Although his immediate focus is making USA Basketball’s FIBA World Cup squad, which is almost a given at this point, then taking home the gold medal in Spain, Bulls point guard Derrick Rose was, as expected, hit with a deluge of questions regarding the upcoming NBA season after Team USA’s practice Thursday in Chicago.
“I think we have a solid team. We’re definitely contenders in the East. But we know it’s a long year and we have to jell pretty quickly, knowing that we’re not going overseas like we did at the beginning of the season with Brazil last year. I think we’re going to be here so we get a lot of time here to really go at it in training camp,” Rose said. “I don’t know. I can’t get caught up into that. It’s not about being a favorite team. It’s about winning games, no matter what it takes.”
The former league MVP was prematurely asked about his playing time when the campaign begins and offered a diplomatic answer.
“I really don’t know. We haven’t talked about minutes to tell you the truth. We’ve just been worried about what’s been going on here,” Rose explained. “[Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau] told me just to play as hard as I can here, whether it’s a minute or two or three or four or whatever. Then I get to come out. I know I can go out there and give it my all and play crazy. We haven’t talked about the minutes with the Bulls yet.”
He was also asked, again, about the Bulls’ biggest offseason addition, veteran big man Pau Gasol.
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“We needed him. Pau is another dimension to our team that we didn’t have and I think I never had since I’ve been in the NBA,” he said. “I think Taj did a great job last year having a low post presence. But with him being seveb feet and you’ve got Joakim with Taj on the other side cleaning up everything else, I think that we just need shooting and just one other playmaker. But I think we have that.”
Of course, it’s no secret that Spain, the host country of the World Cup, is viewed as the strongest competition for Team USA in the event and it’s expected by many observers that the two teams will face off in the gold-medal game Sept. 14 in Madrid.
“It would be great. But we would still have to do a lot to get there. If we were to play them, I think they would be a great challenge because they have bigs. We have small bigs. They have experienced bigs and they’ve been playing together for six or seven years as a national team. It’s going to be a challenge for us. But at the same time, it’s going to give us something to prove and have fun,” Rose explained. “I think we’re going to win it, if I’m on the team. There’s no point in even playing or playing in this if you’re not thinking that you’re going to win it. So I think every team is going in with that chip on their shoulder, which you should have that chip on that shoulder playing in something like this. But we know that we have a good group and we’ve got a long way to go.”
International rivalry aside, Rose believes playing with Gasol, as well as other Bulls newcomers, will help open up his game.
“I’m going to have to score the ball any way possible. You look at all the scorers in the league, the Kobes and all the players that played before us, they score the ball in many ways. For me, my game is catch-and-shoot, it’s going to be catch-and-shoot, especially when you add somebody like Pau,” he said. “I’m going to get a lot of double-teams and a lot of attention when I’m on the floor. Just try to get up shots where if the shot clock is down I’ll be able to get a shot off without being in a rush or being worried about it.”
Rose also discussed having Thibodeau, a Team USA assistant coach, with him on his current journey, adding that there’s no competition as to who yells more between the Bulls head coach and USA Basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski, a Chicago native.
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“He lost his voice already, man, so Thibs for sure. Coach K knows what he got himself into. It seems like they like each other,” Rose joked. “It’s kind of cool hanging with Thibs. I’m seeing another side to him actually. Not even talking basketball, just talking about life stuff in general. Just seeing where he’s at, seeing where his mind is, I’m happy that he’s able to come out here and participate in this type of event because it gives him something to do instead of being at the Berto and spying on people.”
The product of the South Side’s Englewood neighborhood acted incredulous when told the Bulls open the regular season with an Oct. 29 road game in New York, then take on Cleveland for their Halloween home opener.
“Wow. That came out yesterday? I didn’t know that. Just wow, I didn’t know that,” he said. “You said in New York? Oh man, wow. Wow. Wow. I’ve got to get my tickets ready.”
He also talked about his approach to playing the Cavaliers, the Bulls’ Central Division rival with LeBron James, as well as the likely acquisition of All-Star power forward Kevin Love later this month.
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“The same way I would if anyone else was in my division. Just because it’s him it’s going to get me to play even harder. I know that every night that I step on the floor, I’m going to do whatever it takes to win the game no matter who is on the floor. Just knowing how great he is and the game, I hope the fans appreciate the game even more,” Rose said. “That’s a great move getting a player like ‘K-Love.’ He’s very, very skilled to be a big. I work out with him every summer. I didn’t work out with him this summer. But every summer I’ve been in the league, I’ve worked out with him in the offseason. If he does go, I’m just happy he gets an opportunity to play somewhere and actually play and feel good about playing and win. I think that he deserves it. I think they should have a great team if he goes there.
Regarding Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony, who spurned the Bulls to remain in New York as a free agent, Rose said, “I always say when a player like Carmelo don’t sign with you, of course you’re going to be kind of devastated. But at the same time, the world doesn’t end and basketball doesn’t end just because someone doesn’t come to your team. I think they did a great job with pursuing Pau and we got it done.”