Derrick Rose seems to say all the right things, and not just because he is supposed to. | Kevin C. Cox~Getty Images
Updated: January 5, 2012 8:33AM
For years, the drive into downtown Cleveland was a reminder.
“We Are All Witnesses,’’ scrolled across the side of an entire building, with the image of LeBron James nestled underneath those words.
It was the city’s security blanket.
In the end, it was a lie.
James was never Cleveland’s. Heck, he was from Akron. “Witnesses’’ became hostages.
As far as true witnesses, call it a relocation program to Chicago.
It is we who are all witnesses. Witnesses to something real, something special. And we don’t need a building mural or a Nike slogan to feel that.
Year 4 of the Derrick Rose Regime is scheduled to begin
Friday with the start of camp, and then on Christmas Day with the first regular-season game. Never has there been this much excitement for a Bulls player not named Michael.
But even the great MJ was never Chicago’s. He was adopted. Yes, he provided rings and glory while his flaws off the court were ignored by the media. But to see Jordan now, suit and tie, owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, it’s almost like, “Who is that guy and what did he do with the No. 23?’’
Nowadays, Jordan seems more borrowed. He seems as cold as the statue that stands outside of the United Center.
He was raised here. Englewood was his neighborhood, 73rd and Wood in Murray Park his teacher. There’s something comforting in that, something very few NBA fan bases can have with its superstar.
We all know that Rose is loyal to his friends from Englewood, maybe to a flaw. But it works for him. It makes him even more endearing.
No blame game
We understand his game because it’s Chicago. It’s flashy but still blue-collar. It’s big-city corporate but still playground. It’s praised with awards yet remains unsatisfied.
Year 3 of the Rose Regime brought a trip to the Eastern Conference finals and an MVP award for the point guard. Yet there he was Thursday, the first day that Bulls players could work out at the Berto Center post-lockout, saying all the right things. And saying them because he meant it, not because a superstar is supposed to say them.
“It wasn’t my teammates’ fault that we lost last year; it was me,’’ Rose said of the loss to the Heat in the conference finals. “Me not making the plays and me not playing smart enough throughout the whole game.’’
I was only here for the last Jordan title, but there are two things I fondly remember about Jordan interviews: One, if Ahmad Rashad wasn’t on-screen with Jordan conducting the interview, it was because he was in his suit pocket. Two, Jordan made it seem like every playoff exit was the fault of every single one of his teammates.
“It’s on me,’’ he insisted.
Improvement every season
Now the scary part of the Rose Regime: It’s unfinished. We haven’t seen the ceiling. We’re not even sure where the ceiling is.
What we know is that every season he’s gotten better. From his sophomore NBA year to his junior season last year, Rose’s three-point percentage went up, free-throw percentage went up, rebounding went up, assists went up and scoring went up.
What stayed the same? An off-the-charts work ethic.
Look, no one knows if there is a ring, or rings, in Rose’s future. No one is comparing him to Jordan. But it’s a ride I feel good about taking.
Who knows? Maybe that Jordan statue will have some company. Maybe that Jordan statue will one day seem much smaller.
It’s something we all get to sit back and witness.