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Chicago's Derrick Rose took a second-quarter shot above the Timberwolves' Luke Ridnour on Wednesday night.

Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

CHICAGO 108, WOLVES 91

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Only way to spell MVP might be R-O-S-E

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE
  • Star Tribune
  • March 31, 2011 - 12:03 AM

The five teams at the top of the 2008 NBA draft were Chicago, Miami, the Timberwolves, Seattle (now Oklahoma City) and Memphis. The Bulls obtained the first choice by winning the lottery with 1.7 percent of the Ping-Pong balls.

Three years later, there are close followers of the local NBA team that insist -- if the Wolves had landed the top spot -- basketball boss Kevin McHale would have taken Kansas State's Michael Beasley over Memphis' Derrick Rose.

There were occasions when I joined in questioning the wisdom of McHale's personnel moves, such as when he chose to use a late choice in the 2003 first round to select high schooler Ndubi Ebi rather than Josh Howard, the ACC Player of the Year from Wake Forest.

Still, I would never be party to a rumor as scurrilous as one suggesting McHale -- our Hall of Famer from Hibbing -- would have taken a player other than Rose, if the Wolves would have had first choice in June 2008.

As it turned out, the draft went like this: Bulls-Rose; Heat-Beasley; Wolves-O.J. Mayo; Thunder-Russell Westbrook; and Grizzlies-Kevin Love.

McHale promptly traded Mayo and much dead wood to Memphis for Love. Three years later, McHale's last important act with the Wolves rates as his second best. The first, of course, was in 1995, when he used the fifth pick in the draft to select high schooler Kevin Garnett.

Certainly, those bookend decisions -- Garnett and Love -- were outstanding, and it was merely those 13 years of personnel decisions in between that leaves a blot on McHale's résumé.

But if you go around stating McHale would have preferred Beasley, now an unrepentant Wolves gunner, over Rose in that draft ... well, Kevin could hire the smartest attorney on the Range and sue for slander.

My first eyewitness exposure to Rose came in April 2008, in the NCAA semifinals at the Alamodome. He was a freshman guard leading Memphis against UCLA, with Westbrook as a sophomore and Love as a freshman.

Rose was the dynamic presence in the first half, even as UCLA managed to stay within 38-35. Spurs center David Robinson was spotted standing in a runway at halftime and was asked:

"What did you think of the guard?"

The Admiral shook his head and said: "That Rose? He's great. For a freshman, he's unbelievable. He runs everything. He's the kind of guard anyone would love to play with."

Rose and Memphis pulled away for a 78-63 victory. Two nights later, the Tigers missed a cluster of free throws late in regulation, let Kansas take them to overtime and lost 75-68.

It didn't change basketball people's opinion. The Bulls won the lottery against ultra-long odds and zeroed in on Rose.

Three years later, they have the best record in the East, the best point guard on the planet (Ricky Rubio included), and a player about to become the NBA's youngest MVP ever at age 22.

The Rose groundswell is such that Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy has complained media voters aren't giving his star, Dwight Howard, a fair shot, and several national pundits are campaigning for LeBron James to win again.

It took only the first quarter Wednesday night for Rose to convince a Target Center audience of his MVP worthiness.

The no-contest opened with Rose leaping into Love, drawing a foul and making three free throws. He made a three. He found Keith Bogans and Kurt Thomas for open jumpers. He drove in traffic, then bounced a pass to Carlos Boozer for a layup.

Rose had 13 points, five assists and the Bulls led 30-19 at the quarter ... and that was it. The final was 108-91, with Rose coasting to 23 points and 10 assists.

Wolves coach Kurt Rambis was asked about Rose at a practice this week and said:

"He does it with explosive, blinding quickness. Watching it on tape, sometimes it isn't fair with how quickly he can get around people. When you have somebody collapsing defenses like that, who is able to get to the basket, get to the free-throw line and open up shots for teammates ..."

The coach didn't finish the sentence, but it might be that a point guard such as that is the best reason one team has 54 victories and Rambis' team sits at 17.

"MVP, MVP," a small cadre of Bulls fans kept chanting toward Rose on Wednesday.

The only proper response from Minnesotans in the vicinity was "You betcha."

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500ESPN. preusse@startribune.com

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