After two years during which he was basically immobile, Derrick Rose proved he still can move -- and move thousands of people. The clock was winding down at the end of the third quarter and many fans at Madison Square Garden stood and roared, waiting to see what would happen as Rose patiently dribbled.
They weren't disappointed. Rose drove and fired a two-handed cross-court pass to Rudy Gay, who made a three-pointer to give the U.S. National team a 20-point lead in its 112-86 victory over Puerto Rico in an exhibition game. Rose never has played for the Knicks and he isn't from New York, but it didn't matter. In his two seasons of patiently waiting to be rid of knee injuries, he has made himself someone to root for.
Rose finished with six points and four assists in 13 minutes, 35 seconds. The important thing is that he played. Unlike other top stars, who are wary about signing on for summer international ball because they risk getting injured, Rose is playing because he wants to get well.
"I thought he looked great," said Kyrie Irving, who will share point guard minutes with Rose during the World Cup in Spain. "I know he's still excited to play, to play for USA Basketball, especially here at MSG. I'm really excited to be playing with him."
These are important steps for the former NBA Most Valuable Player to get his body and his mind ready to be Derrick Rose again.
He developed a mystique during his absence, witnessed by the way fans chanted his name during an exhibition game Wednesday. He didn't play that night because of what he called soreness and fatigue.
Rose did seem to energize his team Friday night. He started the fourth quarter with a spin move for a layup. Before you knew it, Stephen Curry was firing a no-look, backhand fast-break pass to James Harden, who dunked. It drew roars from a lively crowd that included Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, Rory McIlroy and many rooters for Puerto Rico.
Early in the U.S. team's schedule, Rose said he is here to learn. "This is my chance to be a better leader," he said.
But his fellow American players know they are learning from him. "I thought he looked great. He has looked great in practice," said Mason Plumlee of the Nets, who is hoping to make the final cut. "He's a special athlete, the things he can do at the point guard position are unbelievable. You can see why he was the MVP of the league."