Paxson impressed by Rose’s emerging leadership role


Dec 21

It’s not unusual for Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson to sit in his Berto Center office and recall May 20, 2008. It was that night when the Bulls defied overwhelming odds (1.7% to be exact) and won the NBA’s draft lottery, earning the right to select Derrick Rose with the first overall selection.

“It turned our franchise around overnight, and that’s a remarkable thing,” said Paxson, speaking after the Bulls announced a maximum dollar, five-year extension for Rose. “For Derrick to be a young man from Chicago and for us to be lucky enough to be able to pick him, and then get to the point we are at today is a great story.”

The Rose deal was an easy one for the Bulls and Rose to make—no negotiations were necessary as both parties wanted the same end result.

“It’s significant because Derrick will be in a Bulls uniform for six more years and beyond,” said Paxson of the extension. “It gives him security, just as it does for us as well, because we know who we’re building with as we move forward.”

It’s been over eight years since Paxson joined the Bulls’ front office as general manager, and upon his arrival, he strived to create a culture of hard work and accountability. In Rose, he said that without question the Bulls have a player who epitomizes those goals.

“When your best player acts the way Derrick does—he works hard, wants to win above all else, and is committed to that—you’ve set yourself up for everyone else to fall in line,” said Paxson. “It helps eliminate the voices in the locker room that are sounding off about certain things. We’ve got a great group, but it starts with him and it’s always going to start—and end—with him.”

While Rose’s growth has been exponential—last season, he became the youngest MVP in NBA history at 22 years and 191 days old—he hasn’t let it go to his head.

“The thing that continues to amaze me about Derrick is the genuine humility that he really does have,” said Paxson. “I’m amazed at how well he processes everything that is going on around him so well. For him to remain grounded is extraordinary. He’s obviously motivated by helping his family and those who matter the most to him. It’s almost too good to be true, but we know it is true and that’s a wonderful thing.”

Having been around the NBA as a player, broadcaster and front office executive since 1983, Paxson has witnessed many of the game’s great players first hand. And though he’s not inclined to compare Rose to Michael Jordan, he admits the two possess similar intangibles which equate to success in the NBA.

“What I’ve always seen about the great players is that there is something inside of them that’s different,” said Paxson. “It’s difficult to define it, but you can tell it’s there. With Derrick, it’s just the way he does everything—how he plays and who he is off the court. A lot of Michael’s greatness was a combination of his abilities on and off the court. Derrick has a lot of the same qualities.

“The great players never reach a point where they feel they’ve made it and can’t get better,” added Paxson.

At only 23 years of age, Rose’s professional resume, though impressive, is short. Paxson fully expects him to build on it and has seen growth already this season in terms of Rose’s leadership and confidence in himself.

“Each year, Derrick’s confidence has been more outward,” said Paxson. “He’s always had it inside of him, but now the rest of us are really seeing it. And that’s a very good thing; it’s how Michael was. Early in Michael’s career, he didn’t talk as much on the floor as he did when he became a more mature player. That’s what is happening with Derrick. His evolving maturity, through his experiences on the floor, and by virtue of growing up as a man, will change him as a player.”

As his career continues, Rose’s statistics won’t define improvement in Paxson’s mind. Rather, how he handles his leadership role will. And the early returns have been positive. Paxson was impressed with Rose’s vocal presence during the team’s recent training camp, saying he feels it not only demonstrates a belief in himself, but the team as well.

Even Rose admitted during Wednesday’s news conference he’s been more vocal in practices, yelling “Championship, championship!” from time to time to encourage teammates.

“We’ve already seen this year that he has what it takes; he’s made for it,” Paxson said of Rose. “He’s accepting that leadership role and that is good news for all of us. It’s where his greatness will be determined.”

Audio—Derrick Rose, Tom Thibodeau and Gar Forman meet the media to announce a five-year contract extension for the Bulls guard (12.21.2011):

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