- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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The former MVP still believes he is the best player on the floor.
"If you're right there [in front of me], then I'm going to try to dunk," Rose said after Team USA's first practice Monday. "I don't care. My legs are healthy, so I'm not worried about injuring myself or anything. I'm just trying to do anything to win that game at that time."
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."
Thibodeau is happy Rose is coming back into this kind of environment with Team USA because he knows his star isn't going to have as much offensive pressure as he normally would with the Bulls. He said Rose has learned from his first comeback attempt.
"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."