Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Which of these rehabbing players do you expect will have the best season in 2013-14: Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook or Derrick Rose?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Westbrook. First, his injury (meniscus tear) was the least serious of the three. And I think his motivation will be the simplest and most focused, because his absence scuttled the Thunder’s goal of reaching their second straight Finals. The seasons and ambitions in L.A. and Chicago were fuzzier in terms of goals and possibilities, and frankly they remain so. Bryant physically won’t be as advanced as the other two and Rose, if he flakes off the rust swiftly, will feel the full burden of the Bulls’ expectations (and shortcomings). Westbrook can just play.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Since Derrick Rose has declared himself the best player in the NBA, how can he not have the best season, right? I’m throwing Kobe out of the mix because I think he’ll be the only one of three not in uniform for Game 1 of 82. Plus his supporting cast is the weakest, in my opinion. I expect Westbrook won’t miss a beat. He’s so young and strong, and remember, this wasn’t an ACL tear like Rose sustained. I expect Rose to have a whale of a season so let the debate rage all season.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Russell Westbrook. I think Kobe will have a Kobe-like response for the doubters, but the age factor cannot be ignored — he was thinking of making this his last season anyway. I think Derrick Rose will find a welcome relief in getting back on the court and away from the questions of when he will return, but he has been out a very long time and needs that adjustment beyond the injury adjustment. Westbrook is the only one who has star talent but does not need to be the best player on the team. That eases the work load, the pressure to be as good as before the injury, and the need to do it right away.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Derrick Rose, because he’s the best player of the group — Westbrook has higher highs, but also lower lows — and had the most time to recover from his injury. Westbrook does have another star to lean on and Rose will be asked to carry a big offensive load, but the Bulls win games with defense and rebounding more than anything else. If he has confidence in his knee and brings an improved jumper to the table, Rose could have a big year.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I’m on record as never picking against Kobe, but in this case I’m going to go with Derrick Rose. I know it’s been over a year since we’ve seen him in action on the court, but he’s recently declared himself 100 percent, and as we’ve already seen, a 100 percent Derrick Rose is an awesome thing. To be fair, I don’t expect much less from Westbrook or Kobe. But we already know when Rose is in form, everything in Chicago goes through Rose’s hands, so he’ll have every opportunity to be successful from the jump.
Hanson Guan, NBA China: My answer is Bryant. Because he’s Kobe Bryant. Even if he suffered the most serious injury of his career and has passed his 35th birthday, Bryant doesn’t permit others to question his ability. He’s currently only 676 points shy of surpassing Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list, he’s got a 16th All-Star game to make and you can bet ESPN’s prediction about the Lakers has lit another fire.
Jacopo Gerna, NBA Italia: Derrick Rose. I trust Tom Thibodeau, who said D-Rose’s speed and explosiveness are back to a place where the former MVP feels like himself again. Bulls’ coach, when Rose felt so uncertain about being back over the playoff, admitted he had doubts as he was watching Rose practicing. We talked to Rose in July here in Milano, and he looked so confident. Russell Westbrook had a less severe injury and I’m sure he’ll play the same way he did before it happened. Anyway, I still have few doubts on him being consistent as a PG. He’s got a huge talent, but he’s not the kind of PG I would pick up for my own team. He has to get better in involving the teammates and make the correct decisions when the going gets though. And that’s the bottom line if you are a PG. I know for sure Kobe will get through his Achilles injury. Bryant lives his life yearning for new challenges, and I feel confident he’s gonna win this one too. Unfortunately for him I don’t see the Lakers being a contender. So getting better over the next season to be the old Kobe at the start of 2014/15 could be a realistic goal.