Rose has scored 76 points in his first three games, setting a new franchise record for scoring by a reserve to open the season. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Detroit — Derrick Rose sat intently on the bench, waiting for his time.
The Pistons were struggling Saturday against the Philadelphia 76ers in the first quarter, as Tim Frazier, the third point guard, was in the starting lineup for the hobbled Reggie Jackson.
Rose didn’t peer down the bench at coach Dwane Casey. There was no attempt to use the Jedi mind trick to get in the game sooner. Both Rose and Casey know there’s an established plan for playing time.
During timeouts, Rose got loose as his time closed in, before checking in for the first time with 6:36 left in the opening period.
He didn’t need very long to get going. Rose hit a driving floater 30 seconds later, then converted another floater on the next possession. Less than a minute later, he had a block — on a 3-pointer, no less — as an exclamation point.
In the first three games, Rose has been instant action with 76 points in the first three games, a franchise record for a reserve. He’s a blur on the court and has given the second unit a burst.
That begs the easy question: With the offense clearly struggling with Blake Griffin and Jackson out, why not insert Rose into the starting lineup?
Maybe it’s not that simple, given Rose’s minutes restriction.
“Everybody’s affected by that. We’re trying to keep a semblance of a team until Blake gets back. Now is different with Reggie and Blake out, we may have to make an adjustment,” Casey said after Sunday’s practice. “With one guy out, we can keep it intact to try to make sure we keep the rotation — that’s important. I feel like we know what we’re doing with Derrick. We’re working on it and some is by trial-and-error.
“I’m not going to sit here and ramp up and ruin a guy’s comeback career by getting excited and playing him 30 minutes and losing him for two or three games. We’re going to be disciplined with it and still try to win the game.”
Rose has been the biggest surprise early in the season, posting 18, 27 and 31 points in the first three games, with an effective and efficient mid-range game. He’s attempted just two 3-pointers (making one) but the damage has been done in his signature attacking style, going right at the rim or pulling up for short jumpers.
He’s shooting 65 percent from the field but his team-high 4.3 turnovers — many magnified because of their detrimental timing late in games — is a bigger concern.
“I think I’ve been playing terrible. Just my turnovers have been (bad), having four or five a game. I just look at that differently, especially being a point guard and being back in that position,” Rose said. “It’s an adjustment and decision-making and whenever I’m fatigued, trying to get used to it. It’s the third game, but I like putting pressure on myself to adjust and be better.”
It would be hard for Rose to be much better from a scoring perspective but with his medical history, it’s not such an easy answer. The medical team and training staff have determined Rose’s initial limit is about 27 or 28 minutes per game, so it’s incumbent on Casey to maximize those minutes, where the Pistons have had an advantage.
“It’s more controlling his minutes and his load and his ability to be available. If we ramp him right now, the first thing people would say is we’re overloading him and ramping up his minutes,” Casey said. “We all know his medical history so that’s even more a reason. If he was a young Derrick Rose, we wouldn’t be talking about (minutes) limits or load management.
“With his medical history and Blake’s medical history, we have to be smart with the minutes. As much as we want to throw him out there and try to manage the minutes where he is still in there at the ends of game, as he was last night, is our challenge as a coaching staff.”
Rose agreed that he’s not ready for a big increase in playing time. Playing about the same number of minutes with the Minnesota Timberwolves last season, he was limited on the number of back-to-backs he played. Saturday was the second of a back-to-back and Monday’s game will be the fourth in six nights.
Fans can clamor to see more of Rose, but he’s fine with the role he’s settled into, even if it means Casey and the assistant coaches will be watching every tick on the clock — like the "Ultra-Man" TV show in the 1980s — before they have to pull him out before the fatigue starts leading to turnovers.
“It’s both, body and brain. It’s been a while since I was at the point guard position. Last year, I was at the (shooting guard) so decision-making, I didn’t have and that’s why my 3-pointers were up and I shot a lot of set shots,” Rose said. “Having the ball in my hands, I have to get back adjusted that way and taking my time and being patient.”
Patience will be a prevailing virtue for Rose — and for the fans.
Pacers at Pistons
Tip-off: 7 p.m. Monday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
Outlook: The Pistons (1-2) have dropped both home games this season, including Saturday against the 76ers, when they were without Reggie Jackson (lower-back tightness). It’ll be the second of three matchups against the Pacers (0-2) in the first 10 games of the season.