A rookie challenge for two

Pooh vs. the Hobbit.

No, it’s not some mythical literary throw-down between two cuddly characters: Winnie the Pooh vs. the Hobbit, the invention of A.A. Milne and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Still, there is a bit of added drama to what would be an otherwise ordinary January game between the struggling Chicago Bulls and the floundering Clippers tonight at Staples Center.

How about a showdown between standout rookie guards Derrick Rose of the Bulls and Eric Gordon of the Clippers?


Rose, a point guard, has been called “Pooh” for years, and also “Poohdini.” Gordon morphed into the “Hobbit” during Clippers training camp and the nickname seems to be sticking.

Also, the timing of their meeting is scheduled to coincide with today’s naming of the teams for the NBA’s “Rookie Challenge” game during All-Star weekend.

They have faced each other once before in the NBA, when the Bulls beat the Clippers on Dec. 17 at Chicago. Gordon had 17 points and Rose 16.

“The sky is the limit for the Hobbit, man,” said the Clippers’ Al Thornton. “He can do so much.”

The Bulls are saying roughly the same and more about Rose, the No. 1 pick in last summer’s draft who is averaging 16.7 points per game and 6.3 assists. Gordon, a shooting guard, is averaging 13.7 points.

“No debate; it’s over,” Chicago Coach Vinny Del Negro told reporters last week in regard to the rookie-of-the-year race. “There’s not even a conversation as far as I’m concerned. . . . No one has played at the level Derrick has from the start to this point. It’s not even close.”

Clippers General Manager and Coach Mike Dunleavy was asked about those comments the other day and said he didn’t consider the matter fully decided, not at this stage of the season. Thornton agreed.

“I don’t think that’s set in stone,” Thornton said. “He [Gordon] has got to be in the mix somewhere. He’s got to be.”


While Rose was getting off to a terrific start this season, Gordon was spending most of his time on the bench, not breaking into the starting lineup until a knee injury hit Ricky Davis.

Rose had a huge November, scoring 20 or more points in seven games. Gordon did so twice that month. In his last five games, Rose has averaged 15 points, and Gordon 22.8, which includes Gordon’s career-high 41-point performance against Oklahoma City on Friday night.