Rose: 'To me, I lost that series'
2010-11 NBA MVP sees room for improvement after last season's loss to Miami
A version of this story appears in the Dec. 12, 2011, "Interview Issue" of ESPN The Magazine.
BUCHER: Why didn't you attend any of the negotiating sessions during the lockout?
ROSE: The meetings to me, and the whole lockout to me, is BS. Back in the day, you were giving people $70, $80 million contracts coming into the league, and that's when basketball wasn't anywhere near what it is today. I think basketball is definitely on the uptick, and I feel like some of the players in the league are underpaid.
What was the first thing you did after losing to the Heat in the playoffs?
I didn't leave the house for about a week. I was just sad and down. I went over everything as to why we lost. I used that to put a lot of pressure on myself so that I'd work out harder this off-season.
Why didn't you leave the house?
I was just drained, beat up. I didn't want to see anyone. To me, I lost that series.
What was the one thing you wanted to improve this off-season?
My IQ of the game. Being a better isolation player. Really knowing what to do when people are sticking you a certain way. Reading the defense.
In the series against Miami, there were a couple of times at the end of games when LeBron James guarded you. You had at least one potential game winner that you didn't hit.
I had two opportunities to shoot the same shot, and I missed them both.
When people asked you about it, you said it's not easy to score over
a 6-foot-8 guy.
The interpretation, by some, was that you didn't think you could score over a 6-foot-8 guy. Not at all. They stick big people on me at the end of games all the time. That's what I mean by my isolation skills. I didn't have something I could go to at that time.
You were criticized some for taking those midrange shots, but I got the impression, since you took the same one twice, that that's the shot you wanted.
That's exactly what it was. Those shots, if I'd hit them, would've changed the series. But I think God does everything for a reason.
Carlos Boozer took a lot of heat for his performance in the playoffs. How do you approach him next season?
People expected him to come in and score 30 points a night. He averaged 12.6. The expectations were too much. But his attitude was great. He never showed it if he was feeling a certain way, but you could just tell in the game he wasn't explosive. Me and [Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau] were looking at film of him from when he was back in Utah, and compared to that his explosiveness just wasn't there against the Heat.
How did you go about getting better?
Working on my post-up game. Really sharpening up and being consistent going to the hole and knowing how to get fouled. Hitting free throws so you make them pay for fouling you. Little things, like using the backboard in certain situations. Ben Gordon, my rookie year, told me whenever he's inside the three-point line he always aims for the backboard on the continuation when he gets fouled because there's a higher percentage of the shot going in.
What have you done specifically to work on your post game?
I've been working out in LA with Russ Westbrook and Kevin Love, and we even had Al Horford with us for a while. I talked to Kobe in the Philippines. He was telling me that to win championships, you have to have a guy who can work in the post. He also told me about certain spots on the floor where they can't double-team you. Top of the key, easy to double-team. On the sides, easy to double-team. But at the elbows, you can really pick a defense apart, because if they double-team you there, somebody is definitely going to be open for a layup or something.
You played the two exhibition games in the Philippines, which were very successful and lucrative. Then you did the USO Tour in Hawaii. Completely different. Why?
I'd never been around military kids or been on a base. So I wanted to see what it was like firsthand.
Of all that you've seen being on base and meeting the soldiers and their families, what made the biggest impact on you?
Just seeing how young some of the troops are. I don't think I would be able to deal with, at 21 or 22 years old, learning how to operate AK-47s. That was just crazy to me. Their whole life is totally different, but it's the same in that they have to be on top of their game. That's like us, where every night you have to be on top of your game or you're going to be embarrassed. But for them, when they're at war, it's their life at stake. I just don't see any way that I could do it.