December 18, 2014
That “new beginning’’ that Derrick Rose harped on a few weeks ago in Las Vegas?
It definitely continued to be tested on Thursday.
Just a few minutes into the latest Team USA intrasquad scrimmage at the Quest MultiSport Complex in Chicago, there laid the massive body of Sacramento big man DeMarcus Cousins reeling in pain and clutching his right knee.
Rose took the basketball, calmly moved to the other side of the basketball court as trainers surrounded Cousins, and fired up some jumpers, seemingly doing whatever it took to get his mind off of it.
After all, two season-ending knee surgeries for Rose since the 2012 postseason, as well as being on the court when Paul George went down with a horrific leg injury in Vegas, would be a spooky reminder for most players.
“No, I have no fears. I have faith,’’ Rose said defiantly, when asked about his own basketball mortality. “I know that I’m going to be fine. I know that I busted my ass the entire two summers. You can say two seasons to get back to where I am right now. And just try and keep it moving, stay positive every day, do everything consistent like I’ve been doing.’’
What he’s been doing has been an eye-opener for the Bulls, as well as Team USA, as the 2011 MVP continued to look like the guy who carried a franchise before his knees betrayed him.
“Every time I step on the floor it’s something to prove,’’ Rose said. “I have my own little goals in my head, I have my own little things that motivate me in my head that I keep to myself. But every time I step on the floor I try to produce.’’
Something he continued to do on Thursday, as Team USA will practice in Chicago for two days, leading up to the exhibition game with Brazil on Saturday at the United Center.
It will be Rose’s first game in front of his hometown fans since last Nov. 18, but also one of the few times the city gets to see Rose work on his craft in the offseason.
He doesn’t play pick-up basketball once the Bulls season comes to an end, and he rarely has stayed in Chicago the past few summers.
“I appreciate even more, even just being in the city,’’ Rose said. “Being here the entire summer, not going home, just seeing how crazy the city is right now with all the deaths and everything. Just makes me appreciate life a little bit better, a little bit more, knowing that there are kids out there that don’t give a hell about their life, acting like it’s a video game. It made my appreciation for the game even higher. When I step on the floor, it’s going to feel like a performance every time.’’
And while Team USA has been exactly what the doctor ordered for Rose, it hasn’t been the smoothest ride for the rest of his teammates as they gear up for the FIBA World Cup.
George will be lost for at least a year after his injury, Kevin Durant left the team because of “exhaustion,’’ and now Cousins is out at least for Saturday’s game.
But according to Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who is also an assistant for USA Basketball, Rose’s job is to do exactly what he’s been doing. Nothing more, nothing less.
“Just go out there and do your job, and that’s what he did in 2010 [for Team USA],’’ Thibodeau said. “In the end, no one really cares about how many points you scored or how many rebounds you had. They just want to know, ‘Did you win?’”