SLAM 143: Derrick Rose wants to be MVP.
With the Bulls’ point guard tearing it up early in the’10-11 season, we figured there was no better time than now to let you check out SLAM 143′s cover story, featuring the newest savior of Chicago hoops himself, Derrick Rose. CSN writer Aggrey Sam did an incredible job profiling our cover star, focusing on a variety of DRose’s character traits—some of which are evolving (leadership skills), and some of which continue to remain the same (humility, a tireless work ethic). If you haven’t already, be sure to pick up the new ish on newsstands, or grab it online here.–Ed.
by Aggrey Sam | @CSNBullsInsider
“The way I look at it within myself, why not? Why can’t I be the MVP of the League? Why can’t I be the best player in the League? I don’t see why-why-why can’t I do that? I think I work hard, I think I dedicate myself to the game and sacrifice a lot of things at a young age and I know if I continue to do good, what I can get out of it and if that’s me going out or doing whatever, I’m willing to do it because I know in the long run, it’s going to help me.”
Covering Derrick Rose’s exploits on a daily basis, it’s easy to forget what the third-year point guard brings to the table. Not the unparalleled explosiveness, the freaky body control or even the emerging takeover mentality in the clutch. It’s his humility.
“I think if I walk around with a big head or anything like that, God will do something to put you back down, like bring you back down,” says the South Side Chicago native, who averaged 20.8 points and 6 assists per last season. “I think that I’m not bigger than anyone. I don’t act stuck up like other people. That’s just not me. If anything, I’m laid back. See me anywhere, just a regular person.
“It gets to you a little bit, knowing that you can’t go places that you want to go. You can’t do things that you usually do, like with your friends and stuff, without having security around you—like if you just want to get something to eat or in a city, you have to be with someone or have someone with you at all times,” the All-Star point guard adds. “It kind of gets to you, but after a while, you kind of get used to it. I don’t go out like that anyway, so I’m fine with it.
“[People treat me] like I’m a superstar or something,” he continues. “I think I’m regular. But to other people, they see this pro or famous person or whatever—that’s something they can’t believe, especially people from my neighborhood. People in my neighborhood really don’t leave the neighborhood, so they’re not used to it. It took me a long time to get used to it, and that’s why I love them over there, because they showed me lots of support… You get around some people where they think they’re supposed to treat you a certain way because of who you are. They act scared to ask you something because of who you are, but I’m just a regular person. I want them to treat me regular and look at me regular.”
Re-read all the paragraphs above. They represent Rose in a nutshell. Born and raised in the nothing-nice hood of Englewood—albeit with his watchful older brothers making sure he didn’t forsake his hoop potential for the lure of knucklehead activities—Rose is starting to shed his naturally shy nature and project the quiet confidence he exudes on the floor to the world of sound bites and pull quotes.
Take last season. In the midst of a horrific Bulls’ 10-game losing streak, injuries galore and an infamous head coach-top exec beef, Rose proclaimed Chicago would make the Playoffs. The way he slipped it into conversation, with no fanfare, the assembled reporters almost wanted to give him a chance to take back his youthful posturing. But he affirmed his guarantee with even more bass in his voice, then went out and delivered on his promise. After the team’s final regular-season game, a win at Charlotte, Rose told this writer why he believed his guarantee would be validated.
“Actually, it was a book: The Secret,” he said, moments after Mike himself (with Oak in tow) had left the visitors’ locker room to offer congrats. “It says, ‘Whatever you speak out will come to life.’”
Whether you subscribe to that notion or think it’s merely a coincidence, that’s kind of how things work for the kid they call “Pooh.” You know the story by now, right? If not, here’s the short version: Windy City hoops fiends were aware of Rose by the time he entered perennial powerhouse Simeon Career Academy, but he couldn’t play varsity as a freshman due to late, legendary coach Bob Hambric’s rule against having ninth-graders on the big-boy squad. Hambric would step down prior to Rose’s sophomore year, in which he set the ‘Go on fire before eventually leading Simeon to a pair of Illinois state chips in his final two seasons—while rocking the late Ben Wilson’s No. 25 jersey.
Rose grew in Memphis, taking the Tigers to a national runner-up finish (does “vacate” mean we’re supposed to forget watching an exciting game?) before turning pro and being selected No. 1 overall by his hometown Bulls. He followed with a ROY season and played a major role in a classic seven-game duel with the defending champion Celtics. All in all, a pretty storybook career—with no major missteps, NCAA allegations notwithstanding—thus far; one that anybody should be happy with.
But that’s why Derrick Rose isn’t just anybody. That’s why his “why not?” comments on media day don’t surprise people who have spent time around him. Beyond the shy façade and desire to “be regular” lies a gym rat and a fiery competitor with an inner drive to become the best. Because that’s all he’s used to.
“Like I said, I’m a person that whatever I do, I want to be the best or I want to try to win everything, so there’s no point in me playing this game if I’m not trying to be the best. I don’t want to settle for being one of the best players in the League,” he explains after an evening session at Bulls training camp. “I want to be the best player in the NBA and why can’t that happen? I think that I work out well, I put the right work in, I sacrifice a lot of things, I dedicate myself to the game and I’m passionate about it.”
It’s not as if Rose considers himself a finished product. He knows that both his defense and outside J must improve for him to make the leap from an up-and-coming star and one of the League’s upper-echelon floor generals to a truly elite player in the game. This past offseason—in which he spent time in L.A. working out with trainer Rob McClanaghan (along with fellow top-level point guards Russell Westbrook and Tyreke Evans) twice a day and was the starting point guard for the FIBA World Championship Gold medal—winning USA National Team-should speed up that development.
“I know I’m going to take that shot (three-pointer). I know that I have a lot of confidence, where if I’m open, I’m shooting. In [Bulls] practice, I’ve been doing the same thing, where if I’m open, they’ve been seeing that I’m knocking down the three,” Rose states about his long-range jumper (his mid-range pull-up game is severely underrated). “It’s all mental…you see when you get drafted, they tell all your weaknesses. What you need to improve on. I think you get caught up into it. I really got caught up into it and I think I didn’t have enough confidence in my jump shot and just working on it every day, putting a lot of reps up, I think it’s really been helping.”
While he didn’t put up gaudy stats in the Worlds, observers saw improvements in how he ran the show, strapped up on D and his increased willingness to become a threat from the outside. Perhaps most importantly, the soft-spoken Rose picked up leadership skills that should aid him in the transition from leading almost solely by example to doing it vocally—something key on a Bulls team with high expectations, seven new players (at 22, he’s now one of the longest-tenured players on the squad) and a new coaching staff.