LAS VEGAS -- On Monday, Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said he hoped Derrick Rose, along with Kevin Durant, would take on a leadership role on his star-laden team, but he cautioned that the Chicago Bulls star had to "find himself first" as he works his way back from a second knee surgery.
Less than 24 hours later, Krzyzewski had seen enough of Rose to know he can count on the former MVP, who, along with Durant, James Harden and Anthony Davis, is one of the few players on the roster with significant, competitive Team USA experience now that Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook have withdrawn.
"He's found himself," Krzyzewski said Tuesday. "I think the main thing for Derrick leadership-wise is to be Derrick. And then he'll flow into what he's doing. Guys look up to Derrick because they know the last couple years what he's been through. And then when they see him playing like he is right now, you get the respect of everybody but also a lot of confidence in playing with him."
The biggest surprise of the first two days of Team USA's camp is just how good Rose has looked after playing just 49 NBA games over the past three seasons because of two knee surgeries. Team USA assistant coach Jim Boeheim said Rose has been the "most impressive" guy in camp. It's that performance that will make the transformation from player to leader so much easier for the soft-spoken Rose.
Just four short years ago, Rose's name was being mentioned as one of the faces of USA Basketball. After all the ups and downs his career has taken since then, a leadership role on his national team is something he is embracing.
"For sure," Rose said. "I think that's going to help me next year with our team with the Bulls. Being more vocal, talking to the guys, just inspiring guys when I'm on the court. I don't talk as much, but when I talk, guys listen a little bit, so I'm starting to pay attention to that and use that in a way to change the game."
Rose's ability to lead on the floor without having to say as much has impressed Durant for years. The Oklahoma City Thunder star has always respected Rose's approach to the game and believes his teammate is better than he was during the 2010 world championships when Rose started all nine games, averaging a team-high 3.2 assists as Team USA won the gold, its first since 1994.
"Different guys lead different ways," Durant said. "Derrick is not like a 'rah-rah' type of player, screaming in guys' faces [or] yelling. But he leads by example by how hard he plays, how much he cares. He'll be vocal here and there, but you could tell when it's time to go, he's going to be ready. It's great to play alongside him."
Krzyzewski seems to relish the chance to coach Rose. He has beamed with pride while discussing Rose's game over the past couple of days, and he knows he has a role in helping Rose return to form on the floor.
So how does Krzyzewski help Rose find himself?
"You try to help him to not overplay him," Krzyzewski said. "In other words, not minutes, but give him the freedom to follow his instincts. Derrick has great instincts, and you don't want to play defense on him by making him just a half-court player or calling out plays and stuff. You still want to do part of that, but you also want to let him go, and that's what we're trying to do. That's what I told him, don't be perfect. You don't have to perfect. Just play, follow your instincts. He wants to please so badly. I love Derrick. I loved coaching him in , and we have a great relationship. And he's been fabulous in these two days, which is a big pick-me-up for our squad."
Rose has tried to brush off some of the praise coming his way, but it's evident in the glowing reviews he continues to get from his peers that he is at the forefront of Team USA's plans. Those closest to him just want to make sure he isn't putting too much pressure on himself on and off the floor.
"I think that's the biggest challenge for him is just showing more patience and finding the rhythm of the game," Bulls head coach and Team USA assistant Tom Thibodeau said. "When he does that, the game is a lot easier, and that's the way we really want him to play, and I think he has the benefit of having gone through coming back last year. And so I think he learned from that. I think he's better prepared this time around. His body looks great, and he says he feels great. So you just keep going day by day."
That's music to Krzyzewski's ears. He isn't shocked by the fact that Rose has returned to form so quickly. He's just hoping that Rose can take the next step in his leadership development as well.
"I don't know [if I'd say] surprised. Happy," Krzyzewski said of Rose's play. "Very pleased. Nothing that he does will ever surprise me because he's one of the elite players, and he's a fabulous kid. Not a good kid. He's a fabulous young man. ... He's a fabulous guy. A team player."