Derrick Rose Thursday was back in his new home to face his former team, back from his surprise one game absence from the Knicks, for which he was fined some $200,000, and ready to make a run for the playoffs. That it also was against his former team was perhaps the irony with the Bulls and Knicks both coming into Thursday’s national TNT game trying to move back into the East’s top eight.
“Totally different game,” Rose said about the November game in the United Center. “My nerves are down. I played, what, 30-some (games, 17-22). We’re trying to win games here. As long as we win games that’s all that matters. This is the next big thing because it’s the next game. That’s the way I’m looking at it. I think I’m a smarter player. Of course, I can get a lot better with my turnovers, but I think I’ve been reading everything right. We’re putting in pick-and-roll here and there. We have to run a lot more, but constantly pushing the ball and telling my teammates to run with me. I think I’ve been playing alright.’’
And dunking the basketball again.
“I don’t know, man, I don’t know. I feel young and it all started coming in this building,” said Rose, the former MVP averaging 17.5 points and 4.4 assists. “When you’re in here, the fans, the excitement in the building, it makes you feel young again.’’
Well, it has been growth for Rose, who left the Knicks unexpectedly earlier this week. It turns out, he said, he had a family emergency. He was fined for not notifying the Knicks, but played well with 25 points in his return Wednesday in a loss in Philadelphia and was greeted warmly by the New York fans Thursday in introductions. Most Bulls staffers also went to the Knicks’ locker room to greet Rose before the game.
“To be honest, it wasn’t difficult,” Rose said of the absence that created national sports headlines and wild rumors. “It eases everything when the front office knows where you’re coming from. And like I said before, they understood. I got over it right when I was with my family. I saw them. I came back the next morning and Phil (Jackson) and Steve (Mills) asked me did I want to play the next day. And I told them. It was in the past and that’s how I normally react to everything that happens in my life like that. I just move on with it.
“I hope it’s nothing but love out there,” Rose said about the anticipated home reaction. “They just want to see you play hard here. That’s it. And win games, which is something we’ve been having a hard time trying to do. We’ve had trouble staying consistent. Still got a long season (to go). Still trying to change things here. Only thing I can do is just lead by example and play as hard as I can. I can’t say nothing about what’s going on over there (with the Bulls) when over here we’re trying to win games (also). If we were above .500 or even at .500, but I can’t even say anything about that when we got our own things to handle over here.’’
“My job (is) to go in, play as hard as I can, and try to win,” said Rose. “My job is not to evaluate or judge how I played [in Chicago]. That’s up to the fans and the organization, how they took it. Now I’m in New York, just trying to learn how to win games here. I feel good. I missed some games this year due to some minor injuries, but I feel good. Overall, I think I’m very healthy. Learned a new system here where it’s fun, it’s exciting. I’m loving this experience, to tell you the truth. It’s new, it’s refreshing, and I’m blessed to be here.’’
“Right when I came back I felt nothing but love,” said Rose. “I apologized to (the team), and like I said it eases everything when they understand. I could see if I came back and I felt negative energy or I felt people looking at me different; there wasn’t any of that. I felt nothing but love when I came back, and they let me have my room and space to actually think and to process everything. That takes a lot out of everything.’’