LAS VEGAS -- Derrick Rose came to Team USA's training camp with a single goal in mind. He wanted to prove to all the people who were doubting whether he could return to form that he could still play at an elite level. After listening to both players and coaches rave about him throughout the week and then watching as he raced up and down the floor in Friday night's scrimmage, it's clear that he took the necessary first step toward making his comeback to being a great NBA player again.
In the process, Rose had to endure a wide range of emotions over the week, especially over the last 36 hours of camp, culminating in being on the floor when Indiana Pacers star Paul George sustained a gruesome broken leg. Rose looked understandably shell-shocked as he watched George lay on the floor. The former MVP has spent so much time working his way back from two serious knee injuries over the last couple seasons that he knew as he looked on what George would have to endure once the initial feelings of sadness subsided.
While the injuries that Rose and George sustained weren't the same, Rose, just like every other player on the floor, realized that could have been him on the court. Fluke injuries happen in sports and all players understand the inherent risks of the game. Given his recent history -- Rose has a better understanding than most -- which explains why he looked so upset late Friday night.
As Team USA camp heads to Chicago in a week, it will be interesting to see if George's injury has any lasting impact on Rose or any other players. The irony is that George was one of many who praised Rose during the week for the way he attacked his rehab after last season's knee injury.
"He looks better," George said after Wednesday's practice. "He looks like he's coming off the MVP year. He's really been aggressive. He's been flying across the court. We've seen him last year in the regular season, it still looked like he was holding back a little bit. It doesn't look like that here."
Aside from any lingering psychological effects George's injury may have, it will also be interesting to see how Rose handles the media interest when Team USA reconvenes in his hometown next week. Rose was more open and accessible to the media in Vegas than at any other time in his recent memory. He looked comfortable fielding question after question regarding his past, present and future. But his admission to the Chicago Sun-Times that there was some lingering tension behind the scenes between the Bulls' front office and his inner-circle caused a stir back in Chicago and propelled Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf to issue a statement refuting the report.
The Bulls want to head into the season with a united front because they believe they have a chance to contend for a title this season. But the statement from Reinsdorf seemed like a bad PR play given that Rose was the one who was acknowledging the hard feelings between the groups. Before Rose injured his knee for the first time in April 2012, an easy argument could be made that he was the most accessible star in the game. If a reporter needed a couple extra minutes Rose was happy to oblige. He was, and still is, a person who enjoys pleasing other people.
But the Bulls have made it a point in recent years to shield their star from the media since he got injured. Rose said in an ESPN interview Friday that he and Reinsdorf were on the same page and that stories were coming out of 'nowhere.' The issue for both Rose and the Bulls will be to stay on the same page regarding the message they want to send out to the masses. Rose admitted this week that talking to the media was part of his job and something he needed to continue to work at as he thrives to become a more accomplished businessman.
"Becoming a businessman you have to be able to talk to the media because there's no way around it," Rose said Wednesday, a day before the Sun-Times story came out. "Just getting better and more comfortable. At first, I'm not a talkative person. But me having my own brand and wanting to become an icon, you have to talk. So I'm getting used to it. Hopefully get some training and get a little better every year."
In the end, Rose's words and any issues behind the scenes are secondary to how he performs on the floor. That's the best way for him to silence any critics and relieve any tension going on around him. If Rose can stay healthy this season, and continues to play like he did over the past week, his actions will speak louder than anything else.
But the end of Friday night's game -- with George being wheeled off on a stretcher -- offered a reminder of how fleeting health can be. Nobody knows that better than Rose and those are the thoughts that were likely weighing on his mind as he walked to Team USA's bus late Friday night at the end of an otherwise successful week.