- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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Durant spent some time working out with his good friend this summer in Los Angeles and always figured Rose would return to being the player he was before blowing out his knee in April 2012.
"There's just certain players that have that 'it,'" Durant said before Wednesday night's preseason game against the Bulls. "And he's one of them. A guy that is not going to be denied no matter what injury, bad games, whatever, he's just going to always bring it. So I knew [his comeback] would be like this."
Entering Wednesday night's game, Rose had scored 78 points in almost 81 minutes of play during his previous three contests. He looks very confident going to the rim and is playing with the type of confidence and speed that have defined his game since he entered the league.
"You see him from preseason, he hasn't lost a step," Durant said. "Great players, they put in overtime, and I think that's what he's done. This past year with him being hurt, he put in extra work, and I know just working out with him this summer, he strives for perfection, so you got to love a player like that."
Thunder coach Scott Brooks agrees with Durant's assessment.
"Outstanding," Brooks said of Rose. "He's right there with the best players in the league. Obviously, he's one of the hardest workers. He has the skill set and he has the toughness, and what I see so far -- he's obviously one of the best players, MVP candidates."
With Thunder star Russell Westbrook sidelined with a torn meniscus in his knee, Brooks can find solace in the fact that Rose has maintained a high level of success after being out for almost a year and a half.
"You can come back and be at that level," Brooks said. "Years ago, you have major surgery, it's hard to come back, but now you can come back. All the medical and great training and staffs that every team has allows that to happen. The way [Rose is] playing now, he's going to go down for many, many years as one of the best players."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau believes Rose has come back and become a better all-around player than ever before. He has been singing the praises of the former MVP, and his work ethic, throughout the preseason.
"I think the talent is pretty easy to see when you look at a player, particularly a player like Derrick when you watch him play," Thibodeau said. "What you don't see sometimes are all the intangibles, what he brings to the team. The confidence that he can bring to the team. But the confidence doesn't come from a false bravado; it comes from his preparation, his study, and the work that he puts into each and every day. The best thing about him is he's a team-first guy. He's committed to playing for the team, and that's special."
11hMichael C. Wright