First things first. Reports that Derrick Rose — along with fellow NBA superstars Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant — was heading to the Philippines to play a couple charity exhibition games was, apparently, greatly exaggerated. And by “exaggerated” I mean “completely and entirely made up.”
A spokesperson from Wasserman Media Group, the agency that represents Rose, told Sporting News: “Derrick was never scheduled to play.”
So there you have it.
In much more interesting Rose-related news, Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports revealed that the league’s MVP was totally bummed after the Heat eliminated the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Said Rose: “Being that close [to the NBA Finals], and not getting it, hurt. I just stayed inside the whole time. I didn’t go anywhere else. I wore pajamas, watched a lot of movies, drank Powerade and got delivery food. My body was just sore and wore out. Mentally, too. I’m just getting over it. …I know my time will [come] soon. That’s how I think about it. I guess you have to pay your dues.”
Spears also let us in on another dirty secret: By the time the Bulls were on their last legs, so was Rose. Not only was he dealing with the left ankle sprain he suffered against the Pacers, Derrick was suffering from lingering back and wrist injuries. Basically, a season’s worth of amazing play had Rose weary to the bone, making his MVP award something of a Pyrrhic victory.
Said Rose: “I just learned from last season where my conditioning wasn’t up to par at the end of the season. That’s what I’m working on this summer, getting my conditioning right. There was just fatigue. My body wore down. Just going through the rounds, the first time being there past the first round, it was hard. I’m just learning from it.
“People will say, ‘He didn’t get that much help. It’s always just been me. I put a lot of pressure [on myself]. What would have happened if I was in better condition? How would I have played? You never know how it would have worked itself out.”
In addition to improved conditioning, Rose said he needs to “improve his shooting, lower his turnovers, finish stronger at the rim and draw more fouls.”
Again, I love this kid’s attitude. Makes no excuses and takes responsibility for everything. And, regardless of that MVP trophy, he’s focused on getting better. Which means great things for the Chicago Bulls.
Speaking of which, Aggrey Sam of CSNChicago.com has a great article about Rose’s feelings regarding his team’s next season. Assuming the lockout doesn’t kill the season.
Said Rose: “I’m damn confident. Knowing that my teammates are getting better, I’m getting better and we’ve just got to go out there and ball out. We [Rose and the Bulls' front office] talked a little bit, but nothing serious. It was too early. We’re good right now. I’m not worried about getting another player right now. If that’s the case, they would have asked me or told me something about it, but I haven’t heard anything yet, so I’m good.”
Derrick is keeping tabs on his ‘mates, too, and he has their backs.
Said Rose: “I try to reach out. I hear about people when they come back into town, but I talk to a few people on a consistent basis. [Mostly] Booz, Jo and Luol.
“Carlos is in Miami, just relaxing, just chilling, working out. Chicago is Chicago. They just want to see you go out there and play hard. People forget that he averaged 18 [points] and 10 [rebounds]. Chicago is its own city. They want you to win, of course, because they’re spoiled. We’re spoiled, kind of. But hopefully that day will come.
“I’m very confident about Joakim. He’s going to work hard. He’s working hard right now, actually. He was out here [in L.A.] when I first made it out here. He came by to see me before he went to New York. Just talking to him, it looked like he’s in shape. Lifting weights, gaining weight, but all the right weight.
“I told you, he [Lu] was the MVP of the team last year to me. I always say that. I think he was consistent, played through a lot of injuries, improved his game, improved his shooting, where he’s shooting threes now. Just everything. One-on-one game, dribbling, all that. He’s coming into his own.”
Rose even had some kind words for Keith Bogans, who flip-flopped positions with Boozer as Chicago’s preferred lightning rod for fan abuse.
“[Bogans] played his role. Keith played his role, played defense, great guy. Talked to him today [Saturday], actually. But Keith is Keith. He’s going to give you what he’s got on the court when he’s on the court. We just didn’t have it in us to win that series. Keith, like I said, he’s going to play defense, knock down shots, try to play hard every single time he steps on the court and be a veteran.”
There’s no questioning Rose’s loyalty to his teammates. Or his coaches.
On that subject, it’s worth noting that Minnesota’s Anthony Tolliver — in discussing his team’s need for a defensive-minded coach — took a shot at the reigning Coach of the Year: “I know several players on the Bulls and nobody really liked Tom Thibodeau, but that’s okay. You don’t have to like the coach. You just have to be able to play for him.”
Really? Tolliver thinks he knows how the Bulls feel about their coach? Yeah, well, Derrick put the quick kibosh on that talk.
Said Rose: “No better coach. No better coach. I’m riding and dying with Thibs. Thibs, he goes hard. He’s in the office right now, as we’re doing this interview right now. He’s probably going to stay there until like 10:30, 11 o’clock tonight. That’s just him. He’s used to it. He’s chasing the dream and there’s nothing wrong with that.
“He always delivers, man. Thibs, man. He did so much for my game. Just making me a better player. Defensively, just learning the game. Offensively, play sets. Everything about the game, he teaches you. He has history, talks about all the other teams he’s been on, of course, and we listen to it and just try to go out there and play the way he wants us to play.”
Doing that helped the Bulls leap from 42 wins to 62 and transform from first round losers into Eastern Conference Finalists.
Considering the kind words heaped on Thibodeau by Bulls players all last season — not to mention the glowing praise from his former players like Kevin Garnett — it’s reasonably safe to say Tolliver is a bit confused. Rose having Thibodeau’s back pretty much confirms that.
At any rate, if you’re at all concerned the MVP and all the extra attention is going to Rose’s head, there’s no need to worry. They’re not.
Said Rose: “Nothing has changed, really. Other than people knowing you when you go places, nothing changes. I try not to change. I think that’s why people like me so much, because I’m genuine. What you see is what you get. I’m not trying to be like anyone else. I’m being myself. I’m a hooper first. All the other things that you see me doing on the side is me trying things out, but I’m always going to be a hooper first.
“I’m never going to say anything controversial. That’s not my place. The only thing I can worry about is Derrick Rose and just trying to be positive, making sure that everything is right. I’m on the up and up. I’m not trying to trash talk. I’m not into all that. If anything, you know I like being in the back, being low key. I don’t like people being in my business. I don’t like being in other people’s business.”
Rose isn’t a perfect player. To be an all-time great, he still needs to improve and polish his game. Even he knows that. But between his native skill and attitude, there’s really nobody I’d rather have leading the Bulls.