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Reflective Rose talks basketball mortality, Bulls era


A reflective and upbeat Derrick Rose addressed reporters before Wednesday night’s game between the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks, the first of two straight between the teams at the United Center.

Rose did so from an atypical position. He’s outside of Tom Thibodeau’s rotation.

Given the eloquence and professionalism Rose displayed regarding that role, that’s not why he took a trip down Memory Lane. But when he did, he did so with a surprising admission.

“Coming back, just seeing it, makes you kind of reminisce about the older days when I was playing here. In hindsight, you always wish you had cherished things a little bit more,” Rose said. “I wish I had danced a little bit or something. Ja Morant or something, you know what I mean? Gave a little dance.

“But seriously, you know how it is, you’re older and look back at it. The times I didn’t go out to concerts or dinners when I had all the time in the world to do that. That’s something I didn’t do. And that’s something I would’ve cherished doing when I was here.”

Rose doesn’t have regrets. That’s in part because his single-minded seriousness is what helped fuel his meteoric rise to become the youngest most valuable player in NBA history and also in part because that same no-nonsense approach was so celebrated.

Who can forget the 2012 NBA All-Star game in Orlando? That’s when starters shimmied and danced as if at a party upon their introduction while Rose took the stage looking like a stone-cold assassin.

“True. True. But I’m saying, if I had known I would’ve played this long,” Rose said before his thought drifted off. “Just giving your all and being appreciative of still just being here and what we did in the past.”

Rose, 34, is in his 15th year. It’s almost hard to believe for those who watched him grow up here. The Knicks hold a $15.6 million option for the 2023-24 season, so Rose’s future is up in the air.

The Bulls were in talks regarding acquiring Rose during 2021 free agency but ultimately signed Alex Caruso when Rose’s price tag grew too high.

Rose said he still has joy for the game and, at least publicly, said all the right things about not playing. But his future clearly is on his mind.

“I feel good. I want to be able to walk away and I can smile when I’m doing it. Right now, who knows? As long as I can move around, that’s what I want to see,” Rose said. “It’s not about stats anymore. I just want to see how many games I play.”

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau long has been one of Rose’s biggest supporters. He served as the public face for the organization when Rose sat out the entire 2012-13 season following his first serious knee injury, a torn ACL, and constantly defended Rose’s decision. He then signed Rose when he coached the Minnesota Timberwolves and did so again when he got the Knicks job.

A coach’s job always is to make what he or she feels are the best decisions for the team. But given all that he has been through with Rose, did dropping him from the rotation for the time being weigh on Thibodeau personally?

“The thing about Derrick is Derrick has always been great in terms of handling whatever comes his way,” Thibodeau said. “The thing that has been neat is he has sort of been a mentor to Jalen (Brunson). He has really helped Deuce McBride. He will help the team any way he can.

“We can start him. We can bring him off the bench. If he’s not in the rotation, he’s going to be great in practice and in everyone’s ear. And he has always been that way. When he was MVP of the league, he cared deeply about his teammates. And whatever he could do to help the team, that’s what he always did first.

“I obviously have great respect for him because of our relationship. He has been through so many different things that whatever comes his way, he’s going to handle well.”

The Knicks entered Wednesday’s game having won four straight since Rose left the rotation.

“I’m a winner. I like winning. I like being around a locker room when the vibrations are just winning. The vibes in here are totally different,” Rose said. “And the guy who is playing in front of me, Deuce, I can’t hate on that young man. I had him over for Thanksgiving last year. Real cool with his family members. Love the way that he’s playing. I’m happy for him.

“That’s why I gotta keep an upbeat-type rhythm. I never want to be in a slump or be down just because I’m not playing. When Deuce wasn’t playing, he wasn’t acting that way. I learn from everybody. Even though he’s n a young player, he gives me the vibes. He told me certain things on the court because of our relationship. It’s been great.”

Rose joked about how his trips back home are different now. He brings his family with him. His young kids, he said, were probably tearing up the toys he got for them at their downtown hotel. His oldest kid, P.J., who used to run around the United Center as a toddler, is growing up fast.

And he’s reminded of his basketball mortality, even mentioning how he’s contemplating joining a chess league or entering vertical farming when he’s done playing.

“Who knows how many years I’m going to continue to play?” he said. “It’s a lot of things I’m looking forward to doing. But right now, I’m still invested in basketball. So that’s where I’m giving my everything.

“I got pictures from (P.J.) and Kobe (Bryant) here, everything. The book that we’re going to look back at and all the pictures, it’s going to be something to really cry about. We maxed out in every area while we were here. Basketball, talking to the fans. We were showing professionalism when we were here with that group.”

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