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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Columnist Geoff Caulkins - Believe it folks, the kid is just that good


Believe it folks, the kid is just that good
By Geoff Calkins
Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Chris Douglas-Roberts missed a jumper from the wing, and it was just a miss, until Derrick Rose started cutting toward the basket, and left the floor, and kept rising and rising, and reached his arm high and grabbed the ball, and threw it down, and somewhere in there that one little miss became both a moment and a memory.

Oh.

My.

God.

That's what the guy said, a professional journalist, sitting right next to me.

The dunk was thunderous and sensational, a spontaneous burst of brilliance almost exactly a year in the making, since the day last November Rose said he was coming to Memphis.

Monday, he arrived, soaring through the air, better than even the most fervant Memphis fans allowed themselves to imagine.

"That was unusual," said Calipari, deadpan.

Right. Unusual.

In the sense that watching a guy do crazy, magical, impossible things is unusual.

Oh, and by the way, Memphis defeated Tennessee-Martin Monday, 102-71, to open its most anticipated season in years with a victory. But everyone expected that. They didn't necessarily expect to walk out of the building, alternately babbling and laughing about the ridiculous things they had just seen from a freshman.

"That's D-Rose," said Douglas-Roberts.

Well, why didn't someone tell us?

OK, they did tell us, over and over, but telling has its limits.

Greatness has to be seen to be appreciated, to really have an impact. And so it happened, after a frustrating first few minutes, that Rose revealed his greatness to Memphis.

He said he was nervous at the start of the game.

"I was kind of scared, a little bit," he said.

Memphis fell behind; the other guys were hitting everything.

Then Rose grabbed a loose ball and drove the length of the court for a layup. Except, this wasn't any layup. It felt like a technological trick. How did they fast-forward one guy and leave everyone else going along at normal speed?

The next possession, it happened again. Zip. Zip. Zip. Except this time, Rose dished to Douglas-Roberts for the finish.

Then came the dunk, off the missed jumper, and now it was getting silly.

And then, ahhhhhh, Rose turned it over. The kid is human after all.

Tennessee-Martin's Carlos Wright flew down the court for the easy layup. Only, wait, this couldn't be happening, could it?

Rose was chasing him down. And Rose was catching him. And Rose was timing his leap to block the layup and . . .

Oh.

My.

God.

He blocked it! Against the glass!

"I was mad because I turned the ball over," he said. "That was a hustle play so coach wouldn't yell at me."

Rose gives a lot of credit to coach, by the way. A TV guy asked him if he just decides to take over a game.

"It's really coach," he said. "Coach tells me what to do."

Note to John: Keep telling him to take over games.

Anyway, the crowd was appreciative, and roared like heck, and the rest of the game felt more like a celebration. Shawn Taggart had 15 rebounds. Douglas-Roberts had a career-high 28 points. And when it was done, all anyone could talk about was the new guy.

"I think I've done a good job with him," said athletic director R.C. Johnson.

Har.

"I don't know what to say," said Doug Barron, the golf pro.

A lot of people just smiled, crazily.

In 25 minutes, Rose finished with 17 points, six assists, five rebounds, two blocks and just one turnover. And the thing is, he looked even better than that. He looked like a force, a star, the kind of player who could win a championship.

Or not. There are no guarantees. Will the team mesh? Will the shots fall? Will the Rose get complacent?

OK, you probably don't have to worry about this last part. Someone asked him to grade his debut performance.

"C, C-plus," he said.

Then the kid allowed himself a smile.

"But when I get used to it, it's going to be scary."

To reach Geoff Calkins, call him at 529-2364 or e-mail calkins@commercialappeal.com

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