“Me saying it is something totally different,” Derrick Rose told Bulls TV last week, in his first public comments since the season ended. “I think me going on the court and showing them will let them know it’s the right decision.”
While the former league MVP didn’t necessarily say anything particularly illuminating in the interview, if we’re parsing his words, some insight into his approach heading into next season can be gleaned.
At this point, any outrage surrounding him missing the entire campaign should have subsided; after all, it’s not like the 24-year-old is retiring. Of course, there are questions about how he’ll fare when he steps back on the court. Although Rose quelled speculation about why his perceived dominance in Bulls practices couldn’t directly translate to games, the superstar point guard's quiet confidence about his level of preparation should alleviate some doubts about whether or not he’ll ever regain his previous form.
“When you’re in practice, of course it’s not like game-like speed, unless it’s like training camp. Game-like experience is totally different, where you’ve got strategies. You’ve got this and that, double teams. When I play, I get double-teamed a lot. We play the same defense that we play in the games, so it wasn’t that many double teams. So, I was able to go around freely, roam around freely. In the game, I wasn’t able to take on that double team yet,” Rose, currently in Europe for an adidas promotional tour, explained. “Every day, I was working out like my leg was going to feel better. I was pushing myself every day, eating right, just trying to take care of my body so that I could be out there as soon as possible. But it didn’t happen.
“It was hard, one of the hardest things I ever had to go through in my life. After surgery, when you start running, when you have an injury like this, it’s stages that you have to go through. I’m still going through my stages. I’m not done yet,” he continued. “But I think this is the most I ever worked on my craft and the most focused I’ve ever been in my NBA career. I’m not a selfish guy at all, but having this injury and knowing what I had to go through and being smart, this is something I had to be selfish with. I couldn’t worry about anyone else but myself and my health.”
Watching his injury-riddled squad battle throughout the regular season and a gutsy playoff run, Rose was inspired by the performance of his teammates in his absence.
“I was very, very impressed with them. They seemed like they were fighting for me. They saw how hard I working in practice, just trying to rebuild my leg. All my teammates that were going through injuries, they used to tell me don’t rush back because they were going through stuff, so just to hear them say that, they knew that I was trying to get back on the court as quickly as possible,” he said. “They made a good run at it. When they were playing, they told me certain things that I saw, if they didn’t see it or I was just working with them, just to show them that I really cared about the team.”
A father now, Rose divided his focus between rehabilitation and his infant son, P.J., rather than get caught up in the firestorm over him not playing, which isn’t surprising, considering that even in the best of times, the Englewood native isn’t the type to read his own press clippings.
“I didn’t want to do anything, to tell you the truth. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I just wanted to rebuild my leg and be around my son,” he said. “That was the time where being around my son was huge for me. It’s real big. My father was never in my life, so he’s first, now and with anything.”
Rose also discussed his relationship with Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. While he likely could care less about the current narrative portraying Thibodeau as at odds with Bulls general manager Gar Forman, the product of Simeon Career Academy reiterated his closeness with the coach.
“With Thibs, we’re super cool right now. We talk at least a couple times through the week. Missed his call a couple times -- he hates when I do that -- but I missed his call a couple times. I’ve got to call him back,” Rose said. “But he’s someone who loves the game as much as me and that’s pretty hard, man. If you love basketball more than I do, I’ve got to take my hat off to you.”
As for next season, Rose again preferred to focus on the team and not his individual performance: “It’s only one goal and that’s to win a championship.”