Chicago Bulls: Nick Friedell
Would Davis, a Chicago native, come back home to team with Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls? That scenario is still several years off, but that doesn't mean that fans can't enjoy the pair together in the moment as they did over the weekend when the Perspectives Charter product teamed up with Rose, the pride of Simeon High School, for the first time Saturday night at the United Center.
"It was a lot of fun," Davis said of playing with Rose. "The things that he do can't be taught. For us to go out there and be with each other for a couple weeks total, and then go out there and play with that much chemistry, that much effort, says a lot."
It also has to make Bulls fans salivate at the possibilities.
All are talented. Rose became the youngest NBA MVP in league history during the 2010-11 season. Beverley was selected to the All-NBA defense second team. Many believe Parker will be the NBA Rookie of the Year this season with the Milwaukee Bucks. Okafor and Alexander are expected to follow Parker's lead into the league in the near future.
But it's Davis, the New Orleans Pelicans' All-Star center, who in just two short years has become one of the best players in the NBA. Davis is still in his rookie deal. The Pelicans have a team option in that deal for the 2015-16 season and then they can offer a qualifying deal a year later. Using history as a guide, most young stars such as Davis have signed another extension with the team that drafted them. Rose did it, as well as Kevin Durant, LeBron James and, most recently, Kyrie Irving with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Even Kevin Love, who is expected to officially become a Cavalier in the coming days, signed an extension with the Minnesota Timberwolves before forcing his way out.
So Chicago must wait a few years to see if Davis would ever seriously consider coming home. But at 21, it's not as if Davis is hitting the peak of his career. He's just getting started -- and only getting better. While it's still several years too early to consider him as a possibility for the Bulls, or any other team, the reality of the collective bargaining agreement means front offices must consider all potential scenarios years into the future.
This Bulls team, with Rose at the forefront, could look totally different in three years. Joakim Noah will be 30 this season and has just two years left on a team-friendly contract. Taj Gibson, Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic and Rose all have contracts that expire after the 2016-17 season. While that doesn't make the Bulls that much different than many other teams in the league, it is a reminder that the window for this current Bulls core isn't as wide as it used to be.
It's also a reinforcement that when the window for this group comes to a close, a 24-year-old Davis in Chicago would open a brand new one. Coach Tom Thibodeau and his team aren't focused on that right now, but it's a sure bet it has crossed the minds of Gar Forman and John Paxson -- especially as they watch Davis and Rose on Team USA.
As Team USA continues to come together over the next few weeks, it will be interesting to see how Davis and Rose play together, assuming the general soreness that has kept Rose out the past three days subsides. Both players enjoy playing for their country, but representing their city seems to mean a lot to them, as well.
"Here in Chicago, it's kind of like basketball is everything," Rose said. "You go down south, football is everything. But here you go to a high school game, and you won't be able to get in because it's so packed."
The United Center is almost always packed no matter what. But if Rose and Davis ever end up playing together on the Bulls, the electricity everyone felt in the building Saturday would be there on a nightly basis thanks to two homegrown stars.
While medical experts -- and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau -- have all said that soreness is a normal reaction as Rose returns from the torn medial meniscus in his right knee from last November and the torn ACL in his left knee from over two years ago, it's still a sobering thought for fans to think that Rose's status will perpetually be day-to-day for the foreseeable future.
But that's the reality of the situation. Rose, and the Bulls' training staff, have put an inordinate amount of time into keeping his body in the best shape possible as he attempts this latest comeback. Bulls director of sports performance Jen Swanson has been at Rose's side during trips to Las Vegas and Chicago with Team USA. Rose has talked openly about how much better he is at taking care of his body at this point in his career.
"It's totally different," Rose said on July 30 in Las Vegas of his new routine. "Waking up making sure that I'm hydrated, drinking six to eight bottles of water every day. Things that I thought I would never do: eating, taking supplements, just for my blood flow, just everything. Stretching at night, using a band, using a roller, just becoming a professional.
"When I remember being in my rookie year and I used to see all the older players stretching and using trainers to stretch them I didn't think nothing about it. But now I'm kind of mad because I didn't take advantage of it when I was younger. Whenever I talk to these younger players, I try to tell them, get the maintenance on your body. Get massages. Make sure you're always getting treatment, because you're going to need it for this long career."
Rose still expects to have a long career and has prepared his body for the grind of many NBA seasons, but nobody knows whether his body will be able to hold up this season and beyond. That uncertainty hovers over Team USA, the Bulls and the city of Chicago, and it's part of what makes this Rose comeback so compelling. Every day is a new story, a new chance for Rose to take another step forward and prove again he is one of the best basketball players in the world.
Nervousness will be the prevailing emotion until Rose can prove he can stay healthy for an entire season. Until then, every move he makes will be watched with more trepidation than excitement, a sad twist given how much joy Rose's game has the ability to provide if his body will allow him to stay on the floor this season.
The eyes of the basketball world will be focused on Rose as he tries to make his way back from a second serious knee injury.
With that in mind, let's take a look at 10 of the most intriguing games on the Bulls' 2014-15 schedule (see the full slate here), which was released Wednesday:
Bulls at New York Knicks, Oct. 29: The regular-season opener comes against a player the Bulls tried to land this summer in Carmelo Anthony and marks Rose's first regular-season game in almost a year. Rose and Joakim Noah have talked in the past about how much they enjoy playing on the Madison Square Garden stage.
Cleveland Cavaliers at Bulls, Oct. 31: The energy for this game is already palpable in Chicago. It will be Rose's sixth home game since tearing his ACL in the first game of the 2012 playoffs. It will also be LeBron James' first appearance at the United Center since coming back to the Cavaliers. The UC will be rocking on Halloween.
Bulls at Los Angeles Clippers, Nov. 17: This showdown between Rose and Chris Paul marks the start of a tough seven-game, two-week trip that will send the Bulls coast to coast.
Knicks at Bulls, Dec. 18: Carmelo Anthony makes his first appearance at the United Center since spurning the Bulls in free agency. How many times will he say his new deal "wasn't about the money?"
Los Angeles Lakers at Bulls, Dec. 25: Carlos Boozer makes his return to the United Center with a Lakers team that faces off for the first time against former teammate Pau Gasol. Given the injury woes Rose and Kobe Bryant have dealt with, fans (and the NBA) have to be hoping for a Christmas present of two healthy stars.
Milwaukee Bucks at Bulls, Jan. 10: A Bucks game in January doesn't usually get the juices flowing, but this game marks former Simeon standout Jabari Parker's first game as a professional in Chicago. Rose vs. Parker should be a lot of fun to watch for years to come.
Miami Heat at Bulls, Jan. 25: Luol Deng didn't get a chance to return to the United Center last season after being traded to Cleveland. This season, he comes in with a revamped Heat team that still has Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Deng, who spent nine-plus seasons with the Bulls, likely will get a nice ovation from Chicago fans.
Bulls at San Antonio Spurs, March 8: The Bulls will try to knock off the defending champs for the second straight season on their home floor. Many believe the Bulls have tried to set up a Spurs-like roster, and Thibodeau again comes face-to-face with the organization he calls the "gold standard" of the NBA.
Bulls at Oklahoma City Thunder, March 15: A nationally televised game featuring Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Rose should be fun to watch. The Bulls have not fared well against the Thunder, dropping five of their past six games against them, but this gives them another chance to turn the numbers around.
Bulls at Cavaliers, April 5: An intriguing matchup between the Central Division rivals comes late in the season. Playoff seeding and a division crown could be on the line.
But most importantly, Thibodeau was relieved because he knew Rose wasn't going to have to be "the man" on a talented USA team as he takes the next step in his comeback from a torn meniscus suffered in November 2013. He wasn't going to have to be relied upon to carry the scoring load each game like he usually does with the Bulls.
"I think this is why [this camp] is so good for him," Thibodeau said on July 29, the second day of Team USA's camp. "Because of the talent level that's here. It's a chance for him to measure himself to see where he is. He doesn't have the burden to carry the load for a team."
Things have changed since then for Team USA -- and for Rose, who came to Chicago for practices Thursday and Friday before playing in an exhibition game against Brazil on Saturday at the United Center.
It's a challenge that Rose will assuredly embrace, but it's fair to say he wasn't expecting it just a couple weeks ago.
While there are plenty of scorers left on Team USA, including James Harden and Stephen Curry, both of whom have international experience, Rose will now be counted on more offensively. Although Thibodeau remains eternally confident in his star, it's a role that has to leave him a little uneasy given the circumstances.
Rose has only played in 49 games in the past three years because of all the injuries and just 10 in the past two because of two serious knee injuries. Thibodeau wanted to ease him back, but that doesn't appear to be as likely now -- and that's probably a good thing for the Bulls.
In the immediate aftermath of George's injury, some fans and undoubtedly some in the Bulls' organization had to wonder whether Rose should continue to play for Team USA this summer. What if he suffered another injury? George's misfortune was another reminder that injuries can occur anywhere.
Rose hasn't played much in three years, and Team USA has given him a platform to show what he can do on the world stage. It will be a great litmus test for him to see where he is mentally and physically heading into the Bulls' season with high expectations.
It will also give Rose a chance to prove to himself and to the rest of basketball that he can still be the go-to guy on a team when needed. Thibodeau and the rest of the coaching staff will continue to watch Rose closely, and they know that there will still be rust for the former MVP to shake off, but now he will have to shed it even quicker than expected.
If Rose's week in Vegas was any indication, that shouldn't be much of a problem. Players and coaches raved about how well he was playing, and Rose even acknowledged how much more fun he was having on the floor.
"I usually say whatever the game needs, that's what I'm going to put into the game," Rose said. "And I learned that by actually playing through my mistakes with the first injury. Just seeing that I was forcing everything, it wasn't the way that I was playing. I wasn't enjoying the game like I was before the injury. Now it feels like I appreciate it a little bit more and just enjoy being on the court and playing the game that I love playing."
He'll have even more chances to showcase his skills now that George and Durant are no longer on the roster. In the short term, that fact might make the Bulls and Thibodeau a little nervous, but it should pay off in a major way for the Bulls in the long term if Rose can stay healthy throughout the tournament.
Rose is entering his seventh season in the league while Lillard, the Portland Trail Blazers star point guard, is coming into just his third year. The pair will reunite beginning Thursday in Chicago as part of the continuation of Team USA's training camp as it prepares for the World Cup of Basketball in Spain later this month.
"It was a lot of fun," Lillard said of his Vegas training camp experience with Rose last month. "Not only to play against him but to play with him, to watch his habits. I think it's a great thing for a guy coming up in this league to be able to play with and against a guy who's been an MVP, been to the conference finals. Who's been as successful as he's been. You want that same thing for yourself. I think that's great."
Lillard, who was drafted sixth overall in 2012 out of Weber State, acknowledged during his rookie year that he watched a lot of tape of Rose's game before coming into the NBA. Lillard appreciated how quick and explosive the Bulls' point guard was to the rim. Given Rose's struggles to stay on the court the past few seasons, limiting him to just 49 games in the last three seasons, Lillard was waiting to see how Rose looked.
The early returns have been great.
"He looks healthy," Lillard said. "He looks just as explosive as he was. He doesn't look like he's lost any of that explosiveness. Obviously, the rhythm and just everything hasn't come back [yet]. I think you got to play more and at this level [of] competition get completely back as far as game-wise. But he looked good. He looked like he was right on track to still be Derrick Rose."
Rose finds it a bit strange to have been in the NBA long enough now to have players such as Lillard following in his footsteps.
"It's weird playing against younger players," Rose said. "This is going on my seventh year so it's kind of weird. I'm not old, but at the same time I'm older than a lot of players that's here. I've been doing the Select Team and USA Basketball ever since I got in the league so I've been around for a long time. I'm happy I didn't lose sight of all my goals."
Rose's biggest one this year is proving he can stay on the floor. Thanks to two knee surgeries, he played in just 10 games over the past two seasons. As the years have gone by Rose has matured in different areas, including taking much better care of his body, a pearl of wisdom he wants to give to younger players.
"It's totally different," Rose said of his physical preparation. "Waking up making sure that I'm hydrated, drinking six to eight bottles of water every day. Things that I thought I would never do: Eating, taking supplements, just for my blood flow, just everything. Stretching at night, using a band, using a roller, just becoming a professional. When I remember being in my rookie year and I used to see all the older players stretching and using trainers to stretch them I didn't think nothing about it. But now I'm kind of mad because I didn't take advantage of it when I was younger.
"Whenever I talk to these younger players I try to tell them, get the maintenance on your body. Get massages. Make sure you're always getting treatment because you're going to need it for this long career."
Lillard says the pair have had some casual conversations over the past couple years but nothing too in depth up to this point. Still, the 24-year-old Lillard, a former Rookie of the Year himself, appreciates the position he's been put in alongside one of the players he watched before coming to the league. That point is underscored by the fact that Lillard, like Rose, has become one of the global faces for Adidas basketball over the past year.
"It's special," Lillard said. "That I could be one of the faces of a brand alongside him and help push that brand and kind of try to make it bigger. And have people gravitate towards his story, my story and that whole Adidas brand. I think that's great for myself."
The 33-year-old Korver, who is on his fourth NBA team in 11 seasons, is coming off the best season of his career and is in the mix to make the Team USA roster for the FIBA World Cup later this month in Spain.
"It's so cool," said McDermott, a Chicago Bulls rookie and fellow Creighton alumnus. "I think it just shows how much work he's put in. Three or four years ago he was thinking about shutting it down. He kind of changed his body, changed the way he works, and here he is so it's really cool to see."
Korver, who set an NBA record last season by hitting a 3-pointer for a 127th straight game, appears to be enjoying his time on Team USA more than anyone. The Atlanta Hawks sharpshooter has put a lot of work into his game in recent years and he is at the point in his career when he can appreciate it more than ever.
"It's kind of cool that [this opportunity] kind of comes more towards the end," said Korver, who shot an NBA-best .472 from 3-point range last season. "This is my 12th year coming up and I've never really been a part of stuff like this so it's kind of special to me. I take it serious. I'm trying to do this thing. Not that I see this as the end; I'm going to keep trying to grow and get better, but it's kind of a cool thing that it happens more towards the end than at the beginning. I'm not like the young guy here who they see down the road they're going to throw him in the mix."
"For us, I think it wouldn't change anything," Rose said. "We know that no matter who we play that we have a legit change to beat anyone in the league. But at the same time, we know it's not going to be easy at all because guys are getting better. You have guys going to different teams and it's going to be tough. But at the same time, that's why we're in the NBA and that's why we love this game, for the challenge."
Rose said recently that these Bulls are the "most talented" team he's ever been on. Assuming that Rose is healthy -- and that's a huge assumption, given that he's played in just 49 games over the past three seasons, including just 10 in the past two because of two serious knee injuries -- the Bulls believe they have enough to win a championship this season.
Let's take a look at a few of the reasons why:
Rose is back: It was just one week at Team USA's camp, but Rose offered a reminder that he can still be a special player. Players and coaches raved about the way he performed as he showed the speed and explosion that set him apart from the start of his career. Rose has the superstar ability to carry the Bulls at times, and everybody will feed off his presence on the floor. He must prove his body can withstand the grind of a long NBA season.
Thibs' defense: Tom Thibodeau has implemented his hard-nosed defensive schemes over the past four years in Chicago. When teams play the Bulls they know they're in for a tough and physical game. Led by Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler, the Bulls have the type of defensive prowess that is crucial to postseason success. The Cavs don't have that type of luxury. James is one of the best defenders in the game -- and has shown it in years past locking up Rose -- but Irving and Love have never been known as solid defenders. Thibodeau will make sure to have his players in the right place on defense and find a way to take advantage of the weaknesses of Irving and Love on the other end of the floor.
Depth: The Bulls didn't land Carmelo Anthony this summer, but they did add several players who can make a difference in the regular season and in the playoffs. Pau Gasol has won championships and should provide an upgrade over Carlos Boozer. Doug McDermott lit up the Vegas Summer League and has proved throughout his college career that he can knock down shots. Aaron Brooks gives the Bulls insurance as a combo guard who can play alongside Rose and Kirk Hinrich. Nikola Mirotic is a great unknown on the NBA level, but he has played in many big games in Europe and can score. Tony Snell had a good run at Summer League and appears to be taking the next step in his progression. The Cavs have a solid team with a lot of talent, but the Bulls, along with the reigning NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, have arguably the deepest team in the league. That depth should help them in every area throughout the season.
Continuity: This is the year for the Bulls to win a title. They are talented and deep and have proved they can win under Thibodeau. The Cavs have a lot of talented players (including the best player in the world in James), but like all teams, it's going to take them a little time to come together and learn new coach David Blatt's system. The Bulls run like a well-oiled machine under Thibodeau and trust each other on the floor. The core has been together now for five years, and they aren't getting any younger. It's up to Rose to stay healthy and lead them to where they want to go.
Korver speaks glowingly about McDermott and believes that his friend will end up being a very good pro in the NBA, but he knows that McDermott will have to make some adjustments during his time in Chicago.
There's a lot of things that McDermott must learn to deal with as he begins his first season in the NBA, but Korver -- along with many coaches and executives throughout the league -- believes that McDermott is up for the challenge.
That's why the Bulls spent so much time scouting him over the past few years. And that's why the organization ended up trading so many picks -- two firsts and three seconds by the time they unloaded Anthony Randolph to the Orlando Magic in a subsequent deal -- to get him. It was love at first sight for both McDermott and the Bulls.
A short drive to the Bulls' new downtown practice facility isn't the only nice change in McDermott's first job out of college. He also gets to play with one of the best point guards in the game in Derrick Rose. The former MVP and Team USA lock raved about McDermott, who was a member of the U.S. Select Team, during Team USA's training camp last week.
"He rarely messes up," Rose said of McDermott. "He never pushes the issue I would say. He never tries things that he can't do. He knows exactly what type of play that he wants and for me I need him because you can't leave him. He has a lot of confidence in his shot, and he works on his shot every day. So when he's open -- and I was playing with him when we were back in Chicago -- I had to tell him whenever he's open and I pass him the ball he better shoot or I'm going to yell at him every time."
McDermott isn't taking the opportunity to play with Rose for granted.
"It makes it a lot easier because he draws so much attention," McDermott said. "He's an unselfish guy to play with, and he's going to find you. He makes some really good decisions with the ball."
Most of all, McDermott can knock down shots. It's the trait the Bulls are banking on most as McDermott embarks on this new stage of his career. Korver is confident that McDermott's game will grow under Thibodeau, but the Bulls are hoping that "McBuckets" can live up to his nickname this season and help space the floor for Rose.
"We've had some great shooters in the past, but with him, I've never played with a young shooter," Rose said. "He'll be the youngest player and the youngest, best shooter I've ever played with so I can't wait to play with him. He seems like he takes the game very serious [for] a young player. He knows the game and his father [grew] him into a basketball player."
McDermott played for his father, Greg, while at Creighton and won national player of the year in 2014 as a senior. His basketball acumen and ability to live up to expectations is something that those around him take pride in.
"He takes the game very serious," Korver said. "He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He plays with an edge. He wants to be really good. And he's going to work for it. He doesn't just want it. He wants to work for it. He's got a great skill set, obviously, in how he can shoot and how he sees the floor.
"He dealt with every kind of defense [in college]. He's been prepared for the NBA in so many ways. Just in how he was guarded all the time, the pressure that was on him in Omaha at Creighton. He's a younger guy, but emotionally he's very mature."
That sounds a lot like a guy who will be able to deal with the constant pressure of playing for Thibodeau, who hasn't shown a willingness to play rookies right away. But McDermott looks to be the guy who should be able to buck that trend this season.
Thibodeau, who also serves as an assistant on Team USA's staff, liked what he saw from McDermott in camp.
"Last year he had a chance to get involved with [USA Basketball] and I thought that was great for him," Thibodeau said. "And he's getting more experience this year. He played well in the summer league and this is a different level of competition so it's another opportunity for him to improve. I think any time he can do that it's all a plus."
McDermott knows he will take advantage of the experience, as well.
"It's been great just going against some of the best guys in the world," he said. "It's definitely a challenge, but it can only help a guy like me who's getting his NBA career started."
His friendship with Korver will also help. McDermott knows that he'll be able to bounce things off the 33-year-old veteran as he deals with the ups and downs that come during every player's rookie year.
As the hype surrounding McDermott's impact increases after a solid performance in the summer league, Korver wants to make one thing clear: McDermott isn't the new Korver for the Bulls. He's his own player.
"There's easy comparisons to make, right?" Korver said. "We got a similar skill set although he's got some post game that I don't have. We come from the same school. We're about the same size, all that. It's easy to say that. But he's his own person and he's got his own things to his game that I don't have and he's going to do a great job for you guys. He's really excited to be there. He's going to learn so much from Thibs. It's so great."
"He looked the same as I said [Wednesday]," Durant said. "Great."
"I don't know how much more I can answer that one," Durant said. "How different I can answer, he looks great. I'm excited I get a chance to play with him on his first time back after last year."
As he has said repeatedly over the past few days, Rose is just happy to be back on the court. He said his wind is getting better each time he has been out there.
"I think that I'm back, man," Rose said. "I'm not worried about my knee anymore. I got three days under my belt and I'm just trying to keep playing, playing hard and just trying to improve every day."
A light day: Team USA had a shortened practice Thursday and just did some light work. Rose took some jumpers during the portion of practice that was open to the media. Like most of the players in Friday night's scrimmage, Rose is expected to play somewhere around 20 minutes. The international games are only 40 minutes long compared to 48 in the NBA.
"He looks great," Wizards guard John Wall said. "He looks like his old self. He'll probably be more aggressive and all that when he gets into the competition rounds but right now I think he's proven he's going to be his [old] self again. And I think that's really what everybody's worried about, would he still have his explosion and all that. I know the city of Chicago is excited and I know how hard he worked and how hard he's going to keep working to keep himself going."
"For us, I think it wouldn't change anything," Rose said Thursday after Team USA's practice. "We know that no matter who we play that we have a legit change to beat anyone in the league. But, at the same time, we know it's not going to be easy at all because guys are getting better. You have guys going to different teams and it's going to be tough. But, at the same time, that's why we're in the NBA and that's why we love this game, for the challenge."
If Love were to be traded to Cleveland it would go a long way toward changing the balance of power in the Eastern Conference, especially in the Central Division. Before the latest news regarding Love's future became public, Indiana Pacers All-Star Paul George said Tuesday that he believed the Central Division is the best in basketball.
"You got to," he said. "You've got three of the top teams in this league all in the Central division and we're all contenders for a championship, not just reaching the Finals. So all of us got our cards cut out for us. It's just all about getting the job done."
The growth of the Central Division has caught the attention of the basketball world over the last few weeks.
"It's going to be a tough division," Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant said. "Milwaukee's going to be pretty good. Cleveland, Detroit, so it should be a good division, man. They're going to be fighting every night to get that division crown. The Bulls and Cleveland of course are the top two teams, but everybody's going to be fighting."
George echoed those sentiments.
"It's going to be tough," he said. "There's going to be battles. Even in Milwaukee, they've got some young guys there, and adding Jabari (Parker), he's ready to make some noise in the Central division as well. But it's going to be tough. When you've got guys like Derrick, myself, LeBron (James), Kyrie (Irving). We all want that moment and want that competitiveness."
While Rose wouldn't go as far as to say it was the best division in basketball, he did acknowledge that he was looking forward to the competition it would provide night to night.
"I wouldn't say (the Central is) the best in the league, but we have a lot of competition in that division," Rose said. "Playing against them teams every night you got to make sure that you got to come out prepared well and (in) rhythm for a tough game. Because I think everybody's getting prepared right now knowing what we're doing here. Everybody's going in the gym right now just working on their game because they know we get kind of a head start playing in stuff like this."
Love decided not to participate in Team USA's training camp as his future place of employment hangs in the balance, but everyone in Las Vegas knows how his presence in Cleveland would change things in the league.
"It would be great," Washington Wizards guard John Wall said of a potential Love to Cleveland move. "That would be a big three you need, but you've still got to find a way to put that chemistry together. That's where it all starts at. It would be big for the Eastern Conference, but you've got to figure out a way to put it together."
The Bulls added veterans Pau Gasol and Aaron Brooks, European star Nikola Mirotic, and rookie Doug McDermott while re-signing Kirk Hinrich to go along with a core led by All-Stars Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.
One new guy who likely isn't headed to Chicago is Minnesota Timberwolves big man Kevin Love. ESPN.com reported late Wednesday night that the Cleveland Cavaliers are the only team in serious negotiations at this time. Forman spoke to the media hours before the latest Love report came out.
"It's become a 12-month cycle," Forman said. "And the NBA, it used to be this time of year things would just kind of die. The sense is it's not like that anymore. There's always some talk. That's our job. We're always going to try to talk to people around the league, get a feel for what's going on in the market. And if there are opportunities, we'll look at them. With that said, we really like the group that we have, and we're looking forward to getting going in October with that group."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau likes the group, as well, but he said his team must prove itself on the floor.
"It looks good, but we have to see how it unfolds," Thibodeau said. "The team that won 62 games and won 50 in the lockout season, they did it on the floor so we can talk about it but we got to put the work into it and then we got to see what it looks like when we're on the floor. But I think we have quality depth. I love the players that we have, so we're looking forward to the challenge."
Forman, who said the Bulls were "aggressive" in their pursuit of free agents, and Thibodeau know the Bulls are only going to be able to contend for a title if Rose stays healthy. That's why they are so pleased with what they have seen from Rose during Team USA's camp this week.
"I think he's been terrific," Forman said. "He looks strong, he looks confident, he looks explosive, he's been in a real good rhythm. He's playmaking for himself and others. It's been really, really encouraging."
LAS VEGAS -- Derrick Rose is on a mission.
The Chicago Bulls star wants to prove to all of his critics that he can still play basketball at an elite level. He wants to prove to his doubters that his body can withstand the grind of an NBA season after suffering two career-altering knee injuries that wiped out all but 49 games the past three seasons. He wants to prove to the city of Chicago, his hometown, that he can still be the man -- on and off the floor -- that they always wanted him to be.
But as Rose gets set for his second comeback, the most important lesson he wants to teach this season isn't for all his doubters. Rose wants to show his son P.J., who will be 2 in October, that his dad didn't give up when times got tough.
"I know how special I am as a player," Rose said. "I know I take the game serious. Basketball is my life so I can't give up. I have a son that's looking up to me, and when he gets older and realizes what's going on he's going to look back, and hopefully that gives him a little bit of motivation knowing that I had to go through so much. And I hope that pushes him to become a great individual."
That's part of the reason Rose's outlook has changed as he tries to make his way back from a torn meniscus in his right knee. He is playing for more than just winning basketball games this time around.
Rose admitted for the first time on Wednesday after a practice with Team USA that he wasn't having very much fun on the floor last year during his comeback from a torn ACL in his left knee. He played seven preseason games, and through 10 regular-season games he was averaging 15 points and shooting 35 percent from the field.
"I felt like, the first time I came back, I felt like it was damn near like a job instead of just going out there and having fun," Rose said. "When I came back last fall I felt like it was a job. I wasn't smiling, I wasn't enjoying the game, I was trying not to mess up, and with me I usually just go out there and play. Me playing at least is something good, but at the time it was just too much going on, and I think that was just a dark side for me. Just a dark period of time."
In hindsight, it's easy to understand why Rose felt that way. After the nonstop speculation regarding his return to the floor -- fueled by a major advertising campaign from his shoe sponsor, Adidas -- Rose never played during the 2012-13 season despite being cleared by team doctors. That decision made fans question Rose for the first time, but it's a choice that he wouldn't change as he looks back on it over a year and a half later.
"I knew in my mind, if I wasn't right I wasn't playing," Rose said. [Bulls director of sports performance] Jen [Swanson] and everybody was on the same page, from the front office all the way down to the strength and conditioning coach, Nick [Papendieck]. Everybody knew that I wasn't ready at that time, and we kind of kept [the information] in. But I kind of let them know every day that I wasn't ready."
Rose heard the criticism and the second-guessing, but he didn't care. Rose knew he had to be "selfish" for one of the first times in his career. The man who always wanted to please everybody had to look out for himself.
"I would hear about it, but I wouldn't pay attention to it," he said of the criticism. "People would come ask me about it. I'm thankful that my teammates didn't ask me about it because they kind of knew that I wasn't ready, or they probably saw that I was able to play but they left it up to me, so I appreciate that."
When Rose did come back to start last season, he struggled to find a rhythm early in the campaign and internalized all the pressure surrounding his comeback. It looked as if he was pressing during games, a fact that Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, among others, has acknowledged recently.
When Rose went down with the torn meniscus on Nov. 22 in Portland, just 10 games into his comeback season, it felt like Groundhog Day for everyone involved. He stood in front of a mirror in the visitors' locker room in the Moda Center and couldn't believe what he was seeing while holding himself on crutches. But Rose said things started to change for him soon afterward.
"It changed with the second injury," he said of his mindset. "I knew that I couldn't be mad or be in that place for a whole year again. So I really attacked my rehab and it really was fun this time. The first time it was hell … this time it was hell, too, but I was able to enjoy it a little bit more seeing that improvement."
Rose spent more time around his teammates the second time around. He tried to stay more involved with the Bulls on a day-to-day basis, and he believes that helped him stay upbeat. He also got to spend more time with son P.J., and that kept him balanced throughout the most trying part of his career.
"My son is huge," Rose said. "He's everything, man. I think he's my No. 1 fan. Me being around him almost every other day, it's a blessing. ... I'm just going to use as motivation."
Those closest to Rose can see the subtle differences in his personality as well. Life experiences, especially becoming a parent, change everyone in some way, and Rose is no different. He seems much more comfortable in his surroundings this time and more relaxed about his situation.
"He's matured every year," said Kentucky coach John Calipari, who coached Rose at Memphis. "[All players] do. It's funny, the one thing is, he still doesn't pass on a chance to say, 'I love ya, coach.' But as they get older, they become a little more aware. I think what his family did, which was a great thing, is they let him be a kid. What's happening to a lot of these kids right now, they're having to grow up too fast. His family kept everybody away from him: coaches, everybody. Mom [Brenda] was strong, [his] brothers, and he was able to be who he was, and now he's coming into his own. People forget how young he is. Look at him, he was the MVP [at 22]. What are you talking about? This kid's got 10 years of playing left and probably eight at a high level. But I'm happy for him; he hasn't changed, in my mind. He's still the same guy."
“Rose still has the same confidence and fire on the floor. He still believes he is the best player each time he comes into a game. The difference now is that he doesn't appear to be as concerned about the perception around him.
People forget how young he is. Look at him, he was the MVP [at 22]. What are you talking about? This kid's got 10 years of playing left and probably eight at a high level. But I'm happy for him, he hasn't changed in my mind. He's still the same guy.” -- John Calipari on Derrick Rose
"I think it's who Derrick is," Thibodeau said of Rose's maturity. "I think each year, I'm going into Year No. 5 with him, and each year he's been a lot different. So I think the type of person that he is, he'll continue to grow. I think he learns from each experience. When you look at his first three years in the league, it's pretty amazing. Sometimes people forget how good he actually is. And then he had the misfortune of the injury, and then getting reinjured. So it was a setback, but he never changed. He always had the belief that 'I'm going to come back, and I'm going to be great again,' and I believe he will be."
That's the biggest key for Rose as he starts the long process of changing the perception around him. He didn't doubt himself while most of the world did. He trusted in the process and he believed he would overcome anything that got in his way.
"I don't think I have to prove anything to myself," he said. "I think just coming on the court, I think after the first day I'm fine, to tell you the truth. I know that I can play with these guys. It seems that everyone's been working on their game, and me seeing them shoot and seeing them improve is going to make me go back after I leave here and work even harder."
Nothing will make him work as hard as remembering that he is playing for his son. Rose already accepts the fact that his son will have a lot of expectations placed upon him because of his famous father. With that in mind, Rose is trying as best he can to write a different story for his son to follow.
In the short term, the proud papa is trying to enjoy this latest comeback with his favorite wingman by his side.
"It means everything," Rose said of having P.J. "Just seeing what I'm going through. And just seeing him growing up, he's going to have so much pressure on him just from me and what I achieved. I think he has the right attitude because he's real firm with his decisions right now. He's real independent, and I think for him, that's what he needs growing up because he's not going to take no [crap] from nobody."
Just like his daddy.
"I think this is the most talented team I've played on in my NBA career to tell you the truth," Rose said after Team USA's practice Wednesday. "With all the players that I have, with the experience that everybody's bringing to the table. And the way that everybody's working out individually during the offseason and what I've been hearing."
Rose is pleased with the efforts made by general manager Gar Forman and executive VP John Paxson in upgrading the roster.
"I have that sense that they went for it," Rose said. "That they gave their all. We got who we could get and who wanted to come. And that's who we have to ride with. We have a lot of confidence in the players that we just signed and we know that the guys that's already there is working out very hard. So it's just a matter of getting in the gym, working out together, jelling very quickly, since we're not going overseas early."
Rose, who is in Las Vegas this week as part of Team USA's training camp in advance of the FIBA Basketball World Cup that starts next month in Spain, acknowledges that he is motivated by seeing the work his teammates have been putting in over the past few months.
"Just seeing [second-year forward] Tony Snell bust his [butt] in the gym the whole summer, seeing Doug [McDermott] come in and do the same thing and they end up playing well, it kind of gave me a boost and let me know that hard work pays off," Rose said. "So I'm watching them playing summer league a couple of times seeing them play with a lot of confidence, it just gave me confidence coming into this trial actually. But I think that we have a deep team, and we've got players that have one goal and we'll do anything to get there."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is excited about the possibilities of his team, but he also understands that the success of this group revolves around Rose, who is making his way back from two serious knee injuries.
"We're excited about our group," Thibodeau said. "I think the way [Joakim Noah] and [Taj Gibson] played last year is a huge plus. The addition of Pau [Gasol], getting a stretch 4 like [Nikola] Mirotic, picking up McDermott, [but] the biggest thing is Derrick. Obviously that's huge for our team and we can never lose sight of how important he is to our team."
That's why several members of the Bulls front office and training staff have been watching Rose work all week with Team USA. Forman watched Wednesday's practice and was very pleased with what he saw. Forman is hopeful that Rose can knock off a lot of the rust that hampered his game during his first comeback last season.
"I think it will help," Forman said, in regards to Rose having this experience with Team USA. "He's been playing 5-on-5 now for a couple of months. But to do it in this setting that's very structured, and to do it against the level of competition he's doing it against is a real plus. And I think it will be a plus for him going into camp in October, and obviously a plus for our team."
Rose has impressed seemingly everyone through three days of Team USA camp and is trying to take all the hype surrounding his return in stride.
"It feels good knowing that people see that I've been working my butt off," Rose said. "If anything, it's going to push me to keep working because I'm a hard worker. It feels good when your teammates hit you up or text you. Like Joakim's been texting me a lot saying how he's been hearing about how I've been playing, and it's pushing him to go into his rehab with his knee even tougher. So it goes a long way."
Rose said he got Gasol's number during the free-agency period and talked to him about coming to play in Chicago.
"I talked to him before he signed," Rose said. "And he said when we get to Spain that we can probably get something to eat so I'll probably catch up with him and get dinner or something. But if not I'll see him when he gets to Chicago."
LAS VEGAS -- The praise for Derrick Rose's game and attitude continued on Wednesday during Day 3 of Team USA's camp.
In the brief portion of practice the media were able to view, Rose made a nice block in transition and showed no fear in driving to the rim on the offensive end. Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau -- an assistant to Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski -- loves to see that type of intensity from his point guard on both ends of the floor, and this characteristic has helped set Rose apart so far this week.
"I love the way he's playing right now," Thibodeau said. "Because he's showing a lot of patience, he's making good decisions, he's finding the rhythm of the game. I think when he plays like that, the game is easy for everybody.
"My body's feeling good, and that's the only thing I'm worried about," Derrick Rose said after Day 3 of Team USA's camp.
Not forcing: Aside from the obvious fact that Rose's body has held up fine throughout the first three days of practice, Bulls personnel seem to be most pleased by Rose's in-game decision-making. They know he was trying to do too much in his first comeback last season, and they see that he has tried to take some pressure off himself this time around.
"I don't see him forcing anything," Bulls general manager Gar Forman said. "I see him kind of letting the game come to him -- and then, when he's got opportunities to make plays, he makes them. He's playing with, it appears to me, great confidence. And when there's an opportunity to make plays, he's making them and he's getting others involved. Defensively, he's been terrific."
Most interesting storyline of the day: The 25-year-old point guard admitted he hit his lowest point at the beginning of last season. He acknowledged he was putting too much pressure on himself and it was affecting his ability to enjoy the game.
"I felt like the first time I came back, I felt like it was damn near like a job instead of just going out there and having fun," he said. "When I came back last fall, I felt like it was a job. I wasn't smiling. I wasn't enjoying the game. I was trying not to mess up, and with me, I usually just go out there and play. Me playing at least is something good. But at the time, it was just too much going on, and I think that was just a dark side for me. Just a dark period of time."
In hindsight, Rose did look like he was pressing early on, but his words are telling. He seems to be enjoying himself much more now and appears to be at ease with his surroundings.
Motivating teammates: Rose has continuously talked this week about how he has been motivated by watching the effort his Bulls teammates continued to put in while Rose was on the shelf. He said he believes this Chicago team is the best one he's been a part of. He also noted Bulls center Joakim Noah has been texting him as more people check in about his comeback.
"I think this is the most talented team I've played on in my NBA career, to tell you the truth," Rose said. "With all the players that I have, with the experience that everybody's bringing to the table, and the way that everybody's working out individually during the offseason and what I've been hearing.
"Just seeing Tony Snell bust his ass in the gym the whole summer, seeing Doug [McDermott] come in and do the same thing, and they end up playing well, it kind of gave me a boost and let me know that hard work pays off.
"So I'm watching them playing summer league a couple of times, seeing them play with a lot of confidence, it just gave me confidence coming into this trial, actually. But I think that we have a deep team and we've got players that have one goal, and we'll do anything to get there."
The last word: Rose, while summing up the past three days:
"It's been excellent, man. It's been excellent. My body's feeling good, and that's the only thing I'm worried about. My mind is clear. I'm eating right, getting all the nutrition that I'm supposed to get, and getting rest, getting off my feet. I don't have family here; my son's not here, so they're not keeping me up all night. So I'm just happy to be here and happy that I have my friends here. They're giving me a lot of confidence and a lot of relief just being here."
The Chicago Bulls star must prove to himself -- and the rest of the basketball world -- that his body can withstand the grind of a long NBA season. He knows that plenty of people are doubting whether this can happen, but he is ready to embark on the long journey because he is confident he can't do any more to prepare his body for what is to come.
Rose understands that after missing most of the past three seasons, and playing in just 10 games in the past two seasons, he is going to have some tough days. His teammates and coaches have raved about his performance during the first two days of Team USA camp, but the 25-year-old Rose knows that every day will be different. That's the reason why he's trying to stay even-keeled about the expectations surrounding him.
"But getting through them down days, that's what going to make me a stronger player I think," he said. "I can't be down on it, just like (Monday). Yesterday is yesterday and today is in the past now, too. I got to look forward to what we got going on tonight, I got to get acupuncture, I got to get a massage. (Wednesday) I've got a practice and it starts all over again."
Every step Rose takes on the floor this week in Las Vegas is being watched carefully by Bulls personnel. Bulls' Director of Sports Performance Jen Swanson is in town to work with Rose. Bulls executive VP John Paxson was on hand Monday to check on Rose during Team USA's first practice. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who also serves as an assistant coach for Team USA, is constantly checking on his star player during practices to make sure he's feeling OK.
The Bulls are doing everything they can to protect Rose from another injury which makes the physical and mental preparation beforehand even more important. But even Rose acknowledged that when those rough days eventually come, it likely will be because of something that he's dealing with physically instead of what he accomplishes on the floor.