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Derrick Rose says former version of himself is 'not there anymore'

MILWAUKEE -- Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose believes he is a better player than he has ever been despite the fact he has missed so much time over the past three seasons. And he is also convinced that his team has "something special" as it gets set for what it hopes will be a long postseason push.

After scoring 34 points and playing a season-high 48 minutes in Thursday night's Game 3 win over the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, Rose said his body is feeling "good" and he is very confident in himself and his game.

"That player that you saw, that reckless player, I'm smarter now," Rose said, comparing the differences in his game from before the left ACL injury he suffered on April 28, 2012, to now. "I'm smarter. If I didn't grow in this game, I'd be mad at myself. Just trying to take the shots that they're giving me, trying to adjust while I'm playing. That old, young, reckless player that you saw years ago, he's not there anymore."

Does he prefer the player he has become?

"I love this player," Rose said. "This player is better."

Rose, who has played just eight games since returning from a meniscectomy on April 8, is admittedly "very confident" in his abilities and feels he is a "smarter, more effective" player than ever before. The former MVP has been noticeably more demonstrative in the postseason, talking to teammates more and showing more emotion. The 26-year-old admitted he is savoring this season's journey in the playoffs after all he has been through.

"For someone like myself to go through three surgeries at a young age, your whole perspective of the game and life is different," Rose said. "Especially having a son. Your appreciation of the game, your appreciation of the fans and just seeing everybody jump off the wagon, get back on the wagon, it's fun. It's fun. It's part of it. You can't get mad at people. You can't get mad at the fans. People are always going to have opinions, so it's just funny to hear the opinions and get motivated by them."

Rose acknowledged that the minutes restriction he was under for the first few months of the season, handed down by the Bulls' front office over the summer, might have been part of the reason he is having success later in the season. But even he is unsure just how much of an impact it has had given how many games he missed. Rose missed 31 regular-season games this season because of various injuries.

"Probably so," Rose said of the restrictions helping. "Who knows? Just every minute off the court is going to help you if you do it the right way and you recover the right way, so who knows? We're performing well right now, so I guess."

Rose has talked throughout the season about how his mentality has changed because of all the injury hurdles he has dealt with, but his outward confidence has never been shaken. He has always believed he is still one of the best players in the game.

"Nobody knows how hard I worked. That's the fun thing about it," Rose said. "That's the exciting thing about it. Nobody knows what to expect because I don't know what to expect. It's kind of like predicting weather -- nobody knows. All I know is that I prepare myself well and I have a lot of confidence in myself."

In other Bulls news, rookie Nikola Mirotic will be available to play in Game 4 on Saturday despite a swollen left knee and a strained left quad after sitting out Game 3.

On Friday, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Mirotic had not been able to do any running yet. However, Mirotic was warming up outside the locker room before Saturday's game.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.