Knicks' Derrick Rose believes he will hit his elite point guard level again

ByIan Begley ESPN logo
Monday, October 24, 2016

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Most NBA observers probably wouldn't label Derrick Rose as elite at this stage of his career. But Rose believes he fits that description and that it's only a "matter of time" before he shows it to others.

Rose was asked after Knicks practice on Monday if he wants to show this season that he still is an elite point guard.

"Yeah, but I know I am," he said. "That's no surprise to me. It's only a matter of time until I put it together. All the hard work I put in, everything how I dedicated my whole life to this game, what I sacrificed. It's only a few that did it and that's doing it. So it's all about just putting it together."

It's only natural for players to have confidence in their abilities, but Rose's production in recent seasons has fallen short of elite levels. Last season, Rose averaged 16.4 points on 42 percent shooting and handed out 4.7 assists per game for a Bulls team that missed the playoffs.

Knicks president Phil Jackson traded for Rose in June and would, obviously, love to see the guard return to the elite form he showed earlier in his career, when he was named the youngest MVP in league history in 2011. Since that season, Rose has dealt with several significant knee injuries; due to those injuries and various others, the 28-year-old and has played in less than 40 percent of his games in the last five seasons.

Rose missed a little over two weeks of training camp earlier this month while attending a civil trial in Los Angeles over allegations that he and two friends gang-raped an ex-girlfriend. He returned to the Knicks on Friday after a jury found Rose and his two friends not liable of the accusations. Rose has spent the last four days working with coaches and teammates ahead of the Knicks' season opener Tuesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"I'm very excited. We got a lot of great pieces," Rose said after practice Monday. "We're learning how to play together. We're learning chemistry. But it comes from experience and it comes with playing with each other."

Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said Rose has looked strong in recent workouts. But Hornacek would also like to see Rose look for his own shot more often in certain situations.

"I think there's going to be times when I'm going to have tell Derrick be more aggressive," Hornacek said Monday. "There are times he's trying to set his teammates up, which is great for a point guard. But a lot of the early offense in the open court he's a hard guy to guard. He'll be on the attack.... He feels he's got great players on his team that he can rely but there's going to be times that he's going to have the advantage and we're going to want him to attack."

Rose believes that the Knicks will be difficult to guard in the pick-and-roll with players like Joakim Noah, Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, Courtney Lee and Brandon Jennings.

"It's pick your poison," Rose said. "My job is to create a double team so the weak side has a hard time closing down on shooters."

Hornacek has said Rose may need some time to get used to the offense after being away during the civil trial. Knicks doctors have been keeping a close eye on him over the past few days to monitor his stress levels following the trial.

Anthony expects Rose to grow more comfortable with repetition after being away for the civil case. He also believes Rose will benefit from expectations in New York that are different than those he faced in his hometown of Chicago.

"I don't think he's playing with any type of load on his shoulders, he's not thinking about injuries," Anthony said Monday. "Whereas before he was coming into training camp rehabbing, now he got a chance to just practice and put everything behind him and focus on basketball. So when you have a talent like that who is coming into the season with a clear mind and a focus that he has, it can be exciting."

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