CHICAGO -- Out of all the quotes and soundbites Bulls fans have had to endure over the past year and a half while waiting for Derrick Rose to recover from a torn ACL, his most recent public ones during an interview with CNN should make fans the happiest. When asked who the best player in the NBA was right now, Rose didn't hesitate.
"Derrick Rose," he said confidently.
For the first time in over a year and a half, Rose sounded more like himself than at any other point during his rehab. He sounded like the former MVP of the league who was always convinced that he could lead his team to victory. He didn't sound like the 24-year-old star who was unsure of his body and how it would respond -- as he did throughout so much of last season.
The key to Rose's success over the first part of his career is that he played with no fear. He always thought he was the best player on the floor ... no matter who he was playing. It didn't matter if LeBron James was standing in front of him or not, Rose always believed he was going to get to the rim and find a way for the Bulls to win. While there's no doubt Rose is once again going to have to prove to his fans, and himself, that he can produce the same way on the court -- the fact that he is saying the same things he used to say in interviews should give his critics pause. As much as Rose tried to brush off the criticism he endured during the end of the season regarding his decision not to play, don't think for a second he doesn't remember all the people who questioned him.
Rose has always been fueled by people who tell him he can't do something. He never forgot the way some people responded when he wondered aloud why he couldn't be the MVP during the 2010-2011 season and he wanted to prove that he belonged in the superstar category in the league. Now he's got a whole new challenge ahead of him. Rose has to prove that he can rise back to the level he was at before his injury and show people that he can be a top tier superstar again. He also must win back some of the fan base he lost because of his decision.
He still has a few more hurdles to clear as his return goes, but after months of wondering where he was at mentally, Rose at least looks and sounds like a man who is ready to go to work again and dominate. One simple answer to a question provided more of a glimpse into his psyche than anything else we've seen in a long time.