After all the ups and downs Derrick Rose has dealt with over the past four years, few would blame him if he wanted to start over somewhere else. But despite all the speculation surrounding his future, Rose, who will become a free agent after next season, wants to make something very clear: He doesn't want to leave the Chicago Bulls.
The former MVP hit on that topic and many others during a recent conversation with ESPN.com. He still believes in himself, and he still has love for his hometown despite all the hits he has taken in recent years. Rose has finally gotten his season on track after climbing the mental and physical hurdles that came after a facial fracture suffered during the first training camp practice in late September.
In recent weeks, he has ditched the protective mask and started fresh. He has been attacking the basket more, and, in the process, he has also started to shed some of the inconsistencies that have plagued his game all season. Rose, like the rest of his teammates, is also adjusting to the shift in leadership within the Bulls' locker room as Jimmy Butler takes a more vocal stance than ever before with his play -- and his words.
Despite all the setbacks, the youngest MVP in NBA history remains confident and believes he can still be an MVP-caliber player, no matter what his critics say.
Nick Friedell: After all that's happened the past few years, how good do you feel right now?
Derrick Rose: I feel good, but [it's] still going to take time. I know it's a process, and all I got to do is keep getting the most out of each one of my days and keep trying to be the best athlete I can become.
Friedell: I know we're still only a few months into the season, but what do you like most about coach Fred Hoiberg?
Rose: The person he is. I think good things come to good people, and there's a reason why he's here. There's a reason why he has this group. And I think we can really win with him being our head coach, so he has nothing but my respect, all my attention and I'm trying to give him my all while I'm on the floor playing for him.
Friedell: What do you miss most about Tom Thibodeau?
Rose: To tell you the truth, I haven't thought about Thibs since last year. A great coach, I had a real good relationship with him, but right now I can't be in between going back and forth thinking about coaches. I'm just thinking about Fred and the team right now.
"I think that my IQ level grew as a player. I think that I [run] the game a little bit better. I'm waiting for the game to come to me, and I'm picking and choosing my spots." Derrick Rose
Friedell: So you haven't talked to him at all?
Rose: I haven't talked to him, seen him, thought about him. I've just been focused -- to tell you the truth, I've just been focusing on this year.
Friedell: Two-part question: How do you think you've changed most as a person in the past four years, and how do you think you've changed most as a player over that same time?
Rose: As a person, I would say I'm more patient, way more patient than I was when I came in [to the league], before the injuries. But I think just going through everything, just maturing a little bit more, getting older, you start to see what it is and I'm good, man. I live a great life. I can't complain. We're winning games. I'm healthy, my family's good and there's nothing I can really complain about.
Friedell: And as a player?
Rose: I think that my IQ level grew as a player. I think that I [run] the game a little bit better. I'm waiting for the game to come to me, and I'm picking and choosing my spots instead of just going out there and just doing whatever because I don't have to do that with this team?
Friedell: What do you think the biggest key will be in your evolution as a player moving forward?
Rose: Who knows? That's like a mystery. I can only do so much. All I can do is just go in there and tighten up my game, tighten up my handles. Just all the little basic things that you wouldn't even think about, the fundamental parts of the game. Because I feel like I have everything else as far as being creative and athletic -- like you can't teach that. But it's the little things that's going to push me over, like ball-handling, passing, boxing out when I'm setting screens. Little things like that that you would overlook that can make me a complete player.
Friedell: From the first time we talked, you always talked about how much you loved Chicago and how you wanted to be the player to bring a title back to the city. Has your love for the city and wanting to be that guy changed at all over all this time?
Rose: Never. Never. I can't get mad about peoples' opinions, I always say that. That's their opinion. They got every right to say or think whatever they want to say and think. And whatever they say and think don't affect my life. I don't live in that world where I'm on social media, I don't got social media. Or I'm reading articles [about my game], so it's like I hear stuff by word of mouth a couple of days after so it never gets to me. So I can't get mad about what they say.
Friedell: You told me a long time ago you never wanted to play anywhere else. Is that still true?
Rose: That's still true. Still true. Just having my son [P.J.], I'm doing all this because of my son now, you know? Just wanting to be around him every day, having him come up here, shoot with me or see me shooting til he's able to become a ball boy. Little things like that I think about long term. Just trying to get him groomed, trying to get him used to being in the environment.
Friedell: You want to retire here still.
Rose: For sure, for sure.
Friedell: Do you just laugh sometimes about all the stuff that's being said on the outside?
Rose: That's the only thing I can do. That's the only thing I can do because they're judging me off of one [thing]: injuries. And two, things that they don't know about me. Like I know who I am as a person. Like anybody that's ever been around me or friends that you could talk to that's around me, I never disrespected no one. Or did something that would hurt someone, so for them to say the things that they're saying or do the things that they're doing or whoever's saying whatever, I really can't get into that. All I can do is let God handle that.
Friedell: What do you think is the biggest misconception about you now?
Rose: I really don't know right now. Every week it changes probably. I'm serious. I don't know -- it's probably -- in the beginning of the year it was, Did I want to stay here and did I want to win? But my whole life, I mean from the beginning, I said I wanted to stay here and play here and my whole life I've been a winner, so that's not going to change.
Friedell: Do you think you still love the game as much as you did when you first came in?
Rose: Yeah, yeah. I'm a fan of the game. I'm a student of the game. After all this is said and done, I just want to go down as a winner and that he gave it his all.
Friedell: There's been so much talk about your relationship with Jimmy. Have you given him advice about leading?
Rose: I wouldn't say about leading. It's about just growing up, you know? He's a young guy. I remember Jimmy played [junior college] with my assistant, my best friend [Randall Hampton], so I remember when he was coming to the team and my friend was telling me he was coming to the team and just to his growth, you know what I mean? From there to where he is right now -- he's a player that I've been looking for. So I know in the heat of the battle he's going to be there, he's going to be giving his all, and this is something that I've been dying for so I'm happy to have him.
Friedell: Out of all the guys you've played with here, do you think he's the most talented guy?
Rose: Yeah, for sure. For sure. And you still don't know, nobody still knows how good he could become, so that's the great thing about it.
Friedell: After all the stuff that's happened, how did you get over all the injuries while you were out there on the floor?
"I wasn't supposed to take [the mask] off. I wanted to take it off because it's like I'm hiding behind something. And I took it off and it's been going good." Derrick Rose
Rose: Just having faith. Having faith. That's one of the reasons why I took my mask off. I wasn't supposed to take it off. I wanted to take it off because it's like I'm hiding behind something. And I took it off and it's been going good.
Friedell: You've always been confident in your game. You've always known how good you can be. Do you think that you can still get your game from where it is now to being in that MVP conversation again?
Rose: I mean, that's the goal. That's the goal. I'm not doing this s--- just to get by or doing it just to be doing it. I'm doing this because of my son. He's everything to me. He's the reason why I get up and I work out the way I work out and train the way that I train. He changed everything about me, so he was a blessing.
Friedell: Do you think about what it would be like to have him with you celebrating in Grant Park after a title, riding with him in the parade?
Rose: Yeah, yeah. I'll go further than that. Do I want him living here after I'm done or at the end of my career? Do I want him living in Chicago? I want him to have a life where he don't have to worry about kids treating him a certain way because of who his dad is. If it was up to me, I wouldn't want him to play basketball, but I just want him to have a regular life so that he's able to walk around and still be normal.