Derrick Rose Expects to Bloom Into MVP Candidate, Propel The Bulls
He found nothing unusual about it, even if most everyone else did. Biding his time and paying his dues has never been his style.
After all, he arrived as the No. 1 pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, and went from Rookie of the Year his first season to NBA All-Star the next. So why not set his sights on being the best player in the world's best basketball league in his third year?
For him, it's the natural progression.
Maybe that's why the Chicago Bulls didn't hesitate when LeBron James went to Miami instead this summer. Maybe that's why they haven't tried as hard as they could have to trade for Carmelo Anthony.
They already have their budding superstar. And they might be better this season than anyone yet realizes.
"There is no point in playing the game if you're not trying to be the best. I'm just trying to be the best in the NBA,'' he said with his typical quiet confidence before the Bulls played the Magic Saturday night. "If that's not the case, retire and start doing something else.''
Rose doesn't care that most everyone else believes that Kobe Bryant, James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Deron Williams, and even Anthony have a better chance to be the MVP. Rose doesn't see it that way.
He likes his Bulls, and he likes his chances.
"Why can't I be MVP of the league?'' he asked.
"I'm more comfortable this year, with both our defensive and offensive sets. I'm way more comfortable out there now,'' he said. "And that should make me a better player this season.''
Rose, 22, has been nothing short of outstanding in his first two seasons, leading the undermanned Bulls to back-to-back playoff appearances. He sparkled last spring in their first-round elimination by the Cavaliers, averaging 26.8 points, 7.2 assists and 3.4 rebounds, providing a preview of he expects to become. He also has adapted quickly to his new coach, defensive specialist Tom Thibodeau, who is making him a better defender.
What bothers him is the assumption that the Eastern Conference this season will be a three-team race between the Heat, Celtics and Magic, and that the Bulls are being projected among the next batch of teams.
"We're right there (with the top teams), where we go into every game, not hoping, but really having a chance, to win every game we play,'' he said. "We can compete now against any team in the NBA. When teams play us, it's going to be a tough, hard game."
Rose is coming off his most productive, hardest-working summer as a professional. He was the starting point guard for the U.S. team that won the gold medal at the FIBA World Championship in Turkey. And it was just what he needed at this stage of his career.
"It helped me a lot, especially when it came to learning about leadership, about being more vocal. There are different kinds of leaders. You can be quiet like Tim Duncan, or be like Kobe Bryant, always talking,'' he said. "I just have to find out where I can fit in here.''
Rose is assuming that Saturday night's exhibition debacle -- a 105-67 loss to the Magic -- was merely an aberration. The Bulls were coming off an overtime loss in Chicago Friday night, while the Magic were well-rested. Rose played just 12 minutes. Center Joakim Noah didn't play. Rose was seething when it ended, embarrassed by what he saw from the bench.
"Some guys are going to get cursed out. I told our guys this can't happen again,'' he said, knowing his leadership was about to be tested.
The continued improvement of Rose and Noah and the free agent addition of Carlos Boozer should make the Bulls considerably better. They also loaded up this summer on low-priced veteran backups like Keith Bogans, Kurt Thomas, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer, guys who should help them win now.
Boozer is expected to miss the first couple weeks of the season with his broken right hand, but when he returns, he will give Rose the inside threat he hasn't had since becoming the Bulls' point guard.
Despite the strong start to his NBA career, Rose hasn't yet reached the status of Chris Paul or Deron Williams, very talented and a little more experienced point guards. But that should change this season, especially if the Bulls become as good as he thinks they will.
"I'm out there trying to be the best,'' he said. "Why not?''