The long intermingling careers of Tom Thibodeau and Derrick Rose might have seemed destined to unite one more time with Rose joining Thibodeau on the Knicks this season, the third different team that he has played on with Thibodeau. But for Rose, the coach wasn't the only lure pulling him to New York.
Rose, who had started his NBA career as a postseason regular in Chicago, had seen the struggles that Thibodeau endured in Minnesota after the coach guided them to the postseason for the first time in 14 seasons. And in Detroit this season he was with a team already with an eye on the NBA Draft Lottery. In Thibodeau and in this Knicks team he saw something he recognized.
"We're giving our all to the team, especially when we come in here," Rose said of Madison Square Garden. "I mean, they've been doing this ever since I got here. So that's one of the reasons why I wanted to come here because I saw that they're hungry. A young team like this, it reminds me of some of my good teams when I was younger. So I just try to fit in, look, see what the game needs and just try to fill that void."
Rose has filled the void, helping the team to a 16-7 record when he plays. With a 16-20 record without him in the lineup this season, he has played no small part in the team’s ascension — playing the Hawks Wednesday night with fourth place in the Eastern Conference on the line.
"I just saw a winning mentality where every team that plays against us they know it's going to be a hard game, a hard-fought game and you just got to come out and bring your best," Rose said. "With me seeing that from afar, of course, I wanted to be a part of that, especially with Thibs here. So I’m grateful to be here. It's truly a blessing."
Rose has averaged 25.3 minutes per game since joining the Knicks — more than starting point guard Elfrid Payton. And his numbers have risen in the seven-game winning streak the Knicks brought into the Garden Wednesday, averaging 15.7 points per game in 26.1 minutes. The load has come despite his age, experience and a debilitating bout with COVID-19 that had him sidelined for three weeks.
"This too shall pass," Rose said. "I know I’m pacing myself right now. I want to go out there and I’m 32 so I have to be smart. I’ve got to let the game come to me and I'm thankful and blessed that my teammates are allowing me to play the way that I play,"
"I had him in Minnesota," Thibodeau said. "I had him in Chicago. And I have a great relationship with him and I trust him. So, he'll tell me when he needs a break. I can usually see it. There's constant communication there, and that's where we are."