Bryan Armen Graham
Tuesday December 9th, 2008

Rookie Rankings front-runner Derrick Rose may be in the market for a personal assistant after cutting himself in his bed on a knife used to slice an apple."I called my mom, and she was like, What are you doing? It was just a freak accident," Rose told the Chicago Sun-Times about Monday morning's incident. "I'm going to get somebody else to cut [the apple]. I'm not cutting it no more."Chicago's floor general needed 10 stitches to close the wound under his left elbow but won't miss any games. For a franchise snakebitten throughout its first decade A.A. -- After Air -- it was a terrifying moment followed closely by an overwhelming sense of relief. Maybe the Bulls have turned the corner after all.(All stats and records are through Monday.)

NBA Rookie Rankings
1Derrick Rose
Last Week: 1
Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
Even though Rose has taken (and made) more shots than any rookie this side of O.J. Mayo, a growing contingent of local writers is concerned that the Bulls are holding Rose back, suggesting that the 20-year-old should carry even more of the offensive burden. That's got to tell you something. When's the last time a local sportswriter beseeched a rookie point guard to take more shots?
 
2O.J. Mayo
Last Week: 2
O.J. Mayo, Memphis Grizzlies
Mayo has scored in double figures in his first 21 NBA games, the longest streak to begin a career since Magic Johnson did the same in 1979. "It shows he can create shots against different defenses despite the fact that people are well aware of his scoring abilities," Grizzlies coach Marc Iavaroni told the Memphis Commerical Appeal. "He has a knack for getting good looks. He does that with aggressiveness, with a lean-back jump shot and he's very serious about the offensive game. He's learning how to become serious about the defensive game."
 
3Brook Lopez
Last Week: 4
Brook Lopez, New Jersey Nets
The Nets have looked like a legitimate playoff team since Lopez inherited Josh Boone's place in the starting lineup, winning nine of 12 games and climbing to fifth place in the Eastern Conference. (Lopez has averaged 12.6 points and 9.0 rebounds as a starter.) The 7-footer, already one of the league's harshest self-critics, remains fixated on his room for improvement. But New Jersey general manager Kiki Vandeweghe couldn't be happier with the post man's emergence. "What we're seeing here, especially in his case, is that time on the court is precious. Because rookies have a growth curve," Vandeweghe told the Newark Star-Ledger. "And if you can give [minutes] to them, it's important for them to get it. ... A rookie is going to make mistakes, but if you invest in guys with talent and they respond, it's wonderful to see."
 
4Greg Oden
Last Week: 7
Greg Oden, Portland Trail Blazers
Portland coach Nate McMillan continues to ease Oden into the rotation, but the 20-year-old center remains the most likely candidate to crack the Rose-Mayo diarchy atop the Rookie Rankings. Oden has amassed seven double-doubles -- three better than any other rookie -- despite missing two weeks in November with a foot injury. Two of those came last week, at Washington (13 points, 10 rebounds) and at Toronto (10 points, 10 rebounds), where the Blazers collected their seventh victory in eight games to move into the Southwest Division penthouse. "I'm still developing, still learning," Oden told reporters last week. "I don't want to do anything too crazy. I just want to make the right play."
 
5Rudy Fernandez
Last Week: 9
Rudy Fernandez, Portland Trail Blazers
The Spanish sniper set an NBA record by making a three-pointer in his first 20 NBA games. That streak ended last Friday at Boston, but Fernandez rebounded with 16 points (including 3-of-4 from three-point range) two days later in Toronto. Fernandez's infectious positive attitude has impressed his coach. "He has a spirit," McMillan told the Oregonian. "He brings this team spirit that really adds to our chemistry. He is up and excited when the team is doing well, and he shows his emotions to his teammates, and that can rub off on NBA players. Sometimes NBA players tend to think it's not cool to cheer."
 
6Marc Gasol
Last Week: 4
Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
After back-to-back four-point performances, Gasol lost his starting center job to Darko Milicic. But last Saturday in New Orleans, Gasol paced Memphis with 21 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots in just 26 minutes off the bench. And when Milicic picked up two quick fouls in Monday's victory against the Rockets, it was Gasol who stepped up defensively and helped limit Yao Ming to 14 points while also contributing 10 points, eight boards and three assists.
 
7D.J. Augustin
Last Week: 5
D.J. Augustin, Charlotte Bobcats
Charlotte coach Larry Brown's briefly successful experiment -- starting Augustin at point guard and Raymond Felton at shooting guard -- came to an end when Jason Richardson returned from a knee injury. (Reasoned Brown to the Charlotte Observer: "I always feel when a guy is a starter, gets hurt and comes back, you shouldn't take [starting] away from him.") But Augustin continues to enjoy a visible role as the team's first backcourt option off the bench. He averaged 13.5 points and 3.3 assists in four games last week, making 9-of-19 attempts from beyond the arc.
 
8Russell Westbrook
Last Week: NR
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Westbrook's emergence provides a silver lining for woeful Oklahoma City. The UCLA product is making the most of his on-the-job training at the point, averaging 16.8 points, 4.8 assists and 1.8 steals in four games last week. His breakout performance came last Saturday in a narrow loss to Miami: 30 points, seven rebounds and two steals in 32 minutes. "Every game I'm learning, trying to slow down and see things slower," Westbrook told the Oklahoman. "My goal is just to keep going and keep working."
 
9Mario Chalmers
Last Week: 8
Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat
One of only two rookie point guards to start every game this season (along with Rose), Chalmers continues to impress alongside Dwyane Wade in the Miami backcourt. The Kansas alum leads all rookies in steals (2.1) and ranks second in assists (4.4). Chalmers has averaged 12.0 points, 4.5 assists and 2.0 steals during the Heat's four-game winning streak, which has moved them three games above .500 for the first time since the end of the 2006-07 season.
 
10Michael Beasley
Last Week: 6
Michael Beasley, Miami Heat
Beasley is trying to adjust to a reserve role -- the first time, he said, that he's come off the bench at any level -- since moving out of the starting lineup two weeks ago. Beasley hasn't exceeded 24 minutes in any of the last four games, but he is providing important depth for a Miami team looking more and more like a playoff contender. He's still prone to careless mistakes on offense and struggles mightily with his defense, but Beasley should benefit from getting reps against opponents' second units.
 
Honorable Mention
Kevin Love, Timberwolves (11.7 points, 10.7 rebounds in three games last week; three double-doubles since Nov. 29); Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Bucks (14 points, six rebounds, four steals Sunday vs. Lakers); George Hill, Spurs (10.5 ppg, 3.5 apg, 4.0 rpg in two games last week)
 
 
Dropped Out
Jason Thompson, Kings
 

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