Posted Apr 22 2009 5:34PM
NORTHBROOK, Ill. (AP) -- Like most good point guards, Derrick Rose rarely gives anything away. This time, he couldn't resist.
After learning Wednesday he is the NBA's rookie of the year, Rose let a little secret slip: He wanted the award. Badly.
"When I first came into the season, my biggest thing was to get this award," Rose said. "I was telling you all that I didn't care, but I did. You really do want this award. There was a lot of talent out there that I had to go against."
Rose, who led his hometown Bulls to the playoffs and restored hope to a franchise in disarray, was the runaway pick.
"For Derrick to take the ball from Day 1, to lead our basketball team, to play at the level he played at is really, really significant and certainly means that as we go forward here, we've got the guy that we are going to build around," general manager John Paxson said.
Rose became the third Bulls player to win the award Wednesday, joining Michael Jordan and Elton Brand. He received 111 first-place votes and 574 points from a national panel of sports writers and broadcasters; runner-up O.J. Mayo of the Memphis Grizzlies received five first-place votes and 127 points.
Rose's selection was hardly a surprise, after the No. 1 overall draft pick led all rookies with 6.3 assists per game and was second in scoring average at 16.8, and established himself as the franchise's first true cornerstone since Jordan.
"I think there are very few people in the NBA who could do what he did this year," teammate Joakim Noah said. "You tell me another No. 1 pick who got to the playoffs in their hometown, especially in a big city with so many distractions and so many things going on. I mean, he's all about one thing and that's winning basketball games, and that's what I respect about him."
The only other players who received first-place votes were Brook Lopez of the New Jersey Nets and Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Eric Gordon of the Los Angeles Clippers rounded out the top five.
A point guard from Chicago's South Side, Rose used his strength, blinding quickness and uncanny maturity to help turn around a team that went 33-49 last season. Now, he's in elite company, joining past winners such as LeBron James and Kevin Durant -- not to mention the guy whose statue sits outside the United Center.
"You want to be in that category," Rose said.
Rose's approach, as much as his talent, impressed his teammates and coaches. He's constantly taking pointers from veteran guards Kirk Hinrich and Lindsey Hunter, whom Paxson called an "unsung hero" in Rose's development.
"Not many guys can transfer it from here to there that fast," Hunter said, pointing from his head to the court. "But he's able to do that. I think that's what's so unique about him."
Rose was the Eastern Conference rookie of the month in November and December and again in March, helping the Bulls go 41-41 and reach the postseason for the fourth time in five years. In last Saturday's playoff opener against Boston, Rose matched Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's scoring record for a debuting rookie with 36 points and 11 assists in a 105-103 overtime victory.
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Rose added 10 points, seven assists and six rebounds in a Game 2 loss.
He excelled from the start and never really slowed down, although he was at times benched late in games. That stopped after Paxson chatted with coach Vinny Del Negro, but whether he was playing in the closing moments or not, Rose never complained publicly.
"He plays both ends of the court, which is refreshing to see," Lakers star Kobe Bryant said. "A lot of young players don't play both ends. He works hard at it, defense as well."
Indiana coach Jim O'Brien even compared him to LeBron James.
"They're different positions, but LeBron James has the same thing -- it's hard to knock him off his driving lane," O'Brien said. "And I think he's improved his outside shot. And I think he knows the game."
From the moment he returned to Chicago, Rose has fit with the Bulls. They won the draft lottery despite 1.7 percent odds and could have picked Michael Beasley, the high-scoring forward from Kansas State. Instead, they went with the guard who grew up a few miles from the United Center in the rough Englewood neighborhood.
They saw a dynamic floor leader, a selfless player -- a winner.
Rose led Simeon Career Academy to the state championship and Memphis to 38 wins and the NCAA title game in his lone season. Now, he's helping the Bulls turn things around after what seemed like a solid plan went awry.
Chicago won 49 games and swept Miami before falling to Detroit in the second round of the playoffs two years ago, but any momentum the Bulls had ground to a halt.
Failed contract negotiations involving Luol Deng and Ben Gordon along with Bryant trade rumors set a bad tone last season, and coach Scott Skiles was fired in December. Interim coach Jim Boylan was gone at the end of the season, and the Bulls settled on Del Negro after high-profile courtships with Mike D'Antoni and Doug Collins.
Along the way, they scored arguably their biggest victory in a decade when they won the draft lottery. With Rose running the show, the Bulls believe their cornerstone is in place for the next decade.
"I've got a lot of friends who are coaches," Hunter said. "I'm like, 'Man, you guys don't know how good he is. He doesn't even understand what he is yet.' ... I see him being that point guard that is going to push Deron Williams and Chris Paul to the limit."
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