Derrick Rose is back.
Yeah, sure, it’s only practices so far, plus one meaningless — and ill-fated — scrimmage, but every single thing that’s come out of Team USA’s practices, first in Las Vegas and now in Chicago, has been positive. His coaches and teammates universally love what they’ve seen from him.
Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson said Rose has been amazing. “He looks back to form,” he said. “I tried guarding him on a fast break and he went right by me.”
Rose’s performance in the scrimmage at the end of Thursday’s practice wasn’t necessarily mind-blowing — he buried a corner three but also missed a wide open breakaway dunk — but seeing him moving with his old burst and not holding anything back was gratifying.
His teammates have noticed his confidence too. Warriors guard Steph Curry said Rose doesn’t seem like he’ll need much time to get back up to game speed, based on what he’s done in the scrimmages. And Rose’s former teammate and current Atlanta Hawks guard Kyle Korver loves the “beast mode” — his words, not mine — mentality he’s seen from Rose.
“He looks more comfortable, he looks stronger to me,” Korver said. “And I think any time you feel strong, you play strong, you know what I mean? It’s just a mental thing, it’s like ‘I feel big and strong in this lane and no one’s going to get this shot.’ And you take your time a little bit more, you shoot it with a little more confidence and I sense that in Derrick.”
In fact, Rose’s mentality is the most important thing, as far as Korver’s concerned.
“Derrick’s improved, his jump shot is better and his float game is better and he’s moving really well,” Korver said. “But I don’t see the things that you worry about, where it’s like a lack of confidence, or is he not going to attack the paint. I think that’s more important than what he’s improved on. I don’t want to over-analyze — and no one should, really — like, ‘how has Derrick gotten better?’ I think first you start off with ‘is Derrick holding something back?’ And I don’t see that.”
Tom Thibodeau said that playing for Team USA tends to be good for the individual players. Rose, for instance, came back from the 2010 FIBA World Championships in Turkey and promptly won the MVP. Korver made a similar point and said being a part of Team USA means you get to play with other players who are amazing in their own right.
“I think we all want to be excellent at what we do, right?” Korver said. “Like, when you’re in the NBA you try to be at the highest level, you want to be excellent at your craft. And there’s no better way to be excellent than to surround yourself with excellence. They’ve talked about in the past, guys who have been a part of these teams who have come back and had really strong years because you start off the year with just surrounding yourself with excellence and it does nothing but help you out.”
There have been more than a few people that have suggested Rose should drop out of contention for a spot on Team USA, especially in the wake of the traumatic injury to Paul George in Las Vegas. It’s a pretty easy argument to make, really, and not an entirely unreasonable one. But Thibodeau doesn’t think it’s too risky for him to be here.
“You know, injuries, unfortunately, are part of the game and, you know, you hate to see anyone get injured,” he said. “It could happen in the regular season, could happen in the offseason, could happen in practice, could happen in a game. Basically, the only way you can guarantee a guy not getting hurt is don’t play at all. So, you never play in a game, never practice, never play in the offseason, you won’t get hurt. But that’s not the way you play this game, you know?”
Thibodeau has said previously that playing for Team USA is good for Rose’s comeback because it allows him to get game reps in a situation where he doesn’t have to carry the team by himself, and he said that hasn’t changed with Kevin Durant withdrawing and George getting hurt.
“There’s a lot of depth to this team,” he said. “So no one player has to carry the burden of being the only scorer. You have a guy like James Harden, you’ve got Curry, you have Klay Thompson. You’ve got a ton of scoring.”
Thibodeau likes the way the schedule has worked out for Rose this summer.
“Another big plus for his comeback is just the way this is structured,” he said. “In terms of, you know, you’ve got summer league, then you have a break after that, then we had the week in Vegas, then we had another break. His conditioning is significantly better. So it’s good, it’s real good for him.”
Almost as long as Rose has been in the league, people have wondered if his style of play — the way he attacks the basket with abandon — is bad for his long-term health. Those rumblings have only increased since Rose injured his first knee in April 2012, and they increased even more after his second injury in November 2013. But Korver thinks trying to change the way Rose plays — and more importantly, the way he thinks — would be doing more harm than good.
“I understand that line of thinking, but that’s not who Derrick is,” he said. “Like, that’s not his head, let alone his game. That’s not how he thinks. Derrick is a full-speed, attack, like he’s got that dog in him. He’s got, like, that dog where he’s like ‘I’m gonna go at you and I’m gonna force something to happen at the rim.’ I think he has spent an incredible amount of time training his body to be able to go back to the way that he used to play.”
For now, that seems to be working out for Rose. Let’s pray that doesn’t change.
“The NBA needs Derrick Rose because he’s so fun to watch,” Thompson said. “It’s great to have him out here and be a teammate with him for these three weeks.”