Enough with the amateur psychology.
Apparently it's only natural for people to parse each and every word of a less-than-talkative superstar, especially one who hasn't played in an NBA game for over a year, but at this point the only real story surrounding Derrick Rose is how good will he be when he finally returns to the Bulls' lineup.
We know from various recent reports that he feels "100 percent" right now, is "good to go" for the upcoming season and while he'll "definitely" play in the preseason, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau will ease him back in exhibition contests before ramping up his minutes for the regular season.
Thus, when the former league MVP was asked by CNN who the NBA's best player is, it shouldn't shock anybody that he answered, "Derrick Rose." Any other response would have been unacceptable from a player of his ilk.
When Paul Pierce -- surely a future Hall of Fame, but never a player who could even be considered for the title of the NBA's top player in any of the stellar seasons he's had in his long and storied career -- said the same thing, without prompting, after winning a championship with Boston in 2009, the statement was also mostly met with derision. But because of his outgoing on-court nature, it was understandable that the former Celtics swingman would have that belief. Rose, who was put on the spot, doesn't make as many headlines when he speaks up about social causes, like violence in his hometown (something he discussed in a separate, more serious interview with the same outlet), so it's a bit of a head-scratcher that a such a predictable reply has even stirred debate amongst fans and media.
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Knowing that he's set to resume his role as the face of the franchise, shouldering the Bulls' offensive burden and being the focus of opposing scouting reports in a season where the expectations are to contend for a title, if he wasn't confident enough to accept that responsibility, then that would be a cause for concern. After Rose's season-long hiatus, while he might not be fretting over how he's perceived in the court of public opinion, he certainly realizes the increased pressure created by his extended absence and by giving himself that extra time to fully recover, he has to believe that he's put himself in the best possible position to rejoin basketball's elite.
It's almost unnecessary and too cliche to reference his "Why can't I be MVP" before the season in which he won the award, but if that hasn't taught people that beneath his humble exterior, within lies one of the fiercest competitors in the game, then nothing will. Rose backs up his words -- remember his guarantee that a mediocre, slumping Bulls team would make the 2010 playoffs -- so rather than breathlessly analyzing and searching for a deeper meaning in his more innocuous statements, perhaps time would be better spent simply waiting to see whether or not he once again delivers.
As first reported by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, his first real opportunity to make that happen will occur in the 2013-14 NBA season opener, when the Bulls visit the two-time defending champion Heat in Miami. Aside from a chance to help begin avenging postseason-series defeats from the spring, 2011 and even the most recent slight, an upset loss in Las Vegas during the inaugural summer-league tournament, Rose will also display exactly how close he is to getting back to his previous level of play, something can't be gleaned from limited minutes in the preseason.
Maybe evaluating Rose's performance in an early-season matchup that ultimately won't have much significance regarding whatever happens next June isn't that important in the grand scheme of things, but it will have more value than breaking down the obvious this July.