Opening Tip: Rose finally faces Irving

Kyrie Irving gets his first chance to match up against Derrick Rose on Monday night. Gregory Shamus/NBAE/Getty Images

CHICAGO -- For the first time in their basketball careers, Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving will face each other when Rose's Bulls take on Irving's Cavaliers Monday night.

It's a matchup that both players have been looking forward to. Because of various injuries, Rose and Irving have missed each other every time the teams met the past two years. When they finally do look each other in the eye on the United Center floor, Rose knows exactly what will be going on in Irving's mind. He knows that Irving, like most players around the league, will be trying to get the best of the former MVP.

"It's almost every night," Rose said recently of players gunning for him. "Every night that I play, everybody's doing that."

Rose admits he used to have the same mindset against stars when he came into the league.

"Hell, yeah," Rose said. "I know the concept and how they're thinking, but I can't get caught up into that. When you get caught up into that, I think that's when things go the other way."

For his part, Irving has been looking forward to the challenge of facing Rose for a while. He admitted last season that it was "crazy" he and Rose haven't faced each other, and that Rose was one of the players he watched when he was growing up.

"[I'm a] big fan," Irving said during All-Star Weekend in Houston in February. "Big fan. He's one of the most explosive guys in our league and his basketball IQ is off the charts as well."

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is confident that Rose will focus on the bigger picture Monday night instead of focusing on the one-on-one matchup with Irving.

"He does a good job of preparing," Thibodeau said of Rose. "He knows he's responsible for running the team. So he's a little further along than that. He's got to make our team function well and I think he understands that."

Rose is looking forward to getting his game back on track and he's also looking forward to the challenge that comes with facing one of the best guards in the league. Rose struggled against Philadelphia 76ers rookie Michael Carter-Williams last week and he wants to prove to himself, and the rest of his league, that he is still one of the best in the game.

"He's a great young player," Rose said of Irving. "For me, I try not to get into matchups, just go out there and just play. Probably if we were winning I would get into it, but we're just trying to win games right now."

The last word: Joakim Noah: "Everybody has something to say. It's funny, this isn't math. Just 'cause he averages 25 points and this guy averages 12 points and this guy averages 20 points and 10 rebounds, that's not how basketball [works]. You don't add those together and that's what we're going to get. It's basketball. I think our starting unit before the season has never played a game together. So I think we're all learning, we're all playing together and I think it's going to get better every game. There's no excuses, we're being patient, we're working hard, and we're excited about [Monday]."