LAS VEGAS—Derrick Rose has consistently talked about blocking out the negativity surrounding his two season-ending knee injuries and the outcry in the wake of his respective recovery processes.
But the former league MVP admitted Monday, after the first practice of USA Basketball training camp in preparation for the upcoming FIBA World Cup in Madrid, that he’s heard the criticism.
“Just with the second injury, of course people are going to have stuff to say. But I can’t get mad at them. I can’t. I’ve got too many positives going on. I’ve got my son, I’ve got my family. Of course I had a second injury, but that rehab took care of that. So just trying to put all that behind me and today is the start of a new day,” Rose explained. “I can’t get mad at that, man. People are going to say anything, so for me, just try to take it in, try to use it when I work out, use it as motivation, and go out there and just try to prove people wrong. I know how special I am as a player and I know what I still can do.”
USA Basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski, a Chicago native, was taken aback when informed about a faction of the city’s sentiments about the hometown hero.
“No, I wasn’t aware. That’s ridiculous. He’s one of the great people and one of the great players. To get multiple injuries like that can defeat anybody mentally and I don’t see that,” said the longtime Duke University head coach. “He should be applauded for what he’s doing. I’m a Chicagoan and very happy that he’s back, not just for USA, but for the Bulls.”
Rose, known for his humility, seems to be more outwardly expressing his confidence that he can return to his previous form, silencing the doubters.
“I’m there, man. I’m not worried about that. My confidence is very high. That’s the only thing you might see this year, that my confidence level is through the roof,” he said. “I really think that I’m a special player in my mind and I still have youth. I’m only 25, man. So just doing everything I’m supposed to do in rehab, just strengthening everything, taking it one day at a time and getting the most out of every day. That’s what I’ve been preparing for, this moment.”
Asked where that level of belief comes from, Rose’s answer had less to do with basketball than something off the court: “P.J.,” his toddler son.
“I’ve got somebody that’s looking up to me, man. All I can do is try. Go out here and at least try, not give up and usually, when I play the way that I normally play, something positive comes out of it,” the Chicago native explained. “Knowing how much work I put into my game. Every day, working my a-- off, torturing my body every single day.”
“I sat out for two years. Of course it’s hard, but at the same time, I know it’s a chance for me to really work on my whole body. Get my legs strong, get my upper body strong and just take advantage of it, and I’m happy that the Bulls, they really went after it and got [Bulls’ director of athletic performance] Jen Swanson,” Rose continued. “She’s been doing a great job of making sure that I’m coming in every day, stretching and just trying to get my flexibility right throughout my whole body.”
The aforementioned Swanson will travel with USA Basketball to monitor Rose—Bulls’ All-Star center Joakim Noah is also in Las Vegas, working out individually and also checking in with Swanson after his offseason knee surgery—with whom she built a relationship during his California-based rehabilitation from a torn left ACL in 2012.
Having suffered two major injuries, Rose is able to now reflect on where he was in earlier stages of his career.
“My confidence was high, but I didn’t know how good I was. Like you know how good you are, but I didn’t know. But now my confidence is crazy. I know how hard I work and I believe I’m one of the hardest workers in the league,” the 25-year-old said about his state of mind before his ACL injury. “I think when I came back last time, I wanted it too bad. I was trying to force the game and this time around, just trying to let the game come to me. Of course be aggressive, but at the same time, have control of the game and be smarter, and being able to run the team at the point-guard position.
“My appreciation for the game, it’s like through the roof, man. Me having the ability to go places, my family’s good, my friends are all right,” he continued. “Just the game, what it did for me and my family and friends—like me working hard every day and trying to give the game my all, that’s the least I can do.”
A theory that has been whispered is that Rose is simply using the training camp as a way to test himself—not entirely implausible, given the number of marquee players declining invitations—but the 2010 FIBA World Championships gold medalist insisted that he’s committed to playing in Spain, as long he’s selected for the team.
“I’m here, man. I’m really trying to make it. But if they decide to go another way or another direction, it’s no hard feelings or I wouldn’t feel mad about it. I’m just happy that I have the opportunity to come here and showcase my talent in front of everyone,” Rose said.
But as much anticipation as outsiders have had about Rose’s return and matching up with fellow elite point guards, the Bulls floor general was nonchalant about the situation.
“I’ve been preparing for this for a long time. It’s probably big to everyone else because they probably haven’t seen me, but I dedicated my whole summer for this moment,” he explained. “I’m not really trying to play for anybody. I’m trying to play for myself.”