It’s been years since Derrick Rose has been asked to carry a team on a nightly basis. He showed on Sunday that he still is capable of that on occasion.
A decade ago, Rose became the youngest MVP in league history when he won the award in his third season with the Bulls at age 22. Since that 2010-11 season, he has struggled with significant knee injuries that limited his play in three seasons and bounced around to five different teams, including a stint with the Knicks in 2016-17.
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau was Rose’s coach with the Bulls and then the Timberwolves. Thibodeau knew exactly the kind of veteran smarts he was getting when the Knicks cut a trade with Detroit for Rose earlier this season, so he wasn’t surprised to see him make the plays he did late in regulation in the Knicks’ 122-112 overtime win over the Pelicans.
"Derrick did it early on like most young players with his talent. He didn’t have the experience he has now," Thibodeau said. "He has the mental part down now. You combine the mental with the talent and you are a different type of player. He doesn’t have the same type of athleticism, but he does have the same quickness and he puts enormous pressure on you."
With Alec Burks in COVID-19 protocols, Rose was pressed into extra duty, and the result was his best game since he rejoined the Knicks. Rose scored 23 points in 35 minutes, including six in the final 2:50 of regulation as the Knicks came back from a seven-point deficit. He also drove and found Reggie Bullock in the left corner for a tying three-pointer with 2.3 seconds left in regulation.
"He’s great in the pick-and-roll. He draws a lot of attention," Bullock said. "Players like myself, other shooters on my team just got to stay spaced and he’s always going to make the right read . . . He kicked it out and he trusted in me to be able to knock the shot down, and that’s what I did."
Rose, 32, is the second-oldest player on the Knicks and one of only three players over the age of 30. It was clear listening to him on Sunday that he enjoys his elder statesman role.
"With this team, I don’t have to do much," he said. "When I was in Chicago, I always had the pressure of having to score 25, 30 points every night for us to even have a chance. Here I can kind of see what the game needs and just try to adjust.
"It’s great being on a great young team where everybody’s locked in and everybody loves playing with one another and everybody’s on the same page, and that’s to win games."
Rose is averaging 13.1 points and 24 minutes a game, doing whatever the Knicks need him to do. He hasn’t been on a winning team since the 2017-18 Timberwolves and he is enjoying this. The Knicks are 31-27, on a six-game winning streak and making a push toward the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.
"I haven’t had this feeling in a long time, let alone been on a winning streak," Rose said. "I’m grateful to be in this situation every night."