Rose continues to draw praise for his play and with the injury to Paul George at the end of the Las Vegas camp earlier in August and the withdrawal of Kevin Durant for fatigue, Rose is emerging as a principal and vital figure for the 2014 team since he is the only holdover from the 2010 World Championships gold medal USA team.
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Appreciative Rose ready to perform

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By Sam Smith | 08.14.2014 | 9:03 p.m. CT | asksam@bulls.com | @SamSmithHoops

Derrick Rose didn’t exactly say it that way Thursday with USA Basketball in Chicago for the opening of the second phase of their 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup training. But Rose, nevertheless, had a strong message for the gangbangers and the criminals and those with guns stealing the young lives around the city.

“I appreciate (the game) even more,” said Rose after a two-hour USA practice preparing for the 8 p.m. exhibition game on Saturday against Brazil at the United Center. “Being here the entire summer, just seeing how crazy the city is right now with all the deaths and everything just makes me appreciate life a little bit better, a little bit more, knowing that there are kids out there that don’t give a hell about their life, acting like it’s a video game. It made my appreciation for the game even higher. When I step on the floor, it’s going to feel like a performance every time.”

Though it was Rose talking about his own injury ordeal, which he knows compares little with the violent nightmares that too often shock the city, the proud Chicago kid from the South Side Englewood neighborhood also was posting his own note to enjoy this life as much as you can and don’t waste it.

Rose is doing so in his way with USA Basketball, where is he one of the main players for the coming world tournament in Spain.

Following two years of operations and rehabilitations, Rose is playing well, looking good and confident about his return to the court and the Bulls for the 2014-15 season.

“I have no fears,” reiterated Rose about his return following two knee injuries. “I have faith. I know that I’m going to be fine. I know that I busted my ass the entire two summers. You can say two seasons to get back to where I am right now. And just try and keep it moving, stay positive every day, do everything consistent like I’ve been doing. Doing the consistent work when I come in, stretching, seeing Jen (Swanson, Bulls sports performance director), getting my mind clear before I step out on the floor. I’m doing everything Coach K and the (staff) want me to do, and I think everything will go my way.’

“I think I’m taking care of my body a lot better than I did last time I came back as far as stretching at night and hydrating,” Rose added. “When I came back (last season) I wasn’t drinking as much water as I need to, and I’m just trying to think about everything I can eliminate this time. Hydrating and stretching, that was key. I think that’s why I’m able to come out here and play the way that I’m playing because I’m really stretching and really getting sleep and rest.’’

Rose continues to draw praise for his play and with the injury to Paul George at the end of the Las Vegas camp earlier in August and the withdrawal of Kevin Durant for fatigue, Rose is emerging as a principal and vital figure for the 2014 team since he is the only holdover from the 2010 World Championships gold medal USA team. Though coach Mike Krzyzewski has been using multiple, switching lineups, it seems likely Rose will start at point guard, perhaps in a small lineup like in Thursday’s scrimmage with Stephen Curry, James Harden, Rudy Gay and Anthony Davis.

There have been no set lineups yet with the first exhibition not until Saturday, though there still were some issues to consider. Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins left the scrimmage after banging knees. He had an MRI, which was negative. But managing director Jerry Colangelo said Cousins likely would be out through the weekend. The USA team remains dominated by small, offensive-minded players.

The vital issue with the team gathering after the horrendous Paul injury that prematurely ended the scrimmage in Las Vegas was the attitude and confidence of the players after seeing George carried off and knowing he will miss the next season with the leg fracture. Durant was the lone defection, though he claimed fatigue and Colangelo said he wasn’t surprised seeing Durant’s game subpar in Las Vegas. Krzyzewski said he was surprised as there are indications Durant bowed out under pressure from a new shoe sponsor.

“The week off that we had after what we saw happened to Paul, it kind of calmed it down a little bit because right afterwards it was kind of devastating because you put yourself in that situation where like, ‘Damn, that could have been me,’” said Rose. “Now that he’s had surgery and it seems like he’s recovering  (and will return 100 percent) our goal is to come out here and compete for our country.

“At first (when it happened), I didn’t know what was going on until I heard the players (talking),” said Rose of the awful moment. “I didn’t actually see the play, and I still haven’t seen it because I don’t want to. But just knowing it’s going to be a long journey. I hope his family, everybody is close to him because he’s going to need everyone. The season is right ahead, and he’s going to have to stay focused with his rehab and try to get back on the court as quick as possible. My first thing was get away from the scene because I didn’t want to see it. It was too gruesome. Stuff like that turns my stomach. Afterwards, just praying for him. It was kind of devastating because you never want that to happen to anyone, especially a star player that has so much going for him. Just signed his contract, up and coming star. really making a name for himself. For that to happen, it’s kind of messed up. You wish that on no one. The only thing we can do is pray for him. And like I said, during the season, when everything is still going, I’m going to try to hit him up as much as possible and just let him know I’m thinking about him.”

For now, however, it’s about the upcoming world tournament.

Colangelo said the USA team wanted to wear a patch for George, which wasn’t allowed. So they’ll wear shirts in the exhibition games as an acknowledgement to George. They’ll have that first exhibition game Saturday, then two next week in New York, after which they hope to reduce the roster to the final 12 as they leave for Spain. They’ll play exhibitions afterward in the Canary Islands before the tournament opens Aug. 30.

Like it was in Las Vegas on opening day when the questions were what Rose would look like after missing his second season with injury, it was much ado about Rose again Thursday. Though more because he was back in Chicago to play for the first time since last November. So Rose was surrounded several deep by reporters as most of the other USA team members were left to quietly gather their things and leave after the scrimmage.

One developing issue around Rose is now that he’s been playing and looking strong and impressive, does he need to change his game to help avoid injury. Rose seemed to suggest he would be different, though not everyone agreed. Or that it was a good idea.

“My game is developing into a controlled game,” said Rose, who was ebullient and joking when he hadn’t even realized the NBA schedule was released Wednesday. “I’m using my speed whenever I need to, and I’m playing a more relaxed game now. I think you’ll see a mature basketball player out there whenever I play.

“I look at the game totally different now,” Rose insisted. “I remember just being out here and just catching a feel for the game my first couple of years. And then actually being in the playoffs a few times, it just gives you more poise. You know the players’ tendencies, you know the coaches’ tendencies, you know what play they’re going to call in certain situations. So just seeing a lot of basketball, watching a lot of film with Thibs and watching a lot of basketball period with the playoffs last season and being on the bench, I think I can become an assistant coach somewhere.

“With my (Bulls) team it’s a little more scoring,” Rose added. “Out here, it’s just knocking down open jump shots. That’s why you saw me shooting after practice a little bit, just set shots and just trying to have that confidence knowing that if I’m open I’ve got an opportunity to shoot the ball. If not, drive and make someone help so it’s an easy opportunity for someone else.’’

But former teammate Kyle Korver, trying to make the team as a designated shooter, says he doesn’t expect to see much difference from Rose.

“Derrick looks great as far as his floor game,” said Korver. “He’s always been able to get those shots. He looks stronger to me. Anytime you feel strong you play strong. There’s this mental thing of, ‘I feel big and strong in this lane and no one is going to get this shot.’ You take your time a little more. You shoot it with a little more confidence. I sense that in Derrick. I sense he feels like he is in beast mode out there and he’s able to get to the basket and shoot these great shots.

“Derrick has improved,” Korver added. “I’m sure his jump shot is better; his floor game is better; he’s moving really well. I don’t see the things you worry about, a lack of confidence; is he not going to attack the paint? I think that’s more important than what he’s improved on. I don’t want to overanalyze. No one should. We start off with, ‘Is he holding something back?’ I don’t see that. I think that’s the biggest thing with Derrick so far.

“I understand that line of thinking (of Rose throttling back),” said Korver. “But that’s not who Derrick is. That’s not his head, let alone his game. That’s not how he thinks. Derrick is a full speed attack. He’s got that ‘dog’ in him. He’s got that dog where, ‘I’m going to go at you and force something to happen at the rim.’ He’s not an old school set up the offense. He can do those things. But that’s not when he’s Derrick Rose. I think he has spent an incredible amount of time training his body to go back to the way he used to play. There are times as you get older you learn to find those other gears in the middle. That’s the evolution of anybody. Those things will happen naturally for him. But I don’t think he has to act like, ‘I have to find that second, third, fourth gears.’ I think that will mess him up, actually.”

Rose also touched on some other topics involving the Bulls and the 2014-15 NBA season:

-- On coach Tom Thibodeau being a USA assistant: “It’s kind of cool hanging with Thibs. I’m seeing another side to him actually. Not even talking basketball, just talking about life stuff in general. Just seeing where he’s at, seeing where his mind is, I’m happy that he’s able to come out here and participate in this type of event because it gives him something to do instead of being at the Berto and spying on people.’’

-- On the 2014-15 Bulls: “I think we have a solid team. We’re definitely contenders in the East. But we know it’s a long year and we have to gel pretty quickly, knowing that we’re not going overseas like we did at the beginning of the season with Brazil like we did last year. I think we’re going to be here so we get a lot of time here to really go at it in training camp.”

-- On acquiring Pau Gasol, who is playing for host Spain in the World Cup: “We needed him. Pau is another dimension to our team that we didn’t have and I think I never had since I’ve been in the NBA. I think Taj did a great job last year having a low post presence. But with him being seven feet and you got Joakim with Taj on the other side cleaning up everything else, I think that we just need shooting and just one other playmaker. But I think we have that."

-- On Kevin Love likely going to the Cavs: “That’s a great move getting a player like KLove. He’s very, very skilled to be a big. I work out with him every summer. I didn’t work out with him this summer. But every summer I’ve been in the league, I’ve worked out with him in the offseason. If he does go, I’m just happy he gets an opportunity to go somewhere and actually play and feel good about playing to win. I think that he deserves it. I think they should have a great team if he was to go there.”

-- On losing out on Carmelo Anthony: “I always say when a player like Carmelo doesn’t sign with you, of course you’re going to be kind of devastated. But at the same time, the world don’t end and basketball don’t end just because someone doesn’t come to your team. I think they did a great job with pursuing Pau. And we got it done."

-- On LeBron James back in the Central Division: “The same way I would if anyone else was in my division. Just because it’s him it’s not going to get me to play even harder. I know that every night that I step on the floor, I’m going to do whatever it takes to win the game no matter who is on the floor. Just knowing how great he is and the game, I hope the fans appreciate the game even more.”

-- On a big basketball week with the Nike World Basketball Festival here along with the Saturday game: “I think it’s going to be encouraging for the kids, all the little hoopers coming back (to) school and actually playing in pro-ams now and that’s in high school and getting a chance to come out to the game. I think that’s their first time really actually seeing the European game. It’s going to be very physical. It’s kind of crazy because when they come over here they play kind of soft. But over there in their league it’s really physical. It should give them a little bit of motivation to go in the gym and work a little harder to be in our position today. It seems like it’s a buzz. It’s great what USA Basketball and Nike have been doing around the city with so many events, just keeping kids occupied, keeping people occupied, getting them something to do. I think it’s going to help the city, and it should bring some hype to the city.’’

And hopefully some calm.

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