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Jeremy Lin is no match for Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose who had 32 points drives basket against Knicks guard Jeremy Lfirst quarter Monday night. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Derrick Rose, who had 32 points, drives to the basket against Knicks guard Jeremy Lin in the first quarter Monday night. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 14, 2012 8:13AM

Poor Jeremy Lin. The guy can ball. OK? That’s for real.

But his Harvard coach once said he’s the weakest player he’d ever seen.

And that lack of pure muscularity enabled Derrick Rose to attack the rim almost at will against the Knicks on Monday night.

Before this game, Rose had seemed to be in a deep trance. He’d heard all the Linsanity stuff, but he didn’t want to talk to the media about it. He just wanted to show what he does best, just like Lin, ball.

And with six minutes left in the seesaw game, Rose exploded down the middle in a way that was frightening even for this young man with the blank face and rocket-propelled legs. He took a bounce pass from Joakim Noah, then got up and up in pure ferocious defiance and threw down a power dunk the likes of which we have seen only when Michael Jordan ruled the city.

The dunk made the score 91-84 Bulls. But it proved something so clearly to everyone in the arena that it was shocking and kind of crazy.

Lin, the Taiwanese-American sensation who’s a very good ballplayer, but a very flawed one, too, cannot possibly compete with Rose. When you have another foot of vertical to deal with, when the air becomes your floor, who can play with you?


In fact, Rose’s basketball skills are dominant, but his athleticism puts him in a realm that only superstars such as Dwyane Wade and LeBron James and maybe Chris Paul can deal with.

Before the game, Bulls backup guard John Lucas III said that Rose was in a zone of tenacity.

‘‘This superstar here,’’ Lucas said, pointing to Rose’s empty chair next to him, ‘‘he’s so fired up, so great to play with, such a hard worker that you have to say to him, ‘Hey, wow, slow down.’ ’’

Lucas shook his head and smiled. He knew somebody was in for it Monday night.

And that was Lin and the Knicks, a team of deep talent but one that hasn’t found its heart and has now lost six in a row.

The two Sports Illustrated covers, the overhyped New York newspaper headlines, the Spike Lee-led Big Apple Army of Screamers, the Asian Americans and NBA fans, generally, who were so thrilled with the sudden ascendancy of Lin — it only made his legacy impossible to fulfill. And all this after only three weeks of great performances.

‘‘Derrick Rose Whips Lin!’’ said one of the frenzied fan signs at the United Center. But it wasn’t a one-on-one show.

It couldn’t have been. Lin has a very nice jumper, perfect form on his free throws, wonderful eyes that see all the court and a warrior’s mentality. But he’s limited when going to his left —Rose overplayed him one time by a full body width — and he doesn’t have great ups and he is, quite simply, rather frail.

It may be that aging Baron Davis will replace Lin soon as a starter. But then Davis, who scored seven points, wears No. 85, which sometimes seems to be his age. OK, he’ll be 33 in a month, but that still made him the oldest player on the court for either team.

No way an old man can stay with Rose, 23.

Let’s give Lin, also 23, his props.

Late in the first quarter, Rose beat him on a drive, and Lin recovered swiftly enough to shockingly block Rose’s shot.

There was silence.

It was Latin Night, and silence was a rare thing as dancers and music filled the cavernous arena.

We now know that Costa Rica is the only Central American country without a standing army and that El Salvador is the smallest.

And we know los Bulls beat Nueva York 104-99.

Rose himself was the difference, with his repeated ankle-breakers for Lin or any defender, and with a laser mind-set that had him so furious at one moment early in the fourth quarter that he stopped play, with the ball, and screamed at a ref.

He finished with 32 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Lin had a decent line — 15 points, eight assists and three steals — but it was not rare, not other-worldly at all.

Rose was somewhere on another planet, especially on that dunk that resonates yet.

You’ll see it again and again on highlight reels, my friends. And it should stun you each time.

Some players are good. Some are great. And some want the whole world to know.

That would be Rose.

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