Even when he was bouncing around the league, when the letters “DNP” were appearing after his name on too many nights, when an ankle injury slowed what had been a promising start with Cleveland last season, Derrick Rose never lost his belief in himself.
“I felt my confidence has always been there,” the 2011 NBA MVP said. “It’s just opportunities.”
After signing with the Timberwolves late last season, after getting past yet another ankle injury, after showing flashes of his old self in the playoffs, the point guard is back at training camp this season.
Rose didn’t wait. He re-upped with the Wolves shortly after free agency began in July, knowing he will get that opportunity with his old Bulls coach, Tom Thibodeau.
“I’m just looking for comfort,” Rose said, who knows starting is likely in his past — although he has been running with the first team early in camp with Jimmy Butler absent.
Rose came back to Minnesota, he said, because Thibodeau knows what he can do.
“I’m not here to steal nobody’s job,” he said. “I’m not here to challenge anyone for their spot. I’m here to help.”
Rose has been through plenty since entering the league in 2008. He was named Rookie of the Year in 2009 and was league MVP two years later, but knee injuries and surgeries wiped out one entire season and parts of others.
He started last season with the Cavaliers before an ankle injury slowed him. He was traded to Utah, then bought out, becoming a free agent. Days after the birth of his daughter, he signed with the Wolves.
Rose is not the player who won that MVP award. But, when healthy, he has proved effective. He showed that in last season’s five-game playoff series against Houston, when he averaged 14.2 points, 2.6 assists and shot 50.9 percent in 23.8 minutes per game.
Now, older (he will turn 30 next week) and wiser, Rose is confident he can help the Wolves take the next step.
“When you dig deep into his numbers, what he did in Chicago, what he did in New York [was impressive],” Thibodeau said. “Last year, early part, he got off to a good start and he got hurt. The only thing that has derailed him is injuries. When he’s healthy, he’s a terrific player.”
And one willing to play any role.
“If on some nights they need me to play more minutes, I’m fine with that,” Rose said. “I’m cool when he challenges me to play better defense more than score. I’m just looking to do what my team needs me to do.”
A quick start
The Wolves flew to California on Thursday. They will practice Friday, then, after only four days of practice, open the preseason at Golden State on Saturday in Oakland.
“Everybody is trying to figure that part out, with the reduction in preseason games,” Thibodeau said. “And starting the season a little earlier. In some ways it’s good. In others, you’d like to have a little more practice time. But it will be good to have an opportunity to get out there and see where we are. It will give you a baseline of all the things you have to work on, because the opener is coming quick, too.”
The Wolves stay in California and face the Clippers on Wednesday in Los Angeles. Their only preseason game at Target Center, against Oklahoma City, is next Friday.
Under his wing
After Thursday’s practice, with Anthony Tolliver shooting three-pointers, rookie Keita Bates-Diop said the veteran forward has already become a key mentor for him.
“A lot of rookies don’t have that opportunity to learn from a vet like that,” Bates-Diop said. “He’s a good guy. I think he sees himself in me a little bit, how we play the game.”
Bates-Diop, a second-round draft pick from Ohio State, played power forward and even some center in Summer League play. In camp he has focused on both forward positions, a role similar to Tolliver’s. What is Tolliver teaching him?
“Spacing,” Bates-Diop said. “Getting out of screens as quick as possible. How to guard, how to show on ball screens. I never really did that in college. So I’m picking up stuff as fast as I can.”