Derrick Rose #4 of the New York Knicks warms up...

Derrick Rose #4 of the New York Knicks warms up prior to the game against the Chicago Bulls at United Center on December 14, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois.  Credit: Getty Images

CHICAGO — For Derrick Rose, this is home. Not just the place where he began his NBA career, winning an MVP award, Rookie of the Year honors and earning three All-Star Game appearances, but really home, where he grew up and was a high school legend.

So even as a visiting player his appearances at the United Center are celebrated by the hometown fans, greeting his introduction into a game with chants of “MVP.” And that made his return here Wednesday so unusual. His family was crowded into the stands, the fans were still waiting for him to come out even for pregame workouts. But once the game began, for the first time ever in his career, Rose was not a part of the rotation, sitting out the last four Knicks games.

“It does [feel odd] but at the same time it’s only because I’m human,” Rose said. “But at the same time we’re winning. So I can’t complain when we’re winning games. If we were losing, I’d probably be mad. But we’re winning and playing basketball so I really can’t complain. 

“Just trying to figure out how I can add more to the team without being out there. It’s being more vocal, expressing how I feel. Asking about coverages to help the young guys. Just lead by example.”

It’s a role that Rose has willingly accepted for now, serving as a mentor on the sidelines and in practice to Deuce McBride, who has supplanted him in the rotation and even to Jalen Brunson, who he has known since Brunson was a Chicago high school star while Rick Brunson was an assistant coach on the Bulls. 

He said that he can’t complain as long as the team is winning and they have won all four of the games that he’s sat out. But he still hopes that change will come somehow — through a spot opening up or if he had to, an opportunity someplace else.

“Yeah, that’s why I got to keep a rhythm,” Rose said. “I never want to be in a slump or get down just because I’m not playing. Cause the young guys, like Deuce wasn’t playing, he wasn’t acting that way. So I learn from everybody.”

“Derrick has always been great in terms of handling whatever comes his way,” said Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau who has coached him in all three stops in his NBA career. “The thing that's neat, he's sort of been a mentor to Jalen. He's really helped Jalen. He's helped Deuce McBride, and he'll help the team any way he can. We can start him, we can bring him off the bench.

“If he's not in the rotation he's going to be great in practice. He’s going to be in everyone's ear, and he's always been that way. When he was the MVP of the league, he cared deeply about his teammates, and whatever he can do to help the team, that's what he always did for us. I have obviously great respect for him because of our relationship, and I think that whatever comes he's going to handle it well. He's been through so many different things, and look things can change very quickly in this league.”

And the trade talk, he’s not paying attention — even asking reporters what teams have been in rumors (and he laughed when told the Lakers, noting that it’s been that way for years). 

“If we were losing, probably [I’d pay attention],” Rose said. “But I like winning. I’m a winner. I like being around a locker where the vibrations are just winning. And they got Deuce playing ahead of me. I can’t hate on that young man. I had him over for Thanksgiving last year. Real cool with his family members. I love the way he’s playing. I would feel [poorly] if I was hating in any type of fashion. So I’m happy for him.”

For now he waits his turn, but he has other plans that have him at peace, ready for whenever the end of his playing days comes.

“I’m on my 15th year and who knows how many years left I have,” he said, then listing his interests. “Land. A chess league. Vertical farming. A library. There’s a lot of things I want to get around to doing. But until I get to that realm that’s when I’ll go full-fledged into it. But right now, I’m focused on basketball.”

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