Derrick Rose : : : One Singular Sensation
Posted October 17, 2008 | By Conrad Theodore
Truth be told, the odds of the Chicago Bulls landing the number one overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft were all but laughable (1.7 percent, to be exact).
But what’s really got the Bulls organization grinning from ear to ear these days is its good fortune in getting more than a colossal upgrade at the point guard position. The moment Commissioner David Stern announced Memphis University standout Derrick Rose as the number-one overall selection, the Bulls’ starting two, three, four and five positions instantaneously took a vast rise in stock.
The reason is simple: Derrick Rose is going to make Tyrus Thomas, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Ben Gordon and every other player on the roster much, much better. Yes, Derrick Rose is that special.
Rose’s remarkable ability of going from zero to hero to the hoop, or his knack of knowing exactly when to dish off is the primary reason he is sporting a Bulls jersey rather than Kansas State All-American Michael Beasley (Beasley was selected second by the Miami Heat).
“He makes other players better. That’s what he does best,” new Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro simply states. “Derrick has all the tools. The way I want us to play is to get the ball in his hands and push it up the court.”
Even though the ball was in the Bulls’ court in deciding the number-one pick, the front office remained mum for weeks prior to the Draft. Would it be the smart, crafty floor general in Rose? Or would the Bulls go in a completely different direction with 6’8” NBA-physique ready, Michael Beasley, who seems to score at will? It truly was a win-win situation. But, in the end, it was Rose who came out smelling like, well, you know.
“In this league, point guards are really hard to find,” Bulls Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson said moments after the Draft. “He has a strength about him at that position that most guards in this league don’t. Great burst, very fast with the ball. He’ll give us leadership, which we really need. For us, Derrick Rose was the right pick.”
Perhaps the biggest concern about Rose is where he grew up, which is right here in Chicago. There is some apprehension that his new-found popularity may cause a number of distractions.
A legitimate argument, perhaps, but Rose is no stranger to the limelight. In fact, while he played his high school ball locally at Simeon Career Academy, he led his team to two straight Class AA state championships, averaging 25.2 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.8 assists while being named 2007 Illinois Mr. Basketball, along with earning numerous other local and national awards.
“The championships got me used to playing on a big stage,” says Rose. “The pressure never really got to me because I always felt I was in control.”
Rose directed Chicago’s Simeon Career Academy to two straight Illinois Class AA State Championships. His senior year, he averaged 25.2 points, 9.1 rebounds, 8.8 assists and 3.4 steals, and was named 2007 Illinois Mr. Basketball.
(Courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times)
Yes, Rose has already faced a ton of distractions in his young career, including strangers approaching him with all kinds of requests, friends persistently wanting to go out with him and, “of course, girls,” as Rose himself joked. But he’s been able to stay grounded thanks to his own special team that surrounds him.
“The biggest support system I have is my family,” Rose says regarding his mother and three older brothers. “I used to go somewhere in high school, and my mother would call me within ten minutes asking where I was. I’d say, ‘I told you I’m over here.’ I use to hate it, but she was just being a caring mother. And my three brothers, they were the muscle, really. I just thank my family for putting their arms around me so that I wouldn’t get sidetracked.”
Rose remained focused while he went away to school. He only played one year of college ball with Memphis University, but it certainly was a memorable one. Along with his teammates, Rose made history when his school became the only one to have ever won 38 games in one regular season, making it all the way to the NCAA National Championship game before losing to Kansas in overtime. Rose himself earned the MVP honor for the South Region of the tournament and was later named Third Team All-American by The Associated Press.
“He’s such a great athlete. With his speed, and the way the rules are regarding hand-checking, Derrick has the strength and athleticism to beat guys off the dribble and attack the rim,” says Del Negro about Rose playing in the NBA. “When you do that, other teams’ rotations come and other players are open for easier shots. That’s hard to find.”
The comparisons are already beginning to be made with other established players in the NBA such as Deron Williams and Chris Paul. But Paxson quickly puts into perspective that those aren’t really fair assessments for the 19-year old rookie.
“Chris Paul and Deron Williams had several years of college experience, so they came in older than Derrick is right now,” points out Paxson. “If Derrick takes the ball from day one and runs with it and leads that’s great. But, if it takes time, we understand that. I think you saw that this past year with him at Memphis. Once Derrick got acclimated to that offense and that system under Coach [John] Calipari and once he was able to integrate himself in that program, he really blossomed. It wouldn’t be fair for us to throw the weight of the world on Derrick on Day 1. We simply need to give him time to grow and get comfortable. Once he does, the sky’s the limit.”
But Rose himself isn’t backing away from the challenge he is about to face. “I don’t feel any pressure. I want pressure really,” explains Rose. “Because when you have pressure, that means you’re doing something right.”
Along with patience comes a lot of optimism. Fresh off a disappointing 49-loss season, the current Bulls players now are hoping to put that bad memory behind them and focus their attention on the future where Rose so prominently fits in.
“This is an exciting time,” says Tyrus Thomas, who was present at the press conference introducing Rose. “Rose is new, the coach is new, I’ve only been here a couple of years, so I feel like it’s also a fresh start for me. I’m ready to get started.”
First year playmaker Derrick Rose possesses a rare combination of speed, elite athleticism and poise.
(Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images)
Rose started to get the jitters while sitting at his assigned table in New York waiting to hear if his name would be called first or second. The funny thing was, he already knew the answer. Paxson had called earlier in the day and secretly informed his party they were going with Rose.
“I knew at the table, but I was still so nervous,” Rose laughed after Paxson let him know at the press conference he could spill the beans. “I was so nervous when David Stern came out. I was just hoping I wasn’t going to get ‘punked’ with Stern saying Beasley’s name instead of mine.”
Rose’s name should be popping up quite often in the papers and on television and radio in the coming months. That’s quite impressive for a guy who has never been able to go to a single Bulls game even though he grew up just a few minutes away. He remembers his older brother Dwayne turning off the television during a playoff game when Michael Jordan was about to shoot because he was too nervous to know the outcome.
Little could Dwayne have ever predicted that his young brother Derrick would now have John Paxson from those Championship Bulls teams as his general manager, along with another former Bull, B.J. Armstrong, as Derrick’s agent. “I’m truly blessed. It’s a dream come true,” says Rose. “My whole life is like a dream. I really can’t believe it.”
And Rose is not about to take all this in stride. “He’s like a sponge and is so excited to learn,” Armstrong says. “Even a press conference like this is a learning experience for him. Derrick always wants to pick guys’ brains to figure out how they got to be the best. He truly loves the history of the game.”
NBA history may suggest, as with many past rookies, that growing pains are part of the league. “We’re still an incredibly young team,” stresses Paxson. “That often doesn’t translate to a lot of wins. But we have good players who have proven they can win. We think Derrick will add to that and make us better.”
Del Negro also cautions about allowing some time for a learning curve with the young rookie. “Point guard is the most difficult position to learn. There are going to be trials and tribulations with everything. We’re going to be patient, but also work with him daily to make him the player we know he can be. But Derrick has a lot of confidence in his ability. And he’ll work hard.”
The catch 22 in Rose’s case is that, with the point guard position also comes the responsibility of team leadership. But that’s not easy for someone who is only 19 years old.
“I think I can be a leader on the court and probably off the court,” Rose insists. “Age doesn’t really matter. It’s about how effective you are. I’ve always been around older people. All my friends are older than me. That has helped me mature.”
Throughout his young life, Derrick Rose has embraced every challenge and conquered all comers placed in front of him. This year, the 19-year old from Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood says he’s excited to take on the NBA and help drive the Bulls back into contention.
The Bulls basketball staff is confident that for the next 10 to 12 years, Rose will be the man quarterbacking the team and will only grow stronger in that role. But, for now, time is going to be what he needs most.
“We have guys (on the current roster) that will be able to play with and around Derrick to allow him to grow,” believes Paxson. “I do know that a lot of our guys are going to enjoy playing with him. My belief is we’re going to really find out about some of the people we’ve drafted in the past.”
In the end, the decision who the Bulls would select with the top overall pick was unanimous among the coaching staff, scouts and Paxson. “Let’s face it, we haven’t had a star player around here in a long, long time,” says Paxson. “We’re not putting that tag on Derrick, but he’s the type of piece we haven’t had and I think he’s going to be really terrific.”
All that any of us can determine right now is what we’ve seen of Rose in the past. And what we’ve seen is a winner, always leading his teams to championship level play. It takes a special person to win at the high school, college and pro level. Magic Johnson was able to win at all three, all within a four-year period. Who knows? Maybe Rose’s drive includes the same road map. One thing is for sure, it’s going to be a fun ride.
As Jeff Van Gundy said moments after Derrick Rose’s name was officially called, “I don’t think it’s about Derrick Rose fitting in with the Bulls team, I think it’s about the Bulls team fitting in with Derrick Rose’s special talents.”
Rose is truly one singular sensation, and Bulls fans will be eager to see every step he takes.