By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) I’ve criticized him for his questionable SAT test score.
I’ve felt bad for him when he missed free throws late in the NCAA Championship game. And I’ve been pumped for him when the Bulls won the top pick in his draft.
I’ve cheered him when he earned an MVP award. I’ve felt awful for him when he crumpled to the court with a torn ACL. And I’ve supported him when many fans ripped him for not returning before he felt ready.
Over the years, I’ve found a lot of the things that have happened to Derrick Rose interesting, and I’ve found him to be a fascinating basketball talent. But, with all that said, I’ve never really found the intensely reserved, painfully quiet and humble-to-a-fault Rose to be a particularly intriguing person.
On Thursday night, I was in the stands at the United Center when Rose lofted a 15-foot floater into the basket with 5.7 seconds remaining to lift the Bulls to a dramatic 82-81 victory over the Knicks in his official return home.
Until those late-game heroics, Rose’s overall performance against New York was a shaky one (7-of-23 shooting for 18 points), much like it was on Tuesday night in the Bulls’ season-opening loss to the Miami Heat.
But after the win over the Knicks, Rose quite interestingly flashed a sharper edge than he’s shown in the past when he said about his game-winner: “It felt good (because) I missed enough damn shots the whole night.”
He then added with some swagger his thoughts about the late-game situation, “For me, it’s no pressure. If you’re going to miss, you’re going to miss. I just love taking it because there’s nothing like building up your resume and leaving a mark on your legacy.”
Those comments followed the message that Rose posted on his Facebook page the previous morning following the Bulls’ less-than-impressive showing against the defending champion Heat. To Bulls fans, he said: “I’m disappointed in the loss but it’s something we can learn from. It’s not the end of the world; it’s not the playoffs where we’re going to be eliminated. We can fix things – a learning experience.”
He’s right, of course. And I like this Derrick Rose. The guy is just a little bit older than the last time we saw him, but he seems a lot wiser. And it appears to me that his time off recovering from his knee injury – as well as weathering the howls of his critics for not playing last postseason – has very much been a learning experience for him.
This is a Derrick Rose who seems more comfortable in his own skin, more cognizant of his role as team leader and more appreciative of his place in NBA history – and where he wants to go.
Rose’s injury may have damaged his left knee, but I think it ultimately ended up strengthening him in ways that we’re just beginning to see.
“He’s a very strong-minded person,” Bulls center Joakim Noah said about Rose on Thursday night. “He doesn’t let anything get to him.”
Not negatively, no. But I do believe that all the adversity that Rose has endured over the past 18 months has indeed gotten to him in ways that have resulted in making him a far more compelling person. That growth coupled with his incredible athletic talents, makes not just the 2013-14 much more intriguing to me, but Rose’s entire career going forward.
And I’m looking forward to watching it unfold.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.