Pistons' Derrick Rose a wise veteran but hasn't lost youthful swagger
As he begins his 13th season in the NBA, Derrick Rose clearly is not the same that he was as a rookie prodigy.
Make no mistake, he can still get to the rim and dazzle with acrobatic finishes that reprise that rookie season, but most of that video-game turbo boost and the electric dunks are simply a thing of the past.
What Rose has lost from a physical perspective, he’s more than compensated for in mental maturity and perspective. There are still moments where he can flash the bravado of the brash 20-year-old who was named rookie of the year and posted 16.8 points and 6.3 assists — and played 81 games.
That Derrick Rose was different.
He probably would have answered questions much differently than the 32-year-old version that’s become the valuable sixth man for the Pistons and is taking on the role of mentor to rookie Killian Hayes and helping him through what could be a rough first year in the NBA.
It’s not just Hayes, though. It’s a role Rose has taken willingly and though he’s not quite ready to pass the baton, he’s looking to show them the ropes, in helping to rebuild the Pistons with a winning culture. That includes side conversations and on-court work with forward Sekou Doumbouya, who has a high upside, and clearly will benefit from Rose’s tutelage.
“Sekou, he's been playing well, working on his dribbling and, of course, shooting the ball,” Rose said. “I had the chance to play with this guy named Luol Deng, and Sekou reminds me a lot of Luol — but more athletic, like the way he cuts, the way he just moves, he's always running around and active.
“So, my job is to tell him about things like dribbling. If you want to add little pieces to your game or just develop your game, you have to work on your handle so that you're able to get anywhere on the floor. I love how he came to (training) camp.”
That’s high praise for Doumbouya. Deng had a 15-year career and was a two-time All-Star when the two were teammates with the Chicago Bulls. Those were better times for Rose, when he was still at the top of his game, just after his breakout MVP season in 2011 — and before the injuries robbed the NBA of what could have been a more spectacular career.
Rose hasn’t lost the youthful swagger that helped make him the feared player he is now. When he was asked about whether he had humbling moments as a rookie, he’s quick to remind that he wasn’t that dude.
“Nah, I didn't have that. I wasn't going for that,” Rose quipped. “Not to boast or anything. I don't remember anybody dogging me my rookie year. Even though I felt like I competed in my rookie year against everyone.
“Even though they may have won games or outscored me, I didn't care — I competed and they knew it was going to be a hard night.”
That was Derrick Rose then; that’s Derrick Rose now.
He’s playing with a clear head and a clear heart, even with only one year left on his contract. The easy out would be to try to coax a trade to an elite team to contend for a championship. If it happens, it likely won’t be at his behest.
Even in terms of things he’d like to accomplish, he’s toned down some of that and is just enjoying himself — and doing the work in the offseason to keep himself healthy and in top shape for whatever comes this season.
“No, I don't have any goals. I stopped writing down goals last year, and the reason for that is I'm in a great place mentally and I don't want to lose that,” Rose said. “I know that coming in, we want to win games, so my job is prepping myself for this long season. I've been doing two-a-days prior to having to report to camp. It's whatever they feel. I feel like my body is going to hold up and I've been prepping for this for a while.”
This different version of himself — Rose 5.0 or whatever it is, because he’s reinvented himself successfully so many times in his 12 seasons — is looking to win at the mental game. Even something as enticing as a season-opening matchup against his former team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, doesn’t hit the same way for him anymore.
“Not at Year 13. Even though that was my old team, that mindset of having revenge, I left all that behind me,” he said. “I just want to go here, and we're a new team with new players, and I'm playing a different way. I'm just looking forward for everyone to see how I'm adapting.”
Every rose has its thorns.
Maybe this one doesn’t.