Three days after becoming a father again, 10-year NBA veteran and former league MVP Derrick Rose on Thursday signed with the Timberwolves in a transaction that felt like coming home to a team for which he has never played.
Rose signed a contract for the rest of the season — making him eligible for the playoffs — which reunited him with Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and a coaching staff he knows from five seasons in Chicago.
“I’ve been knowing them and been in battle with them for years, so it’s comfortable,” Rose said after he joined his new team for the first time at a Thursday morning shootaround. “I’m very comfortable. Usually when I’m comfortable, I play well.”
At age 29, he will play for his fourth NBA team — his third in the past year — seeking to revive a career that included that dizzying MVP season in 2010-11, multiple knee surgeries and a 2016 trial in which a federal jury found him and two friends not liable in a civil suit that accused them of rape.
“I’m still here,” Rose said when asked about his character and the Los Angeles trial. “That shows everybody about my character and all that. I’m still here playing. I still love the game. I can sit here and tell you all this by expressing it with words, but I want to do it with action, by me going out there and playing the way I want to play and playing the way that’s going to help this team win.”
Rose joined the Wolves ion time for Thursday's shootaround but doidn't play in the team's loss to Boston.
Signed by Cleveland last summer, Rose was dealt to Utah at last month’s trade deadline and the Jazz promptly waived him, which made him a free agent. Rose said he waited for the birth of his daughter this week before signing with another team and said his job now is to get his new teammates incorporated into the offense and invested into the team.
“I’m wholeheartedly invested, even though I just got here,” Rose said. “I just want to play and have the opportunity to show that I can still play.”
He joins a team that already has point guards Jeff Teague, Tyus Jones and little-used Aaron Brooks. Thibodeau says the Wolves’ backcourt has “great versatility” in a league where two point guards playing together has become a norm.
Thibodeau and Rose both said he can play with either Teague or Jones in the same backcourt.
“I can play with anybody, to tell you the truth,” Rose said. “I know the game. I’m not a selfish player. I’m not here for stats or anything like that. I just want to win and help this team and franchise win.”
With Butler out injured these coming weeks and Shabazz Muhammad waived at his request last week, Rose gives the Wolves another scorer off the bench, a veteran who has participated in 41 playoff games and, most important, a player whom Thibodeau trusts.
“We just thought he could help the team,” Thibodeau said. “That’s what our expectations are: Come in, be a good teammate and try to help us win.”
Asked how Rose can help, Thibodeau said: “Just his experience. He has been around, been in a lot of games. He’s familiar with what we’re doing. He has played with some of the guys that we have. So that’s a plus.”
Rose deferred the decision to Thibodeau when asked whether he would play Thursday night against Boston at Target Center. Thibodeau and assistant coach Andy Greer prepared a package for Rose to study in time for the 7 p.m. tip, but Rose didn’t play.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Rose said when asked if Thursday’s shootaround felt like one with the Bulls once upon a time. “I forgot about some plays.”
Thibodeau coached the Bulls to 62 victories and Rose to that MVP season in his first year as an NBA head coach. He considered signing Rose to play for the Wolves last summer before choosing Teague.
“[Rose] has been through a lot,” Thibodeau said. “Injuries derailed him. He averaged 18 points a game last year. He had some good games this year. I know what he can do.”
Thibodeau was asked if he felt the need to do his due diligence on Rose’s civil trial.
“I know who Derrick is,” Thibodeau said. “… I spent a lot of time with him.”
Rose deemed his relationship with Thibodeau one that works because of mutual respect.
“He’s real, he’s truthful, and that’s what I can respect,” Rose said. “In this business, sometimes you get shaky with that. As a man, I respect him because he’s truthful.”
Asked if Thibodeau is the best coach to get the most out of him, Rose said, “Who knows? So far he has been the best coach. I still think I got a lot left. Who knows if he can still spark something up. … I don’t have to prove anything. I’m going to let my hard work do that.”