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Vince Thomas

At just 21, Derrick Rose is averaging 20 points and six assists en route to his first All-Star Game.
P.A. Molumby/NBAE via Getty Images

'Good kid' Rose needs to be vocal to reach greatness

Posted Feb 10 2010 1:09AM

Derrick Rose is too good for the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge. "Sorry guys, I only have the time and energy for the All-Star Game." That's basically what he said. And who can blame him? He's just in his second season and the kid is already an All-Star.

That's what you'd call early greatness. Last week, Rose and his Bulls came to Atlanta to play the Hawks. Luol Deng scored more points than Rose. Josh Smith dropped a triple-double. But Derrick Rose was the best player on the court. He was also the quietest player on the court. I mean real quiet -- meek, even. Not cool.

Averaging 20 and 6 as a 21-year-old is special. Second year All-Stars are rare. Six-foot, three-inch point guards that could probably win the dunk contest? Crazy. But the question you have to ask about Rose is this: With once-in-a-generation skill and talent, can you really be that unassuming and reach greatness? Only certain players can look in the mirror and say "I want to be one of the greats." Derrick Rose is one of those select few. His burden, however, is that, for the rest of his career, he will be his squad's best player. Therefore, it is incumbent upon him to lead that squad. It's tough to lead, though, when you barely talk.

The Hawks beat the Bulls 91-81 last week and it was the type of game where Rose, had he been more vocal, might have gotten in his teammates' faces, told them man-up and, possibly, help sneak out of A-town with a victory. Yeah he's young, but Chris Paul would have been collaring his guys in the same situation and, yes, I'm comparing the two, because Rose is that good.

For Rose, it's more than a responsibility. It's like a chore.

"It's hard, real hard," he said. "Yeah, I'm naturally quiet, it's just something I have to grow into."

The Bulls are patient. Rose's coach, Vinny Del Negro, says he already sees Rose gradually maturing into a more vocal role, but when we say gradual, we mean really gradual -- like Molasses-slow-gradual. And Del Negro doesn't seem in any rush to thrust Rose into the role. For now he seems genuinely appreciative that he gets a chance to coach a talent like Rose. He said it's "scary how good he is at this age." Taking on a more vocal role, he says, will come in time. Lindsey Hunter, a veteran's veteran, says that he can already see young D easing into the leadership role. Rose, according to Hunter, is the one who addresses the team before games. That actually blew my mind, since it's hard to even fathom a silent kid like Rose gathering the troops and giving them a good talking to. But if Hunter says so, I believe him. The odd thing is that Rose didn't exactly back that up when I talked to him.

"I'm still young, so a lot of the leadership I leave to the older guys," he said. "I just try to work on my game and help my team on the floor."

There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, the humility and deference that Rose shows on a consistent basis is, in many ways, admirable. He's what we'd call "a good kid." But -- and this is going to sound odd -- he needs to become more of a jerk. Seriously. I wouldn't mind seeing Rose yelling at a referee or getting irate with a teammate if they fumble one of his passes. In doses. I'm not saying he needs to get all ornery like CP3, he could, however, take a few more liberties. Speak up, Derrick, it's your world.

That's the next, necessary step. I can't ever remember a great ball player that was also quiet to the point of almost being a mute. Rose is capable of greatness. The kid is an All Star in his second year. Only players like Magic, LeBron and Bird rise that high, that quickly. But soon, All Star appearances will just be lines on the resume. Rose is destined to be the proverbial perennial All Star. I want to see if he becomes great. He'll become great if his team wins. But exactly how much winning can his squad get into if its best player isn't also its leader? You know why Oklahoma City is so good, so soon? Because Kevin Durant has grabbed the reigns. You can wait for the pecking order to organically form if you'd like, but it's already abundantly clear that Rose is the Bulls best player, now they need him to lead. Take them somewhere.

Rose is going to be in the audience Friday night as his peers play in what is basically the league's youngster showcase. The sophomores are stacked. O.J. Mayo, Brook Lopez, Russell Westbrook -- a lot of future All-Stars. Rose is already there. He skipped a grade. Next up is greatness. On his way there, we'll be able to tell if he's on the right route more by what we hear than what we see.

Vincent Thomas writes "The Commish" column for SLAM Magazine and is a contributing commentator for ESPN. You can e-mail him here or follow him on twitter.

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