One of the things that sets this blog apart from other sports blogs is I just don’t sit at home in my underwear (sorry for the image) reacting to the reporting of others. I get into the trenches myself, look the subjects in the eye and ask the questions I believe are important.
But on Thursday, I got a little too close for comfort with Derrick Rose.
Following the practice session of the U.S. men’s national team in Chicago, there was a large group of reporters and TV cameras waiting to speak with the Bulls star. I positioned myself well for the sprint before Rose signaled us over, displayed an explosive first step and secured a prime position to his immediate right.
It was a great spot for asking questions and for positioning my recorder so I could hear every word clearly. It wasn’t so great for … well, let’s just say staying as fresh as a daisy.
Rose was drenched in sweat following a two-hour-plus workout, he was surrounded by reporters and the crush of humanity often forced me into his dripping practice gear.
Yuck. The things I do to make this blog interesting.
But it was totally worth it because I got to ask quite a few questions and Rose had some interesting answers during the 16-minute media session.
The biggest thing I wanted to know was whether he feels he’s farther along now than he was at this time last year.
“I think so; just confidence-wise,” he said. “I think I’m taking care of my body a lot better than I did last time as far as stretching at night and hydrating. When I came back [last year] I wasn’t drinking as much water as needed to and I’m just trying to think of everything I can to eliminate [injury] this time.
“Hydrating and stretching, that was key and I think that’s why I’m able to come out here and play the way I’m playing.”
For those of you who don’t know, Rose has played just a total of 10 games the previous two seasons because of a pair of serious knee injuries. He suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in the first game of 2012 playoffs, missed all of the 2012-13 season and then suffered a torn meniscus of his right knee after just 10 games last season.
Because of the back-to-back injuries, some Bulls fans have labeled him as fragile and a few have even called him soft. Even more have questioned whether he’ll ever regain the form that helped him win the NBA’s most valuable player award in 2011.
Rose knows there’s nothing he can say to any of those fans to convince them that he’s healthy and ready to go. The only way to do that is by staying healthy throughout the upcoming NBA season.
But he made it clear in his mind that he’s not worried about getting injured again — even after watching Paul George go down with a gruesome broken leg during a U.S. team scrimmage in Las Vegas two weeks ago.
“I have no fear; I have faith,” he said. “I know that I’m gonna be fine. I know that I busted my ass the last two summers to get back to where I am now.”
Although he said he always realized how fortunate he was before the injuries, Rose said his experiences have helped put things in perspective.
“I appreciate it more, even just being in the city, being here the entire summer and not going [to Los Angeles],” he said. “Just seeing how crazy the city is right now with the deaths and everything makes me appreciate life a little bit better, a little bit more, knowing that there are kids out there that don’t give a [damn] about their life, acting like it’s a video game.
“It made my appreciation for the game a little bit higher and every time I step on the floor, it’s gonna feel like a performance.”
The U.S. team is spending three days in Chicago as part of its preparation for FIBA’s Basketball World Cup in Spain, which begins later this month. Team USA will play Brazil in an exhibition game Saturday night at the United Center.
Rose showed great speed and explosiveness during the scrimmage in Vegas and Bulls coach Thom Thibodeau (an assistant coach on the U.S. team) said he had a great practice on Thursday. Rose figures to be a starter, but was asked Thursday if he had any doubts that he would make the team after the two knee injuries.
“Oh, no,” he said. “In my mind I always knew that I had a legit chance to make the team and I’m happy that they brought me along. I’m happy that I made the last cuts and I’m just trying to stay positive.
“Every day coming in here and playing with these guys has given me an extra boost with my confidence and just lets me know that I’m ready.