Rejuvenated Rose is happy, healthy and ready to help the Wolves
MINNEAPOLIS—Derrick Rose's summer break was actually a summer break. He attended concerts, seeing Drake, J Cole and Sam Smith. He went on vacation. It sounds simple, but to Rose it was everything.
For the first summer in years, he wasn't beholden to a rehab program. There was no injury from which to recover.
"It was like a breath of fresh air to have the time to myself," Rose said. "Not even training most of the time, but just having leisure time to myself. ... That's something I hadn't did in like three or four years."
It was needed, particularly for a player worn down by years of a constant grind: play, suffer an injury, endure a time-consuming rehab, repeat. It's a vicious cycle that can wear on a player physically and mentally. Rose stepped away from the Cavaliers for nearly two weeks last season after suffering an ankle injury and reportedly considered retirement.
"With the summers I've had and the rehab taking up almost my entire summer, it was like continuous where you was working nonstop, year-round, didn't have a break," he said. "All your friends going on vacay, your family members going on vacay and you're the only one that's working your ass off just trying to stay afloat.
"I just didn't have any time off."
Finally, that came this summer, and what a difference it made.
"I think my family and friends saw how happy I was," Rose said. "I was able to get back in tune with who I am and just figure things out."
The Timberwolves' point guard enters the 2018-19 campaign refreshed and revitalized. On Thursday morning, Sept. 27, fresh off two days of two-a-day sessions, Rose walked into the Wolves' practice facility "feeling good."
"Of course, towards the end of practice I was feeling like (garbage)," Rose said, "but from the beginning I was feeling good. Being in my 11th year, four surgeries in, for my body to feel fresh after three days of hard work, coming in, playing as hard as I can, getting myself back in shape, it's always a plus.
"It's always a bonus for me knowing I do feel all right."
Teammate Taj Gibson said Rose has monitored and maintained his body, things Rose maybe didn't place as much emphasis on during his early NBA years in Chicago.
"I see him just coming in, getting his lifts in, things in the past I didn't really notice too well his first couple years, because he was just young and athletic," Gibson said. "When you get older and have been in the league 10-plus (years), you have to adjust, stay in the weight room, monitor your body, stay on top of yourself, stay in shape, eat right. Those things Derrick has been doing. You can tell. I'm following his lead after practice."
It's all paying off.
"I don't have ice on my knees," Rose noted after Thursday's practice. "I'll take all of it and run with it, and it just helps build who I am, my character, and it's all about perseverance. Right now in my life and my career, period, it's all about persevering and being resilient."
And finding out what role best suits him now. Rose said he entered the league with "raw talent" and a "raw shot." Just days shy of his 30th birthday, he feels like he's a smarter player who plays with more poise.
With Jimmy Butler MIA as he awaits a potential trade out of Minnesota, Rose has been running with the starters in practice. In last year's playoff series against Houston, Rose was one of Minnesota's best players, leading Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni to declare the former MVP had "his juice back."
But don't confuse Rose's production for confidence. The latter was always there, he insists, and the inconsistency of the former was due to a lack of opportunities.
"How can I show that I can play when I'm only getting five ... shots?" Rose asked. "And even if I take them five shots and don't take any more shots, you're going to say it's my confidence instead of, no, the coach is only playing me seven minutes a game. So, how can I show you my confidence with five minutes, seven minutes a game when you're used to seeing 32 minutes of me playing hard?
"And just knowing myself, it's just confusing, like how don't you see it? But everybody is different. I know what I need to focus on and what my priorities are, and I'm sticking to it."
Those priorities center on helping Minnesota in any way possible. He's not focused on trying to steal someone's minutes or take someone's spot. Gibson said Rose puts pressure on himself to help the teammates improve.
"As far as me becoming a leader and just trying to help the team, whatever they need me to do—pick up garbage or whatever—I'm here," Rose said. "I'm just trying to help the team."
"One hundred percent true," Tyus Jones said.
"Derrick has been phenomenal since the day he stepped foot in this facility last year," Jones added. "He's accomplished a lot in this league, and for someone like me who's continuing to try to grow and earn my place in this league, he's someone I can learn a lot from, and that's what I've been trying to do every day.
"He's willing to help, he's willing to teach, he's willing to do whatever it is to try to help this team—and that says a lot about him."
Starter or not, Rose knows coach Tom Thibodeau will find him minutes in the rotation. Given the guard's performance down the stretch last season, he's earned them.
"When he's healthy," Thibodeau said, "he's a terrific player."