Sam Smith: At 20, Rose’s run has just begun

At 20, Rose's run has just begun

Sam Smith

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Posted by Sam Smith | | 04.22.09 | 9:40 p.m. CT

For Brenda Rose, it’s wonderful that her youngest son, Derrick, was named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year on Wednesday.

“I told them all, ‘Go for your dream,’” Brenda said, wiping away tears as the Bulls star point guard received the award at a ceremony at the Northbrook Renaissance hotel Wednesday after the team's practice. ”’If that’s your dream, go for it.’ And now he’s Rookie of the Year. I could not imagine this. But it’s here. His dream came true. He always said, ‘I’m going to play for the NBA. I’m going to play for the NBA.’ It’s here and he’s enjoying it. I enjoy it and I’m proud of him.”

It was a wonderful family scene for the Rose family with Rose’s three brothers there, and the Bulls family of General Manager John Paxson, coach Vinny Del Negro and fans.

Because this was the first official recognition—unofficially it probably was the 36 points in Game 1 of the playoff series with Boston now tied 1-1 with Game 3 here Thursday—that the Bulls have a star capable of leading them to a championship.

We’ve all seen Rose for a season, and we know he can be a star in the game.

But with this official designation as NBA 2008-09 Rookie of the Year with 93 percent of the first place votes, and with the Rose and the Bulls' play against the Celtics, it is becoming clear the Bulls finally are putting in place what it takes to be a championship team again.

No one dare say that. But this looks like it could be the start of some more Chicago basketball history. So you should watch.

More than half the players who have become Rookie of the Year are in the Basketball Hall of Fame. The Bulls have one in Michael Jordan. Elton Brand shared the award with Steve Francis in 2000. They’re not going in. But 17 of those players to win Rookie of the Year have been on championship teams.

I believe Rose has a chance to join them.

Not only because of his play, but how he sees the game.

It’s not like Jordan with that manic, insatiable, almost angry competitiveness we also see now in Kobe Bryant.

Rose is different, though perhaps perfect for his position, a humble yet driven athlete with an unselfish nature and unending desire to success.

I got to be Helen Thomas at the press conference Wednesday. She the wrinkled old timer who asks the first question. I assume because they believe anything could happen before the end of the session.

So I asked Rose about what was the best moment of the season, his personal highlight.

I expected a game winning shot answer or crossover move or block or big scoring game.

Rose said it was when Ben Gordon hit a big shot against the Clippers.

If you don’t recall, that was a brain dead moment by Eric Gordon back in December when leading by four he fouled Gordon on a last second three, which forced overtime and the Bulls won.

“The game that really stood out in my mind was the most crazy game I ever saw. Ben Gordon hit that shot when we played the Clippers,” said Rose. “That game right there let me know the NBA game is never over. I thought the game was over. I think our fans thought it was over. But the people who were on the court with me, my veterans, didn’t let the game go away.”

So I wondered later about the worst moment. Some turnover or bad shot, no doubt.

It was in January when the Bulls lost a season worst five straight to fall to a season low 18-27.

“That was real tough,” said Rose. “I wasn’t used to it. I talked to Kirk (Hinrich) and all them. Just seeing what could we do to get out of it. Somehow we found a way to get out of it.”

You see, this is something that makes a player special and what you can’t teach or coach.

Rose is about winning and about team and doing what is necessary for team success. It’s rare when a player like that comes along, and when one does, in whatever form, you have a chance. It was the brilliance of former General Manager Jerry Krause who recognized that with Jordan, and added pieces to fit with Jordan to make it possible.

Paxson emphasized that at the press conference.

“It means as we go forward here, we have the guy we are going to build around,” Paxson said.

This is not to say Rose is without ego. For everyone has it and the great ones need it.

Rose admitted, after appropriately denying it all season, that he wanted to win the award.

He should have and I’m glad he felt that way.

“When I first came into the season my biggest thing was to get this award,” Rose conceded. “I was telling you all I wasn’t caring about it. But when you’re coming in you really do want this award. There’s a lot of talent out there I had to go against and who were good, too. I think what got me this award was playing tough every night and playing aggressive and playing my type of game.

“When you come into the season this is the only thing you really worry about as a rookie,” Rose said. “You want to do good. The award means a lot. You look at the people who get it. Kevin Durant, LeBron James. You want to be in they category when they talk about players.”

Rose was named first on 111 of the 120 ballots. O.J. Mayo was second and had five first place votes. Brook Lopez was third and Russell Westbrook fourth and each had two first place votes. It’s hard to imagine, really, anyone else getting any first place votes after the season Rose had and being the only one among the top six vote getters even in the playoffs. And as the team’s starting point guard. Rose was named on every ballot, though how four voters selected him third further buttresses the argument that writers should not be allowed to vote.

Rose, meanwhile, was having some fun and seemed about as relaxed as he’s been all season in a media atmosphere. He’s always cooperative and accessible, but usually short with answers and a bit reserved.

Whether intended or not, Rose had some fun. He told a nice story about his rookie duties of buying pre-practice donuts for teammates.

“At first I was bringing the donuts every single day,” Rose said. “Some days I come to practice a little bit late so I wouldn’t have them. I missed like three days straight before the West Coast trip. (They said, ‘Were taking it our your per diem.’ That was too much money to be taking. I’m going to be bringing the donuts. Now I’m back on track.”

Helping him stay on track, Rose said, was living in sleepy Deerfield.

“It’s comfortable (playing at home),” Rose said of being a rookie No. 1 pick in his home town. “The city. It can take you under. What really helped me was living out in Deerfield, where Chicago is a lot of temptations. If you go out every night something always going on in Chicago. But in Deerfield (there) is nothing really to do. So it’s perfect. You watch movies, play the game, eat and go to sleep and that’s it.”

It’s not the ad campaign for the Deerfield Chamber of Commerce.

“Becoming the No. 1 pick, you have a lot of pressure on you, especially coming from your home town,” Rose acknowledged. “Everybody’s looking at you to see if you will live up to that No. 1 pick. I just wanted to go out and play hard and get it from winning.

It wouldn’t feel right if I weren’t winning (and won the award). On this level it’s different. You have people with families, people that’s way older than you, 30, stuff like that.”

Yes, he is a baby, and we forget that.

It’s another reason why the future seems so bright for the Bulls.

Rose is just a kid still learning the game. If this is how good he is at 20, he’s got plenty of room to grow.

He’s talented, but he wants to learn and work. It’s all about basketball and getting better. Not running around and spending money and proving he is special. It’s about his passion for the game, a game that is played best by a team and with someone now who believes in the concept. And has the talent and attitude to make it work.

“It stated when I was kid,” Rose said of his demeanor. “My mom used to always say, ‘You’re not bigger than anybody, so don’t look at people like that.’ I know if I say anything like ‘I’m the man, oh, blah, blah, blah,’ something like that, they’ll (family) yell at me or my brothers, if they around, they’ll hit me. So I don’t want to go through that pain.”

The kid makes you smile on and off the court.

Brenda could only dab at her eyes watching her baby.

“He’s always been good kid,” she said. “No trouble. At first I was worried (about the NBA life). But I knew Derrick’s personality. I knew how he would act. He knew he was representing me. He always (was) quiet. He and I might lie down and we’d be looking at movies. He’s always been around older people. His aunts. I always teased him and said he has an old soul. I think that’s what helps him that he’s able to sit down and talk to older people because he’s been around a lot of older people. His grandmothers spoiled him a lot, too.

“I always told him, ‘You were no better than anyone else. You treat another person like you want to be treated. It stuck in his head,” Brenda added. “I didn’t know how good he was until seeing him high school. When I saw him in college it shocked me how fast he could move on the court.”

And now Rose is beginning a run through the NBA that could be memorable.