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Rose's mindset changed more than game

CHICAGO -- Every move Derrick Rose makes on a basketball floor is scrutinized. Every movement is watched and picked apart. That would still be the case if Rose had never gotten hurt, but it's even more evident now, as the 26-year-old tries to make his way back from two knee surgeries and, more recently, two ankle sprains.

As a handful of fans waited to get their pictures taken in the middle of the United Center floor Tuesday night, many whipped out their cell phones and started taking pictures and video of the Bulls' fragile superstar. Rose worked out for about an hour before notifying team personnel he did not feel comfortable enough on his ankles to play in his team's eventual 98-90 victory over the Orlando Magic, his second straight game on the bench.

As was the case when Rose decided to sit Saturday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves, this was the right move. If Rose doesn't believe he is ready to play in the first few games in November, he shouldn't play. After all, the season is a marathon, not a sprint. But Tuesday served as yet another example of just how much Rose's mind-set has changed since he tore the ACL in his left knee on April 30, 2012, in the first game of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Rose played through nagging injuries throughout his first few seasons in the league. A couple sprained ankles likely wouldn't have kept Rose out of a game six years ago because Rose always wanted to play. He always wanted to be on the floor. But after seeing his basketball mortality flash before his eyes over the past two seasons, Rose's tone off the floor has changed. He's more cautious in choosing his words, and he doesn't care nearly as much about playing every game like it's his last. He just wants to play, but if he doesn't feel well enough to play, he's not going to step foot on the floor.

"Just having that burst of speed," he said after Tuesday's shootaround, when asked how he would make that decision. "If I could get to a spot, I could play. If not, there's no need. If I'm not out there and I'm not 100 percent, or if I can't play the way that I normally play, there's no point in me being out there right now."

How much has Rose's game changed since he first injured his knee? The reality is, while the sample size is small, his game hasn't changed nearly as much as his mind-set. Rose still believes he's the best player on the planet every time he steps on the floor, but he's not as intent on trying to prove it night after night.

In losing so many games to injury over the past three years, Rose gained a perspective he didn't have when he entered the NBA. He knows his time in the league is short, and he isn't concerned about fans' opinions if he has to sit out a game here and there. Some fans have already speculated Rose's new mind-set is coming from his agent, B.J. Armstrong, and his brother, Reggie, meaning they've told Rose if he's not feeling well enough to dominate, he shouldn't play.

But whether they did isn't nearly as important as the fact that the Bulls front office and medical staff have essentially told Rose the same thing. They want him to pace himself for the long haul this season. They want him to listen to his body and sit if he is feeling discomfort.

The difference is the Bulls front office, along with coach Tom Thibodeau, understand Rose's situation is different. He shouldn't be treated like every other player because most players haven't dealt with major surgery on both knees in a two-year span. Even more importantly, most players aren't Rose. The Bulls aren't going to win a championship without him this year, and that's why they are being so cautious about everything he does.

It's also why Rose isn't sweating the frustration from some fans early in the season. If fans look at Rose's answers closely enough, they won't be as surprised the next time he sits when he appears to be healthy in warm-ups.

"If [I don't play], I got three more games pretty quick," Rose said Tuesday morning. "Just trying not to be negative about it. Just know that there's a lot of basketball to be played, so I'll be back out there pretty soon."

Take a deep breath, Chicago.

This is the way it's going to be for the rest of the season with Rose and his on-again, off-again status. Hang on tight, and enjoy the ride.