Bulls media day typically is a time for new beginnings, a fresh look ahead to the coming NBA season and all of its hopes and expectations.
Coach Tom Thibodeau couldn’t help himself from taking one final look backward.
“The people that criticized him don’t know what the hell they’re talking about,” Thibodeau said Friday.
Him, of course, would be Derrick Rose. The youngest most valuable player in NBA history drew national scrutiny for sitting out all of last season after surgery to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
And after last season’s grim-faced answers from players and coaches defending Rose, those same principals seemed downright giddy to be finally answering questions about what the franchise centerpiece’s on-court presence will mean.
“Everyone knows what Derrick can do, the attention he gets, his ability to make guys better, his penetration, everything,” two-time All-Star forward Luol Deng said. “It’s going to help everyone’s game out.”
Rose’s rare mixture of speed and explosiveness will be on display during double practice sessions Saturday. The Bulls begin exhibition play Oct. 5 in Indianapolis, a little more than 17 months since Rose crumpled to the United Center court in the waning minutes of the playoff opener against the 76ers on April 28, 2012.
Rose, Thibodeau and general manager Gar Forman said they anticipate Rose playing in all eight exhibition games but admitted the future is uncertain.
“It will remain fluid as we go,” Forman said. “It’s difficult at this point to look ahead and say where his minutes will be two weeks from now, four weeks from now, whatever time frame you put on it. It’s something that from a medical standpoint and coaching standpoint we’ll evaluate day-to-day. As of today, there’s no hard limit as far as his minutes.”
Thibodeau talked about the need to pace the entire team during the preseason. He talked about using Rose in six- to eight-minute segments in exhibition games.
“I don’t want to get into specific numbers because I don’t know what they’ll be,” Thibodeau said. “He’s made it clear to me that he doesn’t want big restrictions. But as I told him, we’ll have to wait and see. Whatever he can handle, that’s what he’ll get.”
Rose, for his part, insisted he has no regrets over how last season transpired, from both a decision-making and public-relations standpoint.
“Everything happened for a reason and I’m just happy I’m past it,” Rose said. “You hear a lot of criticism — my friends bring stuff to me — but there’s nothing you can do about it. Everybody is free to voice their own opinion. All I can do is continue to work hard and continue to compete as a player.”
In this sense, Rose insists nothing has changed. Despite watching video of the injury “20 to 30 times,” Rose said he will penetrate and attack the rim in the same fashion as before.
“I’m going to play the same way,” he said. “The only thing that has changed is probably my jump shot, that I can shoot a little further. But the biggest thing is my confidence level. I’m way more confident in my game and in my craft.
“I worked the whole year, trained my body a whole year, and going out there and showing people that I’m the same player, a more efficient player, that’s what I’m trying to prove.”
Nervous moments remain. Words need to be replaced by actions. But at least this season, the Bulls are talking about Rose on the court and not off it.
“The one thing about Derrick is he’s as determined a player as I’ve ever been around as far as his work ethic and mindset and what he has to do to overcome obstacles,” Forman said. “I do think there will be some ups and downs as we go. But whatever those obstacles are, Derrick Rose is going to overcome them.”