preseason game to be played at a “neutral” site, but the game ended up being much more of a home game for King James and the Cavaliers.
The Bulls started off slow, as they were reticent in defensive reaction, and made the Cavs Forward, Anderson Varejao, look like an all-star. James was not overly aggressive, but looked very quick and in control of his old-but-new team. He caused multiple Bulls turnovers, and ignited the Cavs’ offense.
James’ Cavaliers did not work very cohesively as an offensive unit, other than fast break points. Much of the scoring came from one-on-one play, which is not a formula for lasting success in the Eastern Conference. A lift also came from Varejao, who scored 14 points in the first half of the game. The Cavs were smart to get out into the open floor and looked more athletic than the Bulls- all except for Rose. The Bulls’ former MVP got off to a great start, and accelerated his impressive play into the second half of the game until Coach Tom Thibodeau took him out of the game for a long stretch.
Rose exploded for 30 points in a series of thrusts toward the rim in traffic, constant blurs past Cavaliers Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving, and well balanced three-point shots. Most importantly, he was a huge factor on defense as he locked down Point Guard Irving for most of the time he played. The two played as teammates on this summer’s Team USA Gold winning team, where Rose first started turning heads because of his improved defense.
James had just been cited in an interview, telling the public that he believes the Bulls are a better team than the Cavaliers right now due to their chemistry on the court. James did witness moments of the old speed, strength, and acrobatics that is living back inside the body of a seemingly healthy Rose. The Cavs’ new “Big Three,” of James, Irving, and Kevin Love, started together in preseason action for the first time. “The Chosen One” understands that for he and the Cavaliers, the preseason is all about developing their rhythm, as well as figuring out which combination of players on the team works best in certain situations and spacing.
Meanwhile, Rose put on his best show yet, and showed flashes of his MVP season. He did everything well, as he tallied five rebounds and three assists when not scoring, but it was just not enough against the Cavs on Monday. The Bulls as a team shot poorly at 41 percent, but they, too, are in the midst of working in new players and trying new schemes. The final score was 107-98.
Fans expecting a colossal showdown between the Central Division rivals were not let down, but should keep in mind that the game was only preseason. Round two will be the real deal when the two teams match up in Chicago on Oct. 31 for the Bulls opening night at their home, the United Center.
D. Rose looked like his old self on Monday, showing James and the NBA that he is back, and making witnesses out of the Columbus crowd. For the Bulls to have a legitimate title shot or chance to compete against the Cavaliers throughout the season, Rose will have to play like this on a consistent basis. King James will likely still end up as the season’s most valuable player, and fans can be sure that come playoff time, the Cavaliers will be a team to beat. For Bulls fans, the destiny of this year’s team can be a conversation for tomorrow. D. Rose is back.
By LaBaron Jackson