At last season’s media day, the focus was on Rose’s rehab and eventual return from a surgically repaired left knee that would cost him the entire season because he never got to the point where he was comfortable in playing the way he’s accustomed to. This Bulls overachieved, scratch and clawed their way to an Eastern Conference semi-finals defeat to the eventual champion Miami Heat.
At this year’s media day, the expectations are not only heavy for Rose, but also the Bulls in contending for a title.
“To me, the pressure of expectations are really a privilege and to me, talking about it doesn’t do any good,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “If you went to all (32) camps, everybody’s saying the same things. It’s your willingness to work and make a commitment, and you evaluate yourself, whether you’re putting forth a championship-caliber effort each and every day, and if you’ve built those habits over the course of the season. And do you have the discipline to do that? Do you have the ability to concentrate over a long period of time? Those are some of the winning characteristics that it does take and it takes a strong commitment to play for each other, and hopefully we have that. But to talk about it, that doesn’t do any good.”
General Manager Gar Forman said he expects Rose to play in all of the team’s preseason games, but neither he, nor Thibodeau could give a firm assessment on how his minutes will be handled.
“We’re not sure where he is. We have some parameters in place,” Thibodeau said. “We’re not going to know until he gets out there, so we’re not going to skip any steps. We’ll see how he practices, then once he gets into the game, the general rule of thumb in the preseason, you start off, you’re pacing the entire team and obviously his time will be a little bit shorter, but we’ll see what happens.
“We have a great medical staff. There’s going to be a lot of people weighing in. The big thing is he’s raring to go,” he continued. “The practice part of it, he’s done before, so the main thing is getting acclimated to the games. You’re moving at a different speed, at a different intensity level in a game. Getting used to playing with his teammates again, his teammates getting used to him. So there’s a lot that goes into it, so to try to guess what he’ll play, I think that’s unfair to him. We don’t know. The way he looks right now, at some point, he’ll play regular starter’s minutes.”
Rose said he never felt ready to play last year, as he wasn’t able to take on double teams, especially in the playoffs, where teams have enough time to prepare and throw different things at you. With a year and a half off to work on his body, shot and overall game this summer, he expects to play the same game he had before injury, with a few improvements.
“I think that I’m going to play the same way,” Rose said. “I think the only thing that changed in my game was my confidence level. I think I’m way more confident in my craft, in my game. I worked out a whole year to train my body and going out there and really showing people that I’m the same player, but more efficient; that’s what I’m trying to prove.
“The only thing that probably changed is my jump shot. I can shoot a little bit further, but the biggest thing that changed is my confident level.”
The criticism he faced last year is in the past, but all eyes will continue to be on him throughout this season. knowing this, he feels it’s only right that things end the way he’s been wishing for.
“The thing that drives me is winning a championship. I think that’s the only thing on my resume that I’m missing,” he said. “This is a great time to do it, everybody is watching. This is the biggest stage you can possibly play on. My teammates are preparing for a big year and I am too. It should be a crazy, magical year.