LOS ANGELES – It might seem like a small adjustment to make — moving from point guard to shooting guard — but to Derrick Rose, someone who has played the point his entire career, it can be akin to relearning the game of basketball.
“My whole life I dribbled the ball, initiated the play and ended the play,” Rose said. “Now I’m getting the ball in catch-and-shoot [positions]and just trying to change my whole mentality. … this is the first time in my career that I’m legitimately at the two.”
Rose is entering his 10th season in one of the most tumultuous careers of anyone who has won an MVP award. And now at 29 years old, with Jimmy Butler seemingly vacating shooting guard, the Wolves are trying Rose there to see how a lineup with he and point guard Jeff Teague will mesh.
Butler, who requested a trade two weeks ago, was absent from his second preseason game, a 128-101 loss to the Clippers at Staples Center, as the Wolves appeared to inch closer to dealing him. Multiple reports surfaced about advanced trade conversations between the Wolves and the Heat, with ESPN reporting Miami was awaiting word on a revised offer it sent Wednesday. That followed a New York Times report that said talks broke down between the sides when changes the Wolves made to the deal knocked it off course. ESPN also reported Butler might rejoin the team if a trade wasn’t completed by the start of the season.
Amid the dizzying speculation, the Wolves carried on with another game Wednesday with Rose in the lineup.
To Rose the opportunity to play two guard is equally tantalizing as it is challenging, a chance to revamp his game and find newer, creative ways to use his devastating slashing and driving capabilities to exact pressure on a defense and keep the Wolves one of the top offenses in the league. When Teague handles the ball coming up the floor, it allows Rose, to lie in wait, conserving energy for optimal acceleration should he get the ball.
“It’s going to take time, but we’re both unselfish guards…” Rose said. “That’s what it’s about, sharing at times compromising with one another and just trying to make a better team, facilitate and make everybody’s job easier.”
For his part, Teague wasn’t concerned about how he and Rose would mesh. Teague said his time in Atlanta required him to play off the ball as well.
“We played more of a pass and cut type of offense,” Teague said. “We never had a point guard. So I’m comfortable with it.”
They didn’t look comfortable against the Clippers. Rose and Teague shot just 3-for-18, combined for just 13 points, committed four turnovers and dished out seven assists.
Rose has had to get used to not being the focal point of the offense since the Bulls traded him to the Knicks in 2016-17. In New York, Rose had to share the ball with Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis.
“I was the third option there,” Rose said. “I had to find ways to affect the game.”
It’s something that will continue here as Teague, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns need their touches.
The true test of this lineup will be playing defense without Butler, one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. It didn’t look great Wednesday, at least early, as the Clippers scored 34 points on the starting unit in the first 8 minutes, 30 seconds of the game. And the looming question with Rose is how long can he stay healthy?
But so long as he is, there might not be a drop off in scoring from a team that finished fourth in offensive efficiency last season.
As Teague put it: “When you start a pick-and-roll on one side and ends with one of the most explosive players we’ve seen ever on the other side, it’s a tough cover.”