LAS VEGAS -- Derrick Rose sat at the far end of the podium late Saturday night in a small press room inside the Thomas and Mack Center, flanked by fellow Team USA personnel such as Rudy Gay, Team USA chairman Jerry Colangelo, head coach Mike Krzyzewski, Kevin Durant and Tyson Chandler.
Usually in that kind of setting the shy 21-year-old wouldn't have stood out much because unlike so many NBA All-Stars he doesn't particularly enjoy being in the spotlight. He prefers to do his work out of the bright lights and fit in with the rest of his teammates. But on this night, as he had done during Team USA's glorified scrimmage where he dropped 15 points and eight assists, he stood out because he fit in so well.
Rose not only played like a lock to make the World Championship team that will head to Turkey next month, he acted and carried himself like one of the new faces of Team USA.
"I want to start by thanking the USA Basketball staff for inviting all of us here because this is very important to us, playing for the US and the fans" he said. "We appreciate them and we love them, because without them, we wouldn't be here. This whole experience was fun, just going out there and competing, playing against the best players in the world."
Rose realizes that he is going to have to take on even more of a leadership role this season with the Bulls and it appears he is stepping up to the forefront of the national team as well.
"We definitely came together a little bit more," he said of his new teammates. "Just playing hard, playing defense. It seems like we're brothers now, we just can't be away from each other like that. We got to hit each other's room up, go eat with each other, but it's all fun, man."
Rose's attitude and confidence on the floor impressed Krzyzewski throughout the week, especially on Saturday.
“I thought Derrick just played a beautiful game,” he said. “I don’t think he had a turnover “
Rose had to set the record straight though.
“I did have one,” he admitted.
“Did you have one?” Krzyzewski said. “I was just testing him to see if he was honest. He’s a South Side Chicago guy and I’m just trying to get to know him better."
It's clear in seeing them interact throughout the week that Rose has the type of game and confidence that the Hall of Fame coach is looking for.
“It was easy playing with him tonight because he gave you the ball in rhythm," Krzyzewski continues. "Giving you the ball is one thing, which is great. But if you can give it to really good players in rhythm, that’s the best.”
Rose's game continues to evolve and is only getting stronger, as evidenced in his performance on Saturday night, but the best news for the Bulls is that he appears to believe in himself more than ever. He had never doubted that he could lead his team, but now words speak as loud as his actions.
He told me this week he wanted to be "the guy" who leads the Bulls back to prominence. He wants to be the face of the franchise and he isn't afraid of the responsibilites that cone with such a prestigious mantle. After seeing how he performed against some of the best players in the country during the past week there's no reason to think he can't become whatever kind of player he wants to be.