By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com
Posted Oct 13 2010 6:31PM
Some NBA players can thrust themselves into the spotlight merely by talking about throttling back and taking a diminished role. Others get blasted as egomaniacs just for telling the planet's hoops fans where they soon will be reporting for work.
Then there is Chicago point guard Derrick Rose, who somehow can nominate himself for consideration as the best player in the world without raising a single eyebrow. No matter how recklessly his extreme confidence veers toward an onrush of insufferable cockiness, Rose never seems to cross the double yellow lines.
"Why can't I be MVP of the league?" Rose said at the start of the Bulls' training camp this fall. "Why can't I be the best player in the league?" It was the sort of rhetorical question that, coming from so many NBA players, would bring criticism and catcalls. But Rose says it and people either nod in agreement or shrug.
"I think I've worked hard. I think I've dedicated myself to the game and sacrificed a lot of things at a young age," he said that day, and maybe that explains it. Rose has done all those things, he has done them within a team concept and he has backed up and generally surpassed whatever bold words he has put out there.
Rookie of the Year in 2008-09. An NBA All-Star in 2009-10. Member of the USA national team that won gold in the World Championships this summer. Two trips to the postseason in as many years as a pro. And he just turned 22.
So when Rose mentions his MVP ambitions, people don't scoff. When he tells veteran Chauncey Billups what play to run on the court in Istanbul, Billups obliges and, after the bucket, assures him it was a smart call. When the Bulls point guard vows to rain more 3-pointers this season, rival coaches instinctively reach for the chalk to draw up new defenses.
Just because Rose has gotten more mouthy doesn't mean he's mouthing off. Even when he swaggers, he does it in slippers.
"Knowing I'm one of the guys on the point guard, I'm going to have to be more vocal and talking all the time in practice and in games, so that people can be used to me talking," Rose explained after Chicago's first practice of training camp. "Talking in meetings, that stuff really helps because I'm not talkative by nature."
In the past, Rose's deeds have been enough. He already is a Top 5 point guard on sheer individual play, and as a distributor, Rose is eager to pull together all the new Bulls players by dictating the team's pace and plays. The priority that U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski put on defense was good preparation for thriving under Chicago's first-year head coach Tom Thibodeau.
"Two years through the league now and his international experience this summer, I think he has a pretty good idea of what he's trying to accomplish," Thibodeau told Chicago reporters. "The thing I'm impressed with is his leadership."
Rose's maturation has been so convincing and rapid in two seasons that, when the Bulls failed to lure either LeBron James or Dwyane Wade as free agents this summer, there was hardly any uproar. The consensus seemed to be: The Bulls already have a superstar ball dominator. Plugging the two-time reigning MVP (James) or a second Chicago favorite son (Wade) into the Bulls' lineup, many said, could muddy the offense and alter the locker room.
The locals didn't even seem rankled when Rose did little to recruit the more established superstars. Some thought he didn't want to hand over the keys to the Bulls' attack, others credited him with showing respect for teammate Luol Deng, whose position would have been taken by James.
"My thing is, if [James] wanted to come here, he would have come," Rose said. "If I wanted to go somewhere, I'm not going to come just because of one person. When people say I didn't pay him no mind, if he really wanted to come here, who would have stopped him?"
Nothing stopped Carlos Boozer's Chicago signing, though in leaving one dynamic point guard -- Deron Williams -- Boozer was shrewd enough to align himself with another.
"They're both great players, great point guards, great vision, great passing ability, great scoring ability," Boozer said, comparing the Utah and Chicago playmakers. "For Derrick I think he might be the most athletic point guard I've seen maybe ever. I've seen some highlights of him where I was like, 'Wow, did he really just do that?' "
What Rose has done, memorable as it's been, soon won't compare to the things he still aims to do.
1. ROSE STILL ON THE RISE
From Rookie of the Year in his first year to All-Star in his second to, well, it's anyone's guess how good Bulls guard Derrick Rose can be this season.
2. AVOIDING INJURIES IS KEY
It's key for every team, but Boozer's history and Noah's plantar fasciitis (18 games) makes training room a no-Bull zone.
3. WHO'S THEIR WINGMAN?
Ronnie Brewer is solid all-around, Kyle Korver has the shooting stroke. But can either make the shooting-guard spot his own?
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LAST YEAR: 41-41, 3rd in Central
FINISH: Lost in first round of playoffs
2009-10 TEAM LEADERS
|Complete 2009-10 Stats|
LUOL DENG, FORWARD
17.6 PPG | 7.3 RPG | 2.0 APG
A healthy summer and a new coach who considers him "underrated" had Deng looking sharp from the start of preseason.
CARLOS BOOZER, FORWARD
19.5 PPG | 11.2 RPG | 55 DOUBLE-DOUBLES
Boozer gives Chicago a perfect pick-and-roll partner for Rose and best low-post threat since Elton Brand worked there.
RONNIE BREWER, GUARD
8.8 PPG | 3.2 RPG | 1.57 SPG
Bulls had bigger plans in free agency, but if Brewer can hit jumpers consistently, his other skills will keep him on floor.
DERRICK ROSE, GUARD
20.8 PPG | 6.0 APG | 3.8 APG
Rose played through the offseason and devoted his summer to 3-point improvement, which could make him scary-dangerous.
JOAKIM NOAH, CENTER
10.7 PPG | 11.0 RPG | 50.4 FG%
Noah's value on defense, as rebounder and in energy was reward with a $60 million extension. A potential All-Star this year.
|Omer Asik||7-0||255||Center||Raw big man needs minutes, intensity.|
|Keith Bogans||6-5||215||G/F||Maybe 7th team is a charm for journeyman wing.|
|Taj Gibson||6-9||225||F||Starter as a rookie, now Boozer insurance as a soph.|
ADDED: Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Omar Asik, Ronnie Brewer, Kurt Thomas, Keith Bogans, C.J. Watson
LOST: Hakim Warrick, Brad Miller, Acie Law, Kirk Hinrich, Kevin Seraphin, Vladimir Veremeenko, Rob Kurz, Chris Richard
CARLOS BOOZER, FORWARD
After one week of workouts, the $80 million free-agent signee trips over luggage at home and breaks his right hand. Any other guy and you'd say it's a fluke, but with Boozer's array of injuries, it fits a pattern. Great talker with talent who needs to walk the walk (without any limps) as a winner now.
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