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Derrick Rose relearned what can't be taught at the FIBA World Cup

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His numbers might have been ugly, but gaudy statistics were never the point of the World Cup for Rose.

David Ramos

You've probably had one of these weekend nights before, the ones that start off with a few friends sifting through YouTube videos before someone inevitably starts typing D-E-R-R-I-C-K R-O-S-E in the search bar. As Rose has played only 10 meaningful NBA games over the last 28 months, these YouTube sessions fill a significant void. This is where the Derrick Rose of old lives in all of his glory, with hyperspeed in the open court, reverse jackknife dunks on fast breaks and perilous drives to the lane punctuated by incredible touch at the rim.

I have found myself doing this too often over the last few months, each time with mixed motivations. It isn't so much nostalgia or a form of coping or a hint at what might be coming back if Rose returns at the height of his powers. More than anything, it's a reminder of something we had and lost and hope to see again: Derrick Rose slashing through defenses and destroying high-caliber opposition with the sort of game no basketball player alive can replicate.

Basketball might be a game of shared skills, but it has more individuality than any other sport. Point guard might be the most stacked position in the NBA, but no one played it quite like Rose. Whenever I find myself watching the various highlight packages from Rose's prime, it's one of my main takeaways: the way his kid from the South Side played couldn't be taught or learned, it could only be felt. It was something worth taking note of while watching Rose make his latest comeback in the FIBA World Cup, which ended on Sunday with a gold medal for the Americans.

Rose did not play particularly well at the World Cup, that much we know. He shot 25 percent from the field and 1-for-19 from the three-point line. In a third of the games, he had as many or more turnovers than he did points. He only really seemed to find a rhythm against Slovenia, but it didn't create the type of positive momentum that carried over to subsequent games.

Still, Rose seems deeply satisfied with where he's at after the tournament. He gave some people another reason to crack jokes at his expense after he told reporters he'd give himself an 'A' in Spain, but no one knows how to grade Derrick Rose but Derrick Rose. He knows the World Cup was a glorified Spring Training session; that the competition was weak and his numbers didn't carry tangible weight. For Rose, progress isn't measured by true shooting percentage or PER. It's measured by the feel of the ball in his hands, his first step on the way by a defender and how he gathers himself once he's close to the basket.

Watch old Rose and the first thing that jumps off the screen is his incredible ability to finish. He took shots that would get any high school or college player screamed at in practice, but he never did it to show off. This is what was natural for Rose, a gift for mid-air body control meeting a soft touch with both hands. Even if it could be taught, there would never be another player with the thoroughbred athleticism it takes to pull it off.

It's so easy to look at Rose's larger numbers in the context of the tournament and be disappointed with where he's at and where he might be going, but that was never the point of the World Cup for the man himself. The game has always come natural to him, and injuries to both knees that have wiped away the last two seasons has eroded some of that feel. This was about getting it back, and about gaining self-confidence in knowing his body could handle a schedule that included five games in its last six days.

Rose's biggest problem in Spain was once his greatest strength: that ability to find a way to put the ball in the basket once he got close to the rim. You could tell it's still a work in progress at the moment, but it was never something lifting or cardio was going to bring back. Derrick can only be Derrick again by playing the game, and that's exactly what this tournament accomplished.

If anyone knows what's next for Derrick, it's the man himself. He trusts where he's going, that should be enough for us.