Chicago Bulls

Rose ready for season after strong summer of work

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By Sam Smith | 9.29.2015 | 10:00 a.m.

Sometimes you forget all Derrick Rose has gone through.

Bulls general manager Gar Forman Monday at the team’s opening media day session for the 2015-16 season acknowledged even he didn’t fully realize the impact of not having a full summer to work out, which Rose has done this summer without restrictions.

“Back in July, I called Derrick to check in and talk to him about how he was doing and how his workouts were going,” Forman related. “Derrick said, ‘You know, Gar, this is really the first summer in several years where I’ve been able to train.’ He was talking about how he felt physically, being able to do basketball specific training and work on his game and work in the weight room. Whereas the previous summers, it had all been rehab. I guess it kind of struck me then, everything he’d been through, and now he’s full time training for basketball. He looks terrific. Physically he’s in a good place, mentally he’s in a good place.”

Those are the kinds of reports that have been circulating about Rose this summer, which is giving the Bulls optimism for he and the team for the coming season. Which coach Fred Hoiberg also saw for himself visiting with Rose this summer while Hoiberg made a tour to see every player. Hoiberg said in meeting with Warriors coach Steve Kerr that was one of Kerr’s recommendations. It probably helped getting a trip to Spain to see Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic.

“I went out and visited him in LA and saw the explosiveness and loved the training that he did,” said Hoiberg. “I saw him in the weight room in the morning and then got with him on the floor in the afternoon. Getting back here, seeing him in the gym, he’s got his explosiveness right now. And watching where he finished the year, re-watching the Milwaukee and Cleveland series, he finished the year playing at a very high level. I think he’s taking that momentum of how that season finished into his offseason program. I think Derrick’s in terrific shape right now. He’s done really good things with his body and having that whole summer where he hasn’t been rehabbing and being able to add to his game is very important. I anticipate Derrick getting off to a great start.”

And this was at the USA Basketball camp in July in Las Vegas: John Calipari was there since, well, it seems like half the players in the NBA these days once played for him; just supporting his guys. One of his favorites, Rose from Calipari’s time at the U. of Memphis, was missing and Calipari was a little surprised.

So Calipari called Rose.

“I say where are you?” Calipari related during the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame week ceremonies earlier this month when Calipari was being enshrined. “He says, ’Coach, I’m telling you, I’m coming back.’ He said, ‘I want to win a championship for Chicago and I’m going to be the MVP again.’

“I hung up,” Calipari recalled, “and I went right to Gar Forman and said, ‘It’s back on. I’m just telling you.’”

Calipari was one of the premier inductees at this year’s enshrinement and as such was the last honoree to speak during the ceremonies. He is a three-time collegiate coach of the year with six Final Four appearances, though he faced controversy with appearances vacated at the U. of Massachusetts and the U. of Memphis. Lately at the U. of Kentucky, Calipari has become a veritable pipeline to the NBA for players and has coached four No. 1 overall NBA draft picks, Rose being the first. So Calipari has stayed close with Rose.

I ran into Calipari before his speech, and he was anxious to not only talk about Rose but also explain why he believes Rose finally is ready to return to the form that can help lead the Bulls to a championship.

“You have to understand this kid,” Calipari commanded in his persuasive style. “We walked out and played Texas (2008 NCAA South Regional final). I was nervous as heck. We’re at Memphis; we’re not supposed to beat Michigan State; we’re up 50-20. We’re not supposed to beat Texas in Houston. I’m in the locker room and I’m nervous as heck and he (Rose) walks in. He looks at me and says, ‘Watch this today.”

“What!” I say. “I didn’t understand. I said to (assistant) Rod Strickland, ‘Why is he so….’

“Rod said, ‘Because everybody was saying (Texas’ D.J.) Augustin was the better point guard,’” Calipari recalled. “Augustin went from like top five to like 20 in that game.”

Rose had 21 points, nine assists and six rebounds while hounding Augustin to four of 18 shooting in a dominant 85-67 Memphis win. Though Augustin was picked No. 9 in the 2008 draft.

But we’ve seen this from Rose even not at his best after injuries, coming up with brilliant performances against the top guards in the league, like Chris Paul, John Wall, Damian Lillard, all the guys they began to say again were better than Rose. He doesn’t advertise a deep pride, but it burns within Rose. Those who know Rose best, like Calipari, can hear it again in his tone, his words, his defiance.

Rose offered his own assurance as well Monday, matter-of-fact as he is wont to do.

“I can’t get caught up into that,” Rose said when asked about not being regarded around the NBA as he was when he was an MVP in 2011. “I know I’m great. There’s a lot of people that don’t know I’m great; that’s the thing. But it’s cool. I know I can hoop. You can put me anywhere and I know how to play the game of basketball. I can’t get mad at people for how they criticize my game and the way that I play, or the way that I used to play. I know I’m great, and that’s it.’’

Like saying once again, “Watch this.”

“Look, at the beginning of the year (at Memphis), I’m thinking, ‘This kid he’s not (what I thought), he’s got a lot of work to do,’” recalled Calipari. “And then it was about the end of December we played Tennessee at home and he took the team on his shoulders and he tried to will us to a win. We walked off the court and I said, ‘This kid, he’s gone (after this season). Let’s figure out who our point guard is going to be because he’s not going to be here.’ Then by the end of the year I said this kid is the No. 1 pick.

“I was at his high school when they were doing a documentary and he would not let them shoot with either a teammate or a teacher or an administrator with him,” Calipari related. “He made it about everybody. The hardest thing for him was that he had to adjust because his lift and all that stuff was different and it took him time (after his ACL). He was being overly cautious. I’ve been around the kid; I know how he is.

Calipari even used an anecdote about Rose in his acceptance speech at the Hall of Fame

“Those guys at Memphis all thought I was crazy,” Calipari said in his Hall of Fame remarks. “Even Derrick Rose early in his freshman year called his boys in Chicago and said, ‘I’m playing for the devil.’

“I said to him, ‘You remember doing that?’” Calipari added. “He said, ‘Yeah, I remember.’ I said, ‘Do you mind if I say that?” He said, ‘Nah, say it if you want.’

“He just wouldn’t let go last season; I could see that,” said Calipari. “You can’t reign in (and be great).”

Calipari said he knew Rose was working out this summer like few do, a trait he remembers from Memphis.

“I come in one day in the summer when I was at Memphis and I have a recruit in,” Calipari recalled. “It’s 11 o’clock in the morning, (I hear) ‘Thump, thump, thump. Swish, thump, thump, swish.’ Open the door he’s in there going hard, sweating, 11 o’clock. I come back with this recruit at 4. We went to lunch. (I hear) ‘Thump, thump, thump, swish, thump, thump. I call him and said, ‘Man, you can’t do this to your body, your legs; you can’t go five hours. He was fearful of failing. He has that in him. I said, ‘You can’t do that to your wheels.’ He has learned. He’s still a worker.”

The Bulls this season hope to profit as well from the effort.