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updated: 2/14/2012 10:39 PM

Rose-Lin matchup could be special

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When the Bulls played at New York on Feb. 2, an anonymous point guard sat on the Knicks' bench the entire game.

Two days later the young man scored 25 points against the Nets. Tuesday night he scored 27 at Toronto to stretch the Knicks' winning streak to six games with him in the starting lineup.

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Hello, Jeremy Lin, meet Derrick Rose.

"He's playing well," the Bulls' all-star said of Lin before his team beat Sacramento 121-115 without him Tuesday.

"Playing well" is an understatement, in case you haven't noticed. Lin is sports' first phenom since at least way back to last month when Tim Tebow's season ended.

"He has a lot of confidence," Rose continued about Lin. "I always say (confidence) is what wins in this league. I like him as a player."

No wonder that when Lin scored 38 points to help the Knicks beat the Lakers, I ran to check a Bulls schedule and circled March 12.

The Knicks come to Chicago that night, and the United Center should be jumping.

Rose will be, too, if he can. He'll run, too, if possible. He'll shoot and pass and do everything he normally does on a basketball court, too, if his back spasms subside between now and then.

Currently, Rose is the one on the bench, having missed three straight games now. "I should be back in a couple days," Rose said.

He also said "soon" and "there's no timetable." In other words, who knows?

"Right now I shouldn't have any problems in the long run," Rose said.

The 23-year-old Rose's 83-year-old back is a mystery. He doesn't know why the spasms started and likely won't know for sure why they ended when they end.

What is known in all certainty during this compressed NBA season is Bulls games, win or lose, are barely watchable when Rose isn't playing.

The matchup against the Kings could have been interesting if Rose were healthy enough to play against Kings point guard Tyreke Evans.

Both played college ball at Memphis for John Calipari. Competing against each other is a great plotline.

"They're tough even without him," Evans said of Rose and the Bulls.

Maybe, but C.J. Watson replaced Rose in the Bulls' lineup, and his duel with Evans wasn't nearly as compelling.

This is the NBA's era of the point guard. Not long ago Rose was trying to establish himself against the likes of Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo and the rest.

Last season Rose outplayed them all on the way to becoming the NBA's Most Valuable Player and the Bulls' $94.8 million man.

So now Rose -- even at such a tender age and with so tender a back -- is the point guard that young point guards try to make their names against.

That's why that March 12 date with the Knicks will be so intriguing if it happens.

In the near corner, at 6-feet-2, 190 pounds, from Chicago, the reigning point guard champion of the world, Derrrrrrrrrrrrrrick ROSE!

In the far corner, at 6-feet-3, 201 pounds, from New York, the point-guard challenger, Jeremyyyyyyyy LIN!

As remarkable as Lin looked in dropping 38 points on the Lakers, it still looked like he couldn't handle Rose.

But it sure would be fun to find out next month … if Rose is back at full strength by then.

"Right now it's a day-to-day injury," Rose said. "Every day it's getting better. I'm trying to stay positive."

Jeremy Linsanity vs. Derrick Rose-alicious will be positively entertaining on March 12, assuming Rose's back is back by then.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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