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DEERFIELD, Ill. – In this age of AAU-like “buddy ball,” with NBA stars conspiring with other marquee guys to ditch rivalries and team up on mega-teams, Derrick Rose remains, well, refreshing.
“I’m not going to do that. If you want to come here, come here, but it’s not up to me to make that decision,” Rose said Thursday afternoon during his first visit to the Bulls’ practice facility since the NBA lockout unofficially ended. “I’m not paying them. I’m on my rookie contract.”
That soon will change – Rose eventually will sign a contract extension worth $100 million that will kick in for 2012-13 – but that part was a joke anyway. What wasn’t was the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player’s commitment to the Chicago Bulls teammates he has now or at any given point.
The electric point guard raised some eyebrows when he didn’t lobby in the summer of 2010 for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or any of the other big-name free agents to join the Bulls. And he’s not lobbying now that another free-agent frenzy has begun – with fellows such as New York’s Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony happy to woo Chris Paul or others to their team.
Rose’s stance now is the same as it was 17 months ago: Want to play with the Bulls? Great, we’ll win together. Want to play somewhere else? Great, we’ll try to beat you.
“I know there’s a lot of people that want to play here, just Chicago being a great market, a great city to live in,” Rose said. “The fans are great – we have the No. 1 fans in the world. But like I say, it’s not up to me, it’s up to them to make a decision. I’ll meet with Pax [Bulls VP John Paxson] and Gar [GM Gar Forman] and them and see what they’re going to do.”
The conventional wisdom is that Chicago needs a backcourt piece who can create his own shot and take some of the offensive burden off Rose — an upgrade over the tag team approach of Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and Keith Bogans. But the local guy (Simeon High) who has made good sees that talk almost as disloyal to the fellows on the current roster.
“I’m fine with my teammates,” he said. “If they choose to, that’s up to them. But my teammates that I have right now, I’m fine with them.
“When I look at it, I’m hard on myself. Any mistake that I do during a game, I think that everything is my fault. I hold myself for everything that went on during a game, because I have the ball a majority of the time, 80 percent or 90 percent of the time.
“It’s like, when I pass to people and they make a bad shot or whatever, I think it’s my fault because I put ‘em in that position. Being a point guard, you think that way.”
Rose was the first Bulls player to show up at the Berto Center, the club’s practice facility in the northern suburbs of Chicago. He arrived a couple hours earlier than he initially planned and, finding the front entrance locked, got an assist from media people already behind the double doors who were waiting for him.
Rose touched on a few topics during a group interview with them:
- Any 2011 update on his “Why can’t I be MVP?” prescient comment from training camp 2010? “This year I’m just trying to do better than last year. We’re trying to go further than last year. Last year, of course, it was a good season. But it’s last year. You never know how it’s going to go this year.”
- So how about MVP of the postseason? “That would be great. But my whole goal this year is to win the championship.”
- Given how new the Bulls’ roster was a year ago, will continuity work to Chicago’s advantage now? “That was our first time coming together, and we made it that far. This year, I think we’re more comfortable with each other, knowing what we can do on the court, where guys are on the court at all times. I think it should help us out at the beginning.”
- How did the MVP spend his extended offseason? “Traveling. I went everywhere this summer. China, I went to like six places there. I went to Hawaii. Traveling to Portland, traveling back from here to L.A. Houston. If the lockout wasn’t over, I would have been going to the Dominican Republic. Went to Bora Bora with my mom. I went to a lot of places.”
- How did the shoe commercial shoot in Spain go? “It was cool. It was very hot out there. It was like three days, I was out there in, like, 110 degrees. I had a guy following me around with an umbrella. The guy’s name was Nacho. Nacho did a great job making sure I had shade.”
- Did he interact with any real bulls? “I didn’t get close to them. But the matadors, I met all of them, took pictures of them. There was actually one of them that they compared to Michael Jordan, that he’s the greatest ever. He wasn’t there at the time, I wanted to meet him but I didn’t get a chance to.”
- Did Rose come close to signing with any overseas team? “I wasn’t close at all. You know me, I always think positive about everything. I was just, for some strange reason, I always knew the season was going to start. But I didn’t know when.”
- What did he make of the lockout and the business of basketball? “It’s about money but more, it’s about fans. It was hurting me to see that the season was almost gone because we couldn’t make a decision, couldn’t make a deal. It was hurting me, but thank God we got a deal done. And hopefully the fans are ready for us.”