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Maybe that Malik Rose deal wasn’t so lateral after all

When the Chris Wilcox/Malik Rose trade first happened, it ranked up there in things I don’t understand right next to why the ShamWow guy wears a headset and math. But after two small cameos, it’s already clear that this deal makes total sense.

No, Rose is not going to be a substantial, long-term contributor. He’s 34 and his contract is up this year and that’s his main value. His stint with OKC will probably last just 22 more games, but his immediate impact is being felt. He’s doing things Chris Wilcox rarely ever did.

While he doesn’t catch alley-oops and fly through the air throwing down jams, he does the dirty work – the little things absolutely necessary to win. Rose provides physical, low-post defense. He’s grinds in the post, is a boulder for any cutter that tries to skip through the lane and never takes a possession off.

And just like Sam Presti said, Rose is helping to create a culture where the younger guys pick up on that. It’s not like Wilcox was a bad guy or had a bad influence on anyone. He just wasn’t providing the Thunder with what they needed. He wanted big minutes and a bigger role, and he wasn’t going to get that. Rose can take these final 22 and serve as a much needed player coach to guys like Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic, Nick Collison and maybe someone that needs it more than anyone, Robert Swift.

Swift, who was a lottery pick with lots of potential, has the appearance of a guy that’s not panning out. And at this point, it may be wise for Swift to accept his role as a potential bench contributor that chips in 15-20 minutes a night and in a good season puts up seven points and five rebounds a game. And Malik Rose is exactly the type of guy that can help Swift learn that type of role. It’s a crucial role to fill for any good team and Rose has played it multiple times in his career. Swift could be that.

The thing about Rose is that he’s a total pro and what minutes he gets, he takes and uses them well. He hasn’t played much at all (just 45 minutes with the Knicks since Dec. 1) and is a little out of game shape. That’s probably why he didn’t play against Memphis. He’s going to see limited minutes and some games may not play at all. But he focuses on making a positive impact on the game when he is on the floor.

Already with Rose and Thabo Sefolosha in the mix, the defensive makeup of the Thunder has drastically improved. And this is nothing but positive. Kevin Durant, who isn’t the best defender out there, is now in a situation with quality defenders around him.

So while we all scratched our heads Feb. 23rd when Presti pulled the trigger on that Wilcox/Rose deal, and guys like me thought we’d never see Rose out of his warmups, it’s actually looking like an under-the-radar, shrewd move. He’s not a guy that’s going to have a hand in the Thunder’s bright future and his main value is his expiring contract, but his touch may be felt years down the road. You never knew what you were going to get with Wilcox. One night he’d throw up 15 and 10, but the next three he’d put up four and two. Rose is a constant and the type of guy that’s going to be a key cog in winning some games, but more importantly, showing the younger guys the tricks of the trade.