Calipari: Derrick Rose 'on mission'

Updated: July 31, 2014, 1:42 AM ET
By Nick Friedell | ESPNChicago.com

LAS VEGAS -- Derrick Rose's basketball resurgence continued Wednesday as the former MVP opened more eyes during Day 3 of Team USA's training camp.

Rose, who has played in just 10 games over the past two seasons because of two serious knee injuries, has been drawing praise from all corners of USA Basketball for the speed and explosiveness he has regained since tearing the meniscus in his right knee Nov. 22.

Rose's college coach at Memphis, John Calipari, said Wednesday that his former player told him he was on a "mission" to get back to the top of the basketball world.

"Injuries, no one wants to go through that, but they do one of two things," Calipari told ESPNChicago.com. "They make you stronger or they break you down, and it's pretty obvious what it's done to him. ... I said (to him), 'You look great. Your explosiveness is even maybe beyond where it was, which is scary.' And I said, 'You're doing great.'

"He said: 'I'm on a mission.' "

Rose's confidence is buoyed by the fact that the 25-year-old has spent countless hours in the gym over the past two seasons getting his body back in order. He said he is taking better care of his body now than at any other point during his career and is motivated by the fact that so many people are doubting whether he can return to an elite level.

"And that's how he is," Calipari said. "That's why he's a great teammate. That's why players want to play with him. Everybody wanted him to come back on their own timetable, but they can joke about it and say what they want. When you look at him now, he did the right thing for himself and [the Chicago Bulls]."

Rose's progression has been the talk of Team USA's camp with players and coaches raving about how well he has performed after being out for so long.

"He looks better," Indiana Pacers All-Star Paul George said. "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."

In George's mind, the difference in Rose's game is simple.

"I think he's just healthy," George said. "His body is feeling good. His legs is feeling good, and he's healthy in camp."

[+] EnlargeDerrick Rose
AP Photo/John LocherDerrick Rose is a man on a mission in his comeback from injury, says his college coach John Calipari.

Rose echoed those sentiments Wednesday, saying he has no lingering pain in either knee. He tore the ACL in his left knee in April 2012.

"I feel great, man," Rose said with a smile. "I don't have any aches. My body, knock on wood, I feel good, man. For real. I'm really taking care of my body. I really feel like a pro."

Rose said he has been motivated by the progress of his friend Russell Westbrook as the Oklahoma City Thunder star battles back from knee surgeries of his own and continues to play at a high level.

"When you see somebody like Russ go out there and play the way he's been playing, especially last year having two knee surgeries, like three actually, it gives you a little bit of confidence," Rose said. "But at the same time, I know I put a lot of consistent work in the entire summer. And as long as I'm being consistent, I know that it's going to pay off."

Calipari agrees with his former star. He believes a lot of the basketball world forgot just how good Rose can be when he's healthy.

"Out of sight, out of mind sometimes, yeah," Calipari said. "But you see his explosiveness and his quick twitch to balls and his ability to block shots. Like, 'How did he get there?' That's what he is. I said today to a guy sitting next to me, 'If he gets a ball stolen from him, I promise you he's pinning [the ball] down on the other backboard.' He gets so angry at that. He runs down and [jumps off] 2 feet. He's going on the top of the square [on the backboard], knocking that away. And I've seen it when he played for me."

Calipari, who is in town to participate in USA Basketball's fantasy camp, believes Rose is going to remind a lot of people how good he is this season.

"With me, I had to get him to shoot more," Calipari said of Rose's playing days at Memphis. "I had to get him to want to score more because he's naturally a player who plays and worries about everybody else. Now he's just out playing, he's scoring when he has opportunities. The jumper's going to come back to be -- it's good now but what will happen is, because he's jumping better than he has, it changes a little bit of timing and stuff. But he's doing great."

Nick Friedell | email

Chicago Bulls beat reporter
Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.

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