Posted Aug 31 2010 7:03PM
Derrick Rose hasn't hit many speed bumps in a professional career that began as 2008's No. 1 pick. And this summer has been even better.
Chicago's front office flanked Rose with their best team since that statue outside the United Center roamed the United Center. He's finishing up the offseason as a starter for the U.S. team at the FIBA World Championships.
Rose is living right, right now.
The waters were somewhat murkier a year ago.
Sanctions had devastated the University of Memphis, Rose's one-and-done college of choice. And though he was never publicly named in the NCAA findings last August that stripped the Tigers of their magical (at the time) run to the 2008 title game, Rose's reputation and image didn't go unscathed.
He was the focal point of an eligibility mess that dated back to his days as a Chicago high school phenom. Rose didn't address the matter much at the time or since, other than maintain his innocence. University officials at Memphis, including the athletic director, backed Rose.
The NCAA's investigation had dogged Rose for most of his first season, but not enough to derail a Rookie of the Year campaign. Another minor headache arose last June when a photo surfaced from Rose's time at Memphis of him apparently flashing gang signs. Rose quickly apologized, hammering home his "anti-gang, anti-drug, and anti-violence" stance.
Rose navigated through the negative headlines with the same poise and assuredness that splits a backcourt trap. He remained focused on his job, giving critics little else to chew on and foes plenty to worry about. By not completely acknowledging what happened at Memphis, it could be argued that Rose ducked responsibility and essentially got off scot-free.
For Rose, it was about moving forward. The Bulls were his priority, and he took on last season determined to stay on course. An ankle injury that wiped out his preseason didn't derail Rose for long. He took command of the team, earning his first All-Star nod and took his game to a higher plane in the playoffs.
The offseason arrived devoid of controversy and full of optimism. Not only was Rose in contention for a spot on the national team, the Bulls were one of free agency's major players. Chicago had money to spend, a not-so-distant history of Jordan-inspired greatness that continues to resonate and a talented young nucleus headlined by Rose.
Getting the chance to suit up with Rose, along with Joakim Noah, was a major drawing card for those in search of new clubs. We all know who landed where, with the Bulls not closing the deal on their top targets. Chicago's haul was impressive nonetheless.
Carlos Boozer was more than just a consolation prize after LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. New coach Tom Thibodeau also welcomes Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson to a mix that returns Luol Deng and Taj Gibson among others. The additions elevated the Bulls into the conversation with the Heat, Celtics and Magic. Although Chicago isn't considered the Eastern Conference favorite, the Bulls are a Miracle Mile away from their back-to-back .500 seasons and first-round exits.
"We've got basketball players, man," Rose told Bulls.com earlier this summer. "I don't know about everybody else's team, but my team is ready to fight. We've got guys that just want to win. They aren't about their stats or anything. We've got legit winners.
"The city has been waiting for this year, I've been waiting for it, I think that the organization has been waiting for it, and we need it."
Rose, 21, is getting the most out of his experience in Turkey. USA coach Mike Krzyzewski has Rose at quarterback, even with title-tested Chauncey Billups on the roster. Rose was asked after his first Worlds game if he's taken on more responsibility as the starter.
"When I'm on the court, yes," he said. "I know when I'm playing with Chauncey, I'm definitely comfortable out there because he's so smart and knows so much about the game that I'm trying to ... get to that level. He makes everybody comfortable out there when he's in the game because he's a veteran and he's been in tough situations. I'm learning from him and it's definitely helping my game right now."
Krzyzewski is looking for the same of Rose that Team USA got out of Chris Paul and Deron Williams in 2008. That's the sort of company Rose should expect to be in for the rest of his career.
For now, Rose is just worried about the next game. He admitted Tuesday's two-point win over Brazil was an "eye-opener" for the favored Americans.
"We know that teams are really coming here to win this tournament and we're here to do the same," he said.
Rose is ready to win now and in the days ahead. No sense looking back.
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