Derrick Rose: 'My game is totally different'

Derrick Rose has shown Tom Thibodeau great shooting, passing and defense. "But he's not forcing anything, and I think that's important," the coach said.  AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles

CHICAGO -- Mike Krzyzewski chuckled Friday when the topic of Derrick Rose's "role" on Team USA came up.

With Paul George out of commission because of a gruesome leg injury and Kevin Durant leaving the team, Rose is expected to have more offensive responsibilities for Team USA as it gets set to face off against the Brazil on Saturday night at the United Center.

In Krzyzewski's mind, though, not much has changed as far as Rose's game goes.

"Derrick's role is easy to play, easy to work [with]," the Hall of Fame coach said. "Just get the ball and be Derrick. And be Derrick for as long as you can."

As Rose gets set to play in front of his hometown fans for the first time in nine months, the former NBA MVP admits that while his speed and explosion appear to be the same as ever, his game has changed a lot over the past year.

"My game is totally different," Rose said. "When I came back last time, I was just trying to get in a groove. I think I felt a nice little groove. My confidence is high right now, and I think even playing in the game [Saturday] you'll be able to see by the way that I attack the players defensively. And by the way I play offensively, just not rushing anything and just taking my time on pick and rolls and just letting the play develop."

Since Team USA camp opened over two weeks ago in Las Vegas, Rose has been open about the fact he was pressing during his initial comeback last season from a torn ACL in his left knee.

Having missed all of the 2012-13 season because of the injury, Rose knew fans were questioning whether he could play at a high level and tried to change their minds on every drive to the rim. The problem is, he really didn't play well during much of his first 10 games last season.

He looked like a shell of the player he used to be.

When he tore the meniscus in his right knee on Nov. 22 in Portland, it put yet another season in jeopardy and left him open to even more criticism. He hears what people have been saying about him, and he's motivated to change their minds this time around.

The difference in his mind now is that he's not trying to force the game like he did before. Those close to him are banking on it as Team USA gets set to open the World Cup of Basketball later this month in Spain.

"I think he's improving," said Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, an assistant coach with Team USA. "I think his approach is a lot better. I think he was so anxious last year to come back, he was almost forcing things. I think he has a much better understanding now. Show more patience, find the rhythm of the game, go out there run the team.

"What he's done a very good job of is shooting when he should shoot. He's passing when he should pass. He's playing great defense. And he's doing a lot of things well. But he's not forcing anything, and I think that's important."

Rose also is trying to implement a new mental approach to his game.

As far as differences go, one major aspect Rose talks about is his desire to be a more vocal leader this time around. For years, the soft-spoken point guard was uncomfortable in this role as a leader of the team. Now he believes it's the next step in his progression as a player.

"I think every year you got to add something to your game," Rose said. "Physically, you're going to reach that peak where you could damn near do everything you want to on the floor and the game then becomes mentally. Right now, that mental part is my part of the game that I'm missing. That leadership being on the court, getting guys together, just knowing that it's us against everyone when we're on the floor."

It's a change in personality that Rose is embracing. It's also a contrast the Bulls have to be ecstatic about.

First and foremost, Rose must prove he can stay on the floor for an entire season and be a dominant player again. But the next step would be to grow as a leader.

Rose's teammates with the Bulls always followed his actions; now it appears they'll be able to follow his words, as well.

"For me, this is my chance to actually become a better leader," Rose said. "Being more vocal in the locker room. Being more vocal on the floor. [Saturday] starts all that. It's a huge journey for me. I'm not trying to shy away from it. I think it's going to help me with the Bulls next season, and it's going to help me have a better relationship with my teammates. Because I always have a good relationship, but being vocal and always talking to them I think it should be even better so I'm excited about it."

As far as Rose's play on the court is concerned, nobody within the USA Basketball program doubts he can play at an elite level.

He's jumping, cutting and driving to the rim the same way he did during his MVP season of 2010-11. He looks confident on the floor and he looks comfortable off of it. While the basketball world ponders whether Rose can stay healthy for an entire season, Krzyzewski continues to beam with pride as Rose makes another comeback on the floor.

"He's been outstanding," Krzyzewski said. "Consistently outstanding. I'm very pleased with Derrick, and I'm pleased with our group. Our group has really worked hard. Our practices have been the hardest practices we've had since I've been the USA coach. It's because of their effort and attitude."

Rose's effort and attitude has fans in Chicago, and around the world cautiously optimistic he can return to form sooner than later.

Rose understands he has some rust to knock off, but he is more confident than ever it will be business as usual in short order.

Saturday marks the next step in his progression of an admittedly "long journey" back to the top. He’s ready for the challenge, and Krzyzewski is excited to watch.

“One thing I've learned along the years is when you have great players, or a great player, but you have multiple great players, you don't try and overcoach them," Krzyzewski said. "You try to give them their space and react to their instincts. I just want Derrick to react instinctively to what he sees."