CLEVELAND — After the Cavaliers’ NBA championship banner gets raised to the rafters Tuesday night, the Knicks will unveil a team with 10 new players, a new coach and a former MVP who is out to show he’s still an elite player who can carry a team to the playoffs.
Derrick Rose hasn’t been the same since he tore his left ACL in the 2012 postseason. He’s missed 228 of a possible 394 games. But he enters his first season as a Knick feeling healthy and believing he can be the player he was five years ago.
“Yeah, but I know I am,” Rose said after the Knicks’ last practice before the regular-season opener. “That’s no surprise to me. It’s only a matter of time until I put it together. All the hard work I put in, everything how I dedicated my whole life to this game, what I sacrificed. It’s only a few that did it and that’s doing it. So it’s all about just putting it together.”
That’s the Knicks’ hope, and why team president Phil Jackson acquired Rose from the Bulls in June. Rose is in the last year of his contract, and with his drive, passion and will to win, he could help the Knicks end a three-year playoff drought — if he can stay healthy.
That will be a theme for the Knicks, who also signed injury-prone center Joakim Noah, shooting guard Courtney Lee and point guard Brandon Jennings to give Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis more support. If they can stay on the court, the Knicks could compete for an Eastern Conference playoff spot.
“Derrick said it best earlier: You expect to win every game,” first-year Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said. “I think our guys are pretty focused on getting back to the playoffs. From what I’ve seen so far, I don’t think we’ll have many of those games where the guys just didn’t show up. I think these guys are pretty determined to get back and they know what they need to do.”
The Knicks look at the matchup against LeBron James and the Cavaliers as a measuring stick, but they will be a work in progress, given that they have so many new faces and have barely played together.
Rose missed the last five preseason games because of his sexual assault civil trial in Los Angeles, and Noah was sidelined for three games with hamstring and ankle injuries.
Hornacek will keep things simple early until Rose is fully comfortable with the offense. He wants his point guard pushing the ball from the opening tip, and he will remind him of that.
“I think there’s going to be times when I’m going to have to tell Derrick: ‘Be more aggressive,’ ” Hornacek said. “There are times he’s trying to set his teammates up, which is great for a point guard. But a lot of the early offense in the open court, he’s a hard guy to guard. He’ll be on the attack.
“He feels he’s got great players on his team that he can rely on, but there’s going to be times that he’s going to have the advantage and we’re going to want him to attack.”
Rose said the Knicks’ doctors are monitoring his “stress hormones” after the trial and don’t want him to go “too crazy” when he plays. But he said he feels good and can’t wait for the season to get started.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “We got a lot of great pieces.”
The Knicks say what happens Tuesday night won’t define their season, but watching the Cavaliers get their championship rings could have an impact.
“If anything,” Rose said, “it should fuel us to be in their position one day.”
Anthony said he will be “wishing that that was me . . . But we’ll get over that quick. I’ll get over that quick. Once it’s time to go, it’s time to go.”