Derrick Rose takes his place among the game's stars


Feb 12

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The cavernous ballroom in the Hyatt Regency Hotel here in Dallas Friday afternoon was the site for about 90 minutes to view and listen to the best basketball talent in the world. It was the big, annual media international interview session for the NBA All Stars, Kobe and LeBron and Duncan and Garnett and a Hall of Fame room of talent.

Each player commanded a table surrounded by reporters, and Derrick Rose sat comfortably in a white t-shirt and jeans taking questions.

Right next to Rose was Dwyane Wade.

Yes, Bulls fan if only.

It seemed more coincidence than NBA portent of Chicago’s “Dream Backcourt 2010.”

Rose and Wade, at some point, will play together in the backcourt Sunday in the 59th NBA All Star game to be played in the Dallas Cowboys’ new football stadium.

As they are proud to say here, they do it bigger in Dallas.

Rose will not start as coach Stan Van Gundy said rather than choose between the two rookie point guards with Rajon Rondo to replace Allen Iverson, Van Gundy said he’ll go with Joe Johnson to start with Wade.

But Van Gundy Friday was absolutely effusive about Rose, who said he expects to play Sunday despite his hip injury suffered against Van Gundy’s Magic Wednesday. Rose estimated given the treatment he’s getting and the rate of healing he’s had he’ll be at about 75 to 80 percent efficiency for Sunday’s game and could also defend his Skills Challenge title Saturday. But no dunking, Rose said.

At least not yet.

“I’m going to continue to do that,” Rose said about his aggressive play despite the ugly fall after colliding with Orlando’s Dwight Howard. “That’s my game. If anything, when I go to the hole I’ll be more aware of how the big guys jump so that I can take the hit better. I’m going to definitely watch it, but I’m going to continually attack.”

Which is good news for the Bulls and the highlight shows. Rose said he expects to be close to full strength if not fully there when the Bulls resume their regular season Tuesday against the Knicks.

“Our first game back I think I should be all right,” Rose said. “Every day I’m getting treatment (ice and stimulation) and the next day it’s getting better. Right now, it’s looking good and the swelling and everything should go down and I should be fine in a couple days.”

Meanwhile, Rose seemed comfortable and at ease with the myriad questions, which included a live streaming from a TV station in China, requests to say hello to fans in various languages, queries about his shoes, his viewing habits and ping pong game.

Rose said that’s one of his few activities as reporters tried to find the man inside when there’s really only a kid living in there.

“I don’t play instruments or anything like that,” Rose answered to one reporter seeking a complex side. “I’m just a plain regular guy. I play video games, listen to music, watch a lot of movies and play basketball and that’s about it.”

Rose did tell an amusing story, and he likes to laugh at himself when he does, about when he was on an Adidas trip to China last summer and volunteered that he was a pretty good ping pong player. So they set up a game with a couple of elementary school kids, about 10 or 11.

Yes, you know what happened next.

“They actually tricked me into playing these two little kids,” said Rose with that self deprecating laugh of his. “They were sixth or seventh grade or something and I’m thinking I’m way older than them and the girl was like third ranked in Shanghai and the boy was ranked seventh and they beat me bad. The girl went to school all day for ping pong. That’s all she did. I’m not playing them anymore.”

Yes, he is just a kid, though one who will lead them.

There’s no question Rose is the playing leader of the Bulls, the player the team depends upon. You didn’t have to tell Van Gundy, who singled out Rose and Kevin Durant as the best young players in the NBA.

“He had to assume the primary role with Ben Gordon gone and their secondary guys are not close to his role and I think it showed up in our game when he went out,” said Van Gundy. “That’s a tough step for any player to make, especially a young player, and he being able to do it so well says a great deal about not only his talent and skills but his mentality.

“I look at a lot of these young guys and I have great appreciation for them,” Van Gundy added. “But Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant, to me those two in particular, in my mind when I watch them the thing I’m impressed with with those two guys they seem to me they’re only interest is to try to win the game. It’s not about their numbers or their notoriety. It’s about lifting their team.

“Derrick’s had to do that taking over the offense in Chicago,” Van Gundy noted. “Kevin Durant’s done that by making more a commitment on the defensive end of the floor. I have great respect for that. I think there’s a lot of talent in this league, a lot of guys who can put up numbers, and then there’s guys who can lift their teams and help their teams win games and Derrick Rose does that to me. He’s quiet. You don’t read a lot of quotable things from him, but when I do read things from him I like what he says, I like how he plays.

They’ve got a great, great player to build their franchise around.

“I talked to Derrick and he says he’s going to do the stuff tomorrow night,” Van Gundy said about the Saturday skills contests. “He says he’s ready to go. If a guy says he’s ready to go I’ll play him. I like the guys in their first All Star game. They’re more excited, more enthusiastic. They bring a different perspective to the game than the guys who it’s sort of old hat and begin taking the game for granted. The guys here for the first time understand what a great honor it is and I expect he’s a guy who’ll go out and play like he does in the season.”

Yes, you see the joy in Rose’s eye when he’s around something like this All Star weekend and the great stars of the game.

Rose said his first All Star memory was watching the 2000 game and the famous Vince Carter dunk contest.

“I just wanted to be a fan there,” Rose said. “I wasn’t thinking about being in the game. I just wished I could be there in the arena. (Now) I’m really happy coming here seeing all the fans and media and being part of this with 100,000 people in the stadium. To be a part of that is crazy. I’ve never been in a football stadium. I never went to the Bears, Soldier Field or anything like that. So for me to be playing in that stadium, I’ll be speechless.”

Rose said his favorite All Star to watch over the years has been LeBron James. Yes, the rest of us are old. I was wearing a belt older than Derrick.

His teammates know that as well, and maybe they had a bit of fun at his expense earlier this season, though it probably doesn’t bode well for where they are coming from regarding the upcoming labor negotiations.

One of the big stories of this weekend is the continuing of preliminary talks on a collective bargaining agreement after the 2010-11 season which could drastically change the league’s salary structure and maybe force a long lockout.

Rose is the Bulls’ player representative.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard him discuss those issues, and when someone asked him Friday, he said they should ask veterans like James or Wade, though he said in the future he hopes to be one of those veteran voices speaking up for his colleagues.

So how, I wondered, did Rose end up the Bulls’ player representative? Though for this weekend with the first big bargaining session Jannero Pargo was in Dallas to represent the Bulls in the talks.

“They said I had to do it,” Rose related. “The whole team. At first we wanted Lindsey (Hunter) to do it. Then he said, ‘No, I ain’t gonna be it.’ He said, ‘D Rose is going to be it.’ and he got everyone in the locker room to say, ‘Guess what? D Rose is our player rep.’ And they were saying, ‘For real?” It was like a joke and then they made it serious.

“So I send emails, make sure I’m at the meetings and I have to let them know everything because if I don’t I hear about it,” said Rose with a roll of his eyes and a smile. But like the game, he’s taking it all seriously.

And, yes, it’s been a quick course of “You’re in Charge” for Rose.

“Making sure we’ll still hungry, playing together and playing team basketball. That’s the biggest concern with our team,” said Rose. “When Joakim comes back, I know we have the team to go out there and compete.

“My teammates have confidence in me and trust in me so much,” said Rose. “I can come down and mess up a whole bunch of times they’ll tell me it’s all right. As a player you want to be that guy to have the ball in your hands and when you make mistakes, it’s all right you can live with it. Last year taking those shots it was new for me. This year I’m getting more comfortable. When I used to take shots at the end of the game I used to miss them and I’d be thinking about it to the next game and thinking about the same thing. Now I don’t think about taking those shots. I want to take those shots and my teammates want me to take those shots. They trust and have confidence in me.”

It hasn’t always been easy and there were some jealousies, but now everyone seems to understand, which is why everyone’s heart sunk when Rose went thump against the Magic Wednesday.

“It was clean,” Rose said about Howard’s attempted block. “He went up for the ball. That’s what centers are supposed to do. Make it tough when you go to the hole. I just opened up my body too much. And he knocked me down.

“At first I thought (it might be a fracture),” Rose admitted. “It really hurt. I haven’t landed like that since I was in high school. So it was a lot of pain. I feel like if it was a playoff game I probably could have shook it off and got a shot.

“(When I was hit I thought) ‘I’m going to hit my tailbone and it’s gonna hurt,’” Rose recalled. “Right when he hit me I knew I was going to fall on my back. He hit me directly in my chest and I knew it was bad after that. I tried to get up, but it was hurting too bad so I had to lay there for a minute. I knew it wasn’t anything broke or fractured when I went out there to shoot the free throw. I knew I’d be all right.

“I’ve got a little limp,” said Rose, “but I’m getting there.”

No, Derrick Rose has arrived.

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