Derrick Rose still has plenty to prove

By Adam Fluck | 04.22.09 | 6:35 p.m. CT

In Game 1 of Chicago’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinals matchup with the Boston Celtics, Derrick Rose surpassed one of Michael Jordan’s long-time records, scoring 36 points in his playoff debut. On Wednesday, he followed in Jordan’s footsteps again by winning NBA Rookie of the Year honors.

Minutes before the press conference to make the official announcement, sat down with the first-year point guard to talk about closing out the season on a positive note, taking over against the Celtics, and becoming a more vocal leader. Congratulations on a very deserving award. Was winning Rookie of the Year a goal of yours?

Derrick Rose: Of course, it definitely was. Coming into the league, you want to think highly about yourself, set those expectations and be confident. To get through the season and win this is very rewarding. I’m just going to take it like every other award. You can’t let it be bigger than what it is when you’ve still got games to play in the playoffs. The award isn’t going to win us any games. With the Bulls’ strong showing down the stretch, closing out the season with 12 wins in the final 16 games, including 9-2 at home, the team finished with a record of 41-41. Thus, you’ve still never been on a losing team at any level. What does that say to you?

Rose: It’s big. It shows you that we as a team never gave up. In the beginning, it was kind of rough at times. We had a losing streak of five games at one point [in January that dropped the Bulls to a record of 18-27]. We’d win a game or two, but then lose again and I wasn’t used to that. For us to come back and finish at .500 was very important and it kind of set everything right. We felt all along like we could be a contender for the playoffs and we did what it took to get there. The Bulls were eight games below .500 following a loss to Philadelphia on March 13. Reaching the playoffs didn’t seem possible at that time, yet here you are tied with the defending world champions as the series shifts to Chicago. What do you attribute to the turnaround?

Rose: Everybody just came together. It wasn’t just me; it was our whole team. Everybody knew their roles, cared about getting better, and did what they could to win. The trades helped too; getting John Salmons and Brad Miller was huge. They both came in right away and played hard and wanted to win. They’re all about good basketball and they definitely helped this team. Was there one particular moment or highlight from your rookie season that you’ll always look back on?

Rose: I’d have to say the game when we played the Clippers [on December 17 in Chicago] and BG [Ben Gordon] hit that shot [four-point play with 20.5 seconds left in regulation] falling down that took us in to overtime. It was at that point that I learned an NBA game is never over. Your postseason debut in Boston for Game 1 will be talked about for years. You keep saying that getting the win was all that mattered, but breaking one of Michael Jordan’s records and tying an NBA mark held by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has to feel pretty good, right?

Rose: I wasn’t even thinking about the records, I was just worried about winning. I was trying to get the team together and become a leader out there, anything I can do to win. Was there a moment—whether it was after the draft, scrimmaging against the USA Select Team, or early in the season—when you knew you belonged at this level?

Rose: I still have to go out there and play just to show people I deserve to be at this level. There was no one moment; it’s kind of an ongoing thing. You can’t ever let up in this league. I think I play hard enough and people realize that I deserve to be up here. I just need to continue doing those things that have gotten me to this point. What have you learned about yourself and the game of basketball in the past year?

Rose: I’ve become more of a leader and I’m a little more vocal out there. I’m forcing myself to talk and communicate with my teammates whenever I can. It’s a totally different game than it was in college. It’s not easy coming in and almost learning the game all over again. That’s why I give so many props to the guys that came to the NBA straight out of high school. For LeBron and all those other guys to come straight to this level and adjust to this game had to be so tough. The NBA game is so fast-paced and there are so many things you have to balance—defensive sets, offensive sets, learning about other players and personnel, everything. There is so much involved that you don’t realize until you get here. You mentioned stepping up as a leader and becoming more vocal. Have you taken on more responsibilities as the year progressed?

Rose: I’m just trying to be more vocal because I think that is going to help us win. It brings us together and it gives me more respect from my veteran teammates, who have helped me all season long and even more now that we’re in the playoffs. Talking to them more often and working hard all the time helps create a positive vibe that’s in our locker room and on the court. How do you think you’ll reflect on your rookie season years from now?

Rose: I’ll remember winning, knowing that I gave it my all while I was on the court, doing anything to help our team. Hopefully I’ll look back on us getting past the first round. Last May, the Bulls beat incredible odds to win the NBA Draft Lottery and a dream of yours eventually came true when you were drafted by your hometown team. Can you imagine playing anywhere else? What does the city of Chicago, and its fans, mean to you?

Rose: No, I don’t think I could play anywhere else. Being here in my hometown is the perfect fit. I’m blessed to be here right now. Our fans have been great. They never gave up on us. And hopefully those who didn’t believe are on the bandwagon now and will push us into the second round towards greatness.