by Colin Powers
Since chance afforded him the opportunity to play for his hometown Chicago Bulls after being selected No. 1 in the 2008 NBA Draft, Derrick Rose has quickly ascended the ranks of the League’s elite Point Gods. Still barely of legal drinking age, the ’08-09 Rookie of the Year has grown even more dynamic this season, making his first All-Star appearance while steadying the Bulls through another playoff push.
I caught up with him to talk hoops, injuries, and the new Powerade Dunk Domination promotion Derrick and Chris Paul are taking part in. The pair will help select the most exciting, original and creative dunk submitted to the online contest, the winner of which will be flown to Columbus, OH to serve as a judge at the McDonald’s All-American Game Dunk Contest.
SLAM: How’d you get involved with the Powerade Dunk Domination project?
Derrick Rose: Just being a part of the Powerade family. It’s a really great company, and it’s (Dunk Domination Project) something very creative they’ve come up with kids sending in these videos, but that’s the kind of company they are. I don’t think anyone else could have come up with this kind of idea, and I think it’s gonna be really cool.
SLAM: Have you checked out any of the dunks submitted so far? Got any favorites?
DR: I haven’t had the chance to check them out so far but I’ve heard there’s some crazy stuff up there. I’m looking forward to checking out the videos because I know there are guys doing some crazy stuff. I can’t wait.
SLAM: You ever been in a dunk contest yourself?
DR:I never have, I don’t really get into dunking like that. I feel like I’d go out there and people would start booing and stuff [laughs] so the dunk contests aren’t really for me.
SLAM: Would you rather cross someone or bang one on them?
DR: Ohh man, I like dunking, I wouldn’t mind dunking on someone if I had to pick.
SLAM: How’s everything else going with you? You’ve taken some knocks recently, the body holding up OK?
DR: It’s holding up pretty good. [Laughs] I’m only 21, so it only hurts for a couple days then I get right back to work. My knees are feeling good, and the trainers have been doing a good job with me, making sure I’m in getting treatment every day. They’ve been real good with that, and making sure I’m doing the right stuff off the court.
SLAM: Y’all have hit a recent dip here, but what do you think has been the biggest factor in turning around your season and getting yourself in solid playoff position?
DR: We’re just playing defense. That’s been the big thing. The last two games we’ve fallen off a little bit. We were trying to get back to it today in practice. Make sure were sending people the right way, making sure we’ve got help. In the NBA, you can’t expect anyone to be able to guard one guy, you’ve always gotta be ready to help, so we’ve been working on that, having guys in the right spots to help.
SLAM: How far do you think this team can go? Are you guys ready to make a run this postseason?
DR: That’s what we’re trying to do. Each year I set goals that people might think are crazy but I just try and put them as high as I can and hopefully one day I can reach them. We want to get farther than we did last year, just keep working. We want to win a playoff series, and hopefully win the championship. We learned a lot from last year and the Boston series. People came in this year way more comfortable. From the beginning of the season, I knew the sets, I knew the offensive sets more, the defensive sets more. And I have a lot of people on the coaching staff that always do a great job preparing me and teaching.
SLAM: What’s been the biggest difference for you between your rookie year and this your second year?
DR: Just everything’s way more comfortable. Everything that comes with the season is kinda easier now. Like, people change their coverages from game to game, but I get used to it now. I’m definitely remembering the offensive sets and defensive sets a little more, which is big. Everything comes to you a little easier. The speed (of the game) isn’t that different, it hasn’t really slowed down for me yet. But on different sets, like pick and roll and everything, it’s slowed down a bit and I know who to look for, I know who’s open. That’s definitely been big. And I’m gonna keep working, you know, and hopefully the game will slow down more for me in the years to come.
SLAM: What’s it been like playing in your hometown? I’m sure there’s been some additional pressure, but you’ve gotta be feeling the support, right?
DR: Yeah, it’s been great man. [Laughs] I can’t complain. I get to see my family and friends all the time, people I haven’t seen in years coming out to the arena to see me play. It’s just a great town. The marketing possibilities, everything. It’s got everything. The coaching staff’s been great, just a great place to play. Man, I’m living the dream. [Laughs]
SLAM: There’s a lot of great PGs in the League right now. What do you think you can do to improve and take this team to the next level?
DR: Just gotta keep playing. Keep playing harder every night. I think the big thing is to make sure you put fear out there. When people come to town, I want them to be like, ‘Damn, I gotta play DRose tonight, I’ma stay in.’ I want them to be thinking about it, like, ‘I know that the game’s gonna come, but I just want it to come sooner. I just want it to be over.’ Just bringing the fear every night.
SLAM: Last question…who’s your favorite player to watch in the League right now?
DR: I have two. Kobe and LeBron. Kobe because he just hits incredible shots. His footwork is just crazy, and you can really tell how he works. The shots he hits really show the work he’s putting in. I like watching him for his leadership too, how he runs his team. That’s big for me. And I love watching LeBron because he’s just so exciting. Every night you watch him he’s gonna do something exciting. You watch a game and he makes you look at him like he’s not human.