It only took 10 meaningful games in the last 27 months to turn Derrick Rose from one of the brightest young superstars in the NBA to a player now often defined by his own personal idiosyncrasies. Because we can't talk about how great Rose is at basketball, we talk about the nonsense that orbits around him. It's largely a byproduct of a frustrated city that had to endure three straight playoff runs without its best player meeting an introverted kid who needed an insular camp to escape poverty and a dangerous neighborhood to find stardom on the other side.
From his anti-recruiting stance to his opinionated older brother to his guarded and at times defensive personality, so much of the commotion surrounding Rose following his ACL tear has been overblown. The vast majority of it likely would have been avoided had Rose just stayed on the court, but he was never that fortunate.
There is one aspect of Rose's worldview that has always been genuinely perplexing, though. In the summer, Rose prefers to drill, condition and lift instead of playing actual basketball games.
Small detail from DRose presser. Revealed why he doesn't play pickup games in offseason: "I don’t want anyone to see my tendencies."— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) December 5, 2013
If the reasoning strikes you as somewhere between silly and illogical, you're not alone. Conversely, it's part of the reason Rose's decision to try out for Team USA in the 2014 FIBA World Cup could be potentially meaningful. D. Rose is about play some real basketball in the summer, and that's atypical. It could be highly beneficial for both Rose and Bulls as the point guard prepares for the third act of The Return this fall.
The last time Rose played for Team USA was in the summer of 2010, when he was the starting point guard at just 21 years old. He led the team in assists and averaged 7.2 points across nine games, finishing with eight points and six assists in the United States' gold medal victory over Turkey.
The 2010 stint with the national team feels like a lifetime ago in the scope of Rose's personal mythology, but it played a role in helping shape his legend. Rose came to training camp a month later and asked why he couldn't win MVP at the introductory press conference. Mostly everyone laughed at the idea until Rose went out and did just that, becoming the youngest player in league history to take home Most Valuable Player honors and interrupting what would have been five straight MVPs for LeBron James.
At this point, you don't need an excuse to be invested when Rose is actually on the court. It feels like something that can't ever be taken for granted again, because we know how arduous watching the Bulls can be when Rose is sidelined. From that perspective, Rose's decision to try out for the national team is inherently intriguing in itself. What makes this even more interesting is the type of competition Rose will be up against.
Back in 2010, Rose was the biggest star among the young point lot. Four years, one MVP and two knee surgeries later, it isn't the case anymore until he proves otherwise. Russell Westbrook pulled out of the camp last month, but Rose will still be competing with some of the best point guards in the league for a spot on the team. John Wall and Steph Curry are in the mix, as are Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard. There's 18 people in training camp in Las Vegas, running from July 28-31, and 12 will be selected to play for the team.
Because Tom Thibodeau is an assistant and because Coach K has displayed a fondness for Rose over the years, it seems likely he'll make the squad. After all, being cut from the national team is no way to sell his re-return to the NBA. When you look at Rose's performance through the first (and only) 10 games of last season, though, it stands to reason that Wall, Curry, Lillard and Irving would all be superior players at his juncture of Rose's recovery. As we saw last season, it's going to take some time for Rose to get all the way back.
When Rose tore his meniscus on that cruel November night, his season ended with him last among all qualified players in field goal percentage. Rose was averaging 16 points per game, but he was doing it on only 35.4 percent shooting. Rose was struggling big-time, mostly because he looked like someone who hadn't been on a basketball court in a year and a half.
Derrick was fine athletically, still explosive in the open court and lightening-quick with his cuts. It's the reason I remain optimistic about Rose's chances of coming back as one of the league's best players. His athleticism was always what made him such a unique talent. The uneasiness he felt on the court last season was only going to be corrected with more minutes. That's why a potential stint with Team USA could be huge for him.
With Rose, all time spent scrimmaging or playing real games is invaluable. At this stage, it's about the process and not the results. We learned it was going to take time for Rose to get back to the height of his powers when he was so ineffective to start last season. That's fine. Team USA is merely the first step in a long road back to his reintroduction into the basketball world.
Let's not forget. it worked out pretty well for him the last time.