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2006: SLAM! Sports/Canoe – Bloom is Back for Rose

June 23, 2008

January 15, 2006 — Raptor tries to shake slump… Toronto Raptors
guard Jalen Rose scored a season-high 31 points against the New York
Knicks on Sunday.

TORONTO (CP) – Jalen Rose kept the boxscore from a game in which he scored zero points taped in his locker earlier this season.

The ugly reminder was one of the only outward signs of the sting the
veteran player was feeling over his poor performance in the early part
of the season. Struggling through some of the darkest days of his
career, Rose kept his feelings to himself.

Rose has emerged from his early-season funk, pouring in a season-high
31 points in by far his best game of the year Sunday afternoon in the
Toronto Raptors’ 129-103 rout of the New York Knicks.

But Rose knows his sparkling performance doesn’t mean the end of
turbulent times – trade season, after all, is just getting going.

Rose will earn as much as $30 million US over this season and next,
making him easily the highest paid Raptor and the highest paid
professional athlete in Toronto. Not a great fit for a team intent on
rebuilding around youth. His future in Toronto has been the object of
speculation for the better part of two seasons.

Rose prefers not to speculate about where he’ll be after the Feb. 23 trade deadline.

"My situation here, obviously the team’s made a decided youth movement,
and that’s decreased my role and minutes and things of that nature. So
it’s kind of hard for me to determine," Rose said.

"When I first got here, it was to play with Vince Carter and try to make a playoff push, obviously the focus has changed."

Rose’s outstanding performance provided plenty of drama Sunday, coming
against the Knicks, the one team Rose, who turns 33 on Jan. 30, has
been linked to in trade rumours for more than a year. New York is the
only NBA team that has similarly sizable contracts to swap.

"Obviously being 30-plus, it’s good to have teams interested in you and
through the media it seems like New York is a team, so I’ll just go out
and be a pro and see what happens," Rose said before the game. "I’ve
really got no choice in the matter."

In an intriguing plot twist, Raptors guard Mike James told Newsday on
Sunday that he wouldn’t mind playing for the Knicks if he decides to
opt out of the final year of his contract.

"It would be great to play at home," said James, a native of
Amityville, N.Y. "It would be great to play in front of my family every
night. But right now I’m a Raptor, and I enjoy being a Raptor."

James was a favourite of Knicks coach Larry Brown in Detroit when they
won the 2004 NBA championship together. Brown said the Pistons would
have loved to have kept James, but he got a better deal as a free agent
with the Milwaukee Bucks, who then traded him to Houston.

"He was really missed last year in Detroit," Brown said.

Rose, meanwhile, struggled mightily in the early part of the season.
After leading the Raptors in scoring last season with 18.5 points a
night, the versatile six-foot-eight player has averaged just 10.8
points in 24.8 minutes a night this season – his lowest in both
catgories since the 1997-98 season. He’s shooting a career-low 39.5 per
cent.

Head coach Sam Mitchell felt his pain, calling Rose’s slump the professional equivalent of losing a loved one.

Mitchell bumped Rose from the starting lineup early in the season,
hoping to spark a similar turnaround to last season, when Rose marked
his demotion by wearing all black to the game in the now famous "black
drawers" incident. Rose then went out and played his way back into the
starting lineup.

No such luck this time. Instead, Rose battled his way out of his slump
through sweat. Mitchell and Rose’s teammates have been praising his
work ethic and positive attitude in practice all season long.

"I was just being aggressive," Rose said. "I give all the credit to the
coaching staff and my teammates, because they were obviously
encouraging me to do well, whether it was practising or in games, they
believed I could get out there and make plays when I get going.

"Everybody was pumping me up, trying to help me continue to attack and play well."

Rose is a fan favourite in Toronto, the team’s most colourful character
with his quick wit and flair for fashion. On his website, fans can find
everything from his weekly NFL picks to a poetry contest he hosted in
December – the one rule was the poem had to be about Christmas.

Rose is the only remaining player from the Dec. 1, 2003 trade with
Chicago that sent Antonio Davis, Jerome Williams and Chris Jefferies to
the Bulls for Rose, Donyell Marshall and Lonny Baxter.

Rose had a huge impact on basketball early on – no surprise really from
a Detroit kid who was so passionate about the game he built his own
arena out of scrap lumber and milk crates. He made headlines as a
member of the University of Michigan’s fabled Fab Five, along with
current NBA
players Chris Webber and Juwan Howard, leading the Wolverines to the NCAA championship game in his first two seasons.

In their trend-setting baggy shorts and black sneakers, the Fab Five set new standards for college basketball.

Rose went on to be a first-round draft pick, taken 13th overall by
Denver in 1994. Toronto is his fourth NBA stop – Denver traded him to
Indiana in the summer of 1996, and from there, he was traded to the
Bulls in February of 2002.

In the 1999-2000 season, he was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player,
helping the Pacers to the NBA final, where they lost in six games to
the Los Angeles Lakers.

By LORI EWING