Rose on the wilt?

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:16 AM ET

Jalen Rose is in his early 30's, but has been walking around like a old man lately.

The veteran forward/guard is wallowing through his worse season in eight years and is becoming more frustrated by the day.

His trademark grin largely has disappeared and his snappy answers to reporter's questions aren't quite as amusing.

But the Detroit native has walked a fine line, blaming himself for his poor stats but refusing to dump on his coach or the organization. He has kept his mouth shut and has done a lot of praying.

Yesterday, however, there was the slightest crack in his facade.

For the first time in weeks, Rose suggested his problems on the court are not all his doing. For instance, Rose played some of the best ball of his career last season when head coach Sam Mitchell took him out of the starting lineup and brought him off the bench.

When asked yesterday why he hasn't been able to match that feat this season, Rose blamed his lack of minutes.

"Even though I was coming off the bench last year, I was still playing a lot of minutes and still had my opportunities to affect the game," the 12-year NBAer said. "This season, my role has changed and I'm sixth on the team overall in minutes."

Rose actually is tied for fifth overall in minutes with rookie Charlie Villanueva, at 27.7.

However, Villanueva's minutes have been on the rise and Rose's have been going in the opposite direction.

Rose shot 46% from the field last season, averaged a team-leading 18.5 points, 33.5 minutes, and shot 85% from the free-throw line. This season, he is shooting 35% from the floor, and is shooting only 74% from the free throw line.

Rose has not asked for a trade, at least publicly, although he has hinted he certainly is open to one. The problem is his contract. Rose will make $15.7 million US this season and $16.9 next.

Even though he would help any playoff-bound team looking to get over that final hump, that kind of scratch doesn't make him particularly attractive to rival GMs.

So all he can do is keep working hard in practice and hope his game comes back.

Rose understands that complaining about the situation in Toronto would only hurt his cause, and the team.

"If we were 17-3 and and I had something to say, (the reaction would be), 'Oh, he's being selfish.' If we're 3-17 and I said something, it's 'He doesn't believe in the youth movement.' I'm just going to do what I'm asked to do and see what happens," he said.

"If you're getting the minutes I'm getting or the opportunity that I'm getting and you complain about it, nobody wants to hear that," Rose said.

"They want to see production. And that's what I want to do. I want to be productive. I'm here, healthy, ready to play every night."


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