Chicago Bulls: Chicago Bulls
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.
"I think it's not something that you need to necessarily get nervous about," Kaplan said Wednesday on the "Carmen & Jurko Show" on ESPN Chicago 1000. "Obviously, when it's Derrick Rose, everybody does, and I think that's normal from a fan ... and particularly for a guy who has had both knees go sour. I understand it, but when you have two major operations like he's had and when you come back and compete at the level in which he's competing, you can get some synovitis, a little inflammation in the joint and it starts to get a little sore when you're pushing it to the degree he's pushing it. Then you rest it a bit. You let it quiet and that's what they are doing.
"I don't think they are seeing or finding anything clinically that's making them worry to the extent that they are working it up and saying 'OK, this is something that we are going to take him out.' They are talking about playing him tonight. I don't think this is something that everybody needs to have alarm about."
Rose tore the ACL in his left knee in April 2012 and the medial meniscus in his right knee in November 2013. After scoring seven points in 24 minutes in Team USA's 95-78 victory over Brazil on Saturday -- his first competition since Nov. 22, 2013 -- Rose has sat out of full practices the past two days.
A source familiar with Rose's condition told ESPNChicago.com's Nick Friedell that Rose has been bothered by knee soreness, but he still is expected to play against the Dominican Republic on Wednesday.
"I think he's probably having a little soreness in both his knees to the extent that he is putting the kinds of stress on his knees now that he has not had for some time: the torsional stresses from changes of direction, the moves that we're accustomed to with Derrick and the beautiful kind of poetry on the court," Kaplan said. "These are the things we had to wait for. He waited longer than most and that's appropriate that he did.
"[Vikings running back] Adrian Peterson went back quicker because he doesn't do the same kind of things that Derrick does and he was smart to wait a little bit longer after his ACL. [Rose is] being appropriately cautious. At 25, he wants to play a long time. You have to be careful with these knees. You don't get second chances necessarily. If you tear your ACL a second time, it's pretty much game over."
Asked about playing Wednesday night, Rose said Tuesday, "Hopefully I am. I didn't do anything [Tuesday]. I just got treatment and [Tuesday] is just really another rest day. I'm really, really happy with where I am right now as far as health-wise. I'm just trying to take my time and get rest. We have a long schedule ahead of us, and I'm just trying to get as much rest as possible."
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."
Rose is scheduled to make his first appearance at the United Center as an active player since Nov. 18, 2013 when his Team USA plays Brazil Saturday in an exhibition tuneup for the FIBA World Cup, which begins Aug. 30 in Spain.
Rose missed all of the 2012-13 season with a torn ACL and all but 10 games of last season after suffering a with a torn meniscus in his right knee.
The Bulls will get their first look at the new Cleveland Cavaliers on Oct. 20 on the campus of Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio.
With LeBron James returning to Cleveland and a trade for Kevin Love reportedly in place, the Cavaliers are ESPN.com's pick to win the Eastern Conference this season with the Bulls coming in second.
The Bulls' opener against the Wizards is one of four games at the United Center. The Bulls will also play host to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Oct. 24 in St. Louis.
The NBA has yet to release its full regular season schedule.
"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."
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.
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.
"To be honest, I get asked about it," he said. "I don't really ask anyone. I try and stay off Twitter, and I think a lot of people ask me, text me, some of my friends, but I just ignore it, and whatever happens, happens."
The speculation regarding McDermott's future intensified after his stellar performance in the Vegas Summer League earlier this month when he averaged 18 points a game and showed his shooting range. But the 22-year-old McDermott is trying to take all the talk in stride.
"I didn't really pay attention to it much," he said. "I think rumors happen a lot. There's been a lot this offseason. So you just got to stay patient, you can't really read into that stuff. I'm just focused on what I can do to become better."
What that means is that McDermott will continue to make a bigger name for himself by doing what he did throughout college: knock down jumpers. His close friend and fellow Creighton alumnus Kyle Korver believes McDermott is mature enough to handle anything that's thrown at him.
"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."
McDermott is just trying to enjoy the experience of playing with some of the best players in the game this week in Vegas.
"It's definitely a challenge, but it can only help a guy like me who's getting his NBA career started," McDermott said.
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."
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."
LAS VEGAS -- Derrick Rose's game is going to change as he tries to make his way back from yet another knee injury, but it hasn't altered the Chicago Bulls star's mindset on the court.
The former MVP still believes he is the best player on the floor.
But even Rose, 25, knows things will be different with this comeback. After playing in only 49 games the past three seasons, and only 10 in the past two seasons, things have changed.
So what are some of the biggest differences between today's Rose and the one from a few years ago?
"Body control," he said. "I'm able to control my body a little bit more, using my speed. Being smart with my speed, instead of just running wild out there. Just being smart. I'm a smarter player, but I'm mad it took me seven years to learn that."
Rose's outward confidence hasn't been shaken, but his game has shifted. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Rose won't try to force contact as much as he has in years past, a smart move, given his injury history.
"I think you will see that next year," he said. "Just trying to [keep] people off my body. I'm using a lot of floaters, using a lot of pull-ups, stuff like that so that I won't get touched as much."
The biggest key in the minds of Rose and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is that Rose is playing with more patience.
"I think when I came back last time I wanted it too bad," Rose said. "I was trying to force the game. And this time around I'm just trying to let the game come to me. Of course, be aggressive, but at the same time have control of the game and be smarter. And being able to run the team at the point guard position."
Rose emerged as a superstar in the 2010-11 season when he became the youngest NBA MVP in history after averaging 25 points and 7.7 assists in leading the Bulls to the best record in the NBA. After missing the entire 2012-13 season after ACL surgery, Rose's comeback lasted just 10 games last season. He showed flashes of his old explosive self in averaging 15.9 points on 35 percent shooting but was still trying to get his game back when he suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee in November 2013.
After practicing with the Bulls late last season, he has continued to rehab the knee, with the Team USA training camp his latest step. Rose is not assured a spot on the team, which also has fellow combo guards John Wall, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry.
Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski came away impressed by Rose after the first day of practice.
"I was ecstatic about watching him today," Krzyzewski said. "He's better than four years ago. Four years ago, he was 21, and he was just on the verge of becoming who he was going to be. But he had a great practice today. You don't practice like this [every day]. He hasn't been in practices like this. Now [we'll] watch what he does for the next few days."
"Derrick's very bright," Thibodeau said. "I think he's learned from each situation that he's been in. So that was his first comeback really [last year], and I think he had the opportunity to look back and say, 'OK, this is how I want to approach it this time.' So I think he's grown from it. I think the adversity has made him a lot stronger mentally and he's playing patiently. I think he understands exactly where he is."
When he returns to the Bulls in September for training camp, Rose is excited about the prospect of spending even more time playing off the ball with Kirk Hinrich or new acquisition Aaron Brooks running the point. That can only help take some of the pressure off Rose.
"Catch and shoot," Rose said. "Hell yeah. I've been doing a lot of catch and shooting, running off floppy [sets]. Just trying to make the game simple. Find ways to score, or find ways to affect the game by not scoring. And me playing the 2 sometimes, coming off a floppy, catching the ball getting to the hole, throwing [alley-]oops. Get other people open with just a live dribble. I think this year will be the first time I have played the most in my career with catching the ball and having a live dribble."
As Rose enters his seventh NBA season, he certainly has a lot to prove with a Bulls team, bolstered by offseason acquisitions Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic and first-round pick Doug McDermott, that has title aspirations. Rose knows what it has taken to get back on the floor -- again -- and he seems at peace with his evolution as a player.
"I'm a totally different player, but it comes with experience," he said, "Just playing, playing through your mistakes. Just playing in an NBA game, you're going to learn. So I'm happy I have people around me to give me advice, learn from people, and I'm happy I have the IQ to actually learn."
"I'm really excited," Noah said of the Bulls on Friday. "I think Gar [Forman] and [John Paxson] and everybody did a real good job. I'm really, really excited about the Bulls. It just makes you want to work hard and be as ready as possible for the upcoming season."
"I think he did the right decision for him," Noah said. "We obviously recruited him pretty hard. I think he had to make the best decision for him. I'm really excited for our team the way it is. I think we're deeper. I think those things, me personally, I can't control where another man goes. He feels like New York is the best position for him. I'm happy for him. But at the end of the day, what I care about is this city and the Chicago Bulls."
Noah is especially excited about adding Pau Gasol to the Bulls' frontcourt.
"I think it's going to be great," Noah said. "Pau is someone who is very, very smart. I think his father was a doctor. Someone who comes with a lot of experience. Not just a great player, but somebody who cares about the community as well. I'm excited to see him help us as well to try to slow down the violence and help the kids out here in Chicago. Somebody who is also very humbling to play with, somebody who has won championships and with his pedigree somebody I can really learn from."
Noah reported he's been rehabbing his left knee every day after having arthroscopic surgery in May.
He has also kept tabs on teammate Derrick Rose and his road to recovery in the offseason.
"I'm really proud of him because I know he sacrificed his whole summer," Noah said. "He sacrificed a lot to be the best that he can. That's all you can do. People's expectations, all that stuff doesn't matter. I'm proud of him for putting the work that he put in to be in the best position possible. He's doing a lot of things. He's helping us out too with our foundation. I got nothing but love for him."
Noah doesn't exactly have love for LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, though.
"Good for LeBron," Noah said of James rejoining the Cavaliers. "I'm happy for LeBron James. He gets to go home. People are happy over there. But I really hope that we can kick his [butt] as many times as possible."
Boozer rarely played in the fourth quarter last season under Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who favored Taj Gibson, a superior defender.
"Playing first quarter and third quarter, not having a chance to help my team at the end of the game to win was tough," Boozer said. "As a competitor, you want to be out there doing everything you can to help your team win and to not get an opportunity, it was humbling. So, I learned a lot from that process."
The Bulls used the amnesty provision on the final season of Boozer's five-year, $75 million contract on July 15. Nine teams with cap space were able to make a blind bid to pick up the remaining portion of his $16.8 million deal. The Lakers won with a bid of $3.25 million, sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein.
Boozer, who averaged 15.5 points and nine rebounds in four seasons in Chicago, praised the Bulls for the way they handled the amnesty process.
"Chicago was great about everything," Boozer said. "They’re a great organization, first class. They were in touch with me and Rob Pelinka, my agent, along the whole process. So, as they were making their decision for where they were going with the team, they let us know. So we knew we were going to get amnestied, I think, the day before and we went forward."
ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin contributed to this report.