Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, who also happens to be coaching the Eastern Conference All Stars this weekend, was effusive in his praise of Bulls point guard Derrick Rose during Friday's media session.
"I think he started the year a little slow. I think people would question that, but I think really what he's done is take on more of a role with that team, a larger role," Van Gundy told me Friday afternoon. "Without Ben [Gordon] there, I think that what Derrick Rose has had to do is pretty much take on the responsibility of creating offense for his team.
“I think last year, that was shared a great deal more. He's had to assume the primary role and their secondary guys are really not close to his role. I think it showed up in our game [on Wednesday] when he went out. So, that's a tough step for a player to make, any player, but especially a young player. And I think that he's been able to do it so well says a great deal not only about his talent and his skills, but his mentality."
Van Gundy pointed out that Rose seems to be on a different level when compared to younger players.
"I look at a lot of these young guys and I have great appreciation for them, but Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant, those two guys in particular, and again not trying to leave anybody else out, but in my mind when I watch them, the thing that I'm impressed with those two guys is they just seem to me that there only interest is to try to win the game.
"It's not about their numbers of their notoriety. It's about lifting their team and Derrick's had to do that taking over the offense in Chicago with not having been there. And Kevin Durant's done that by making more of a commitment on the defensive end of the floor. I have great respect for that."
The Orlando head coach also noted how lucky Bulls fans should feel when watching a player of Rose's caliber.
"I think there's a lot of talent in this league. A lot of guys who can put up numbers. And then there's guys who can lift their teams and help their team win games. And Derrick Rose does that to me. I have unbelievable respect for him. His mentality, he's pretty quiet. You don't read a lot of quotable things from him. But when I do read things from him, I like what he says. I like how he plays. They got a great, great player to build their franchise around for the next "X"-amount of years."
Van Gundy believes that Rose will be playing on Sunday night during the All Star Game, despite the hip bruise he suffered on Wednesday night against the Magic.
"I talk to all those guys who have injuries. I talked to Derrick briefly today. He said he's feeling a lot better. He's going to do the [Skills challenge] [Saturday] night. He says he's ready to go, so if a guy says he's ready to go, I'll play him."
Van Gundy knows that Rose, playing in his first contest, will have a little extra adrenaline running through his body on Sunday night.
"I like the guys that are in their first All-Star game. I think they're more excited about it. They're more enthusiastic about it. I think we got five of them on the East team. They just bring a different perspective to the game than the guys it's sort of old hat to and they start taking this game for granted.
"I think the guys here for the first time really understand what a great honor it is. And I expect he's a guy who will go out and play very much like he does during the season. It seems to me he has one way he plays the game of basketball all the time, and I have respect for that."