The Rose era: Bulls superstar doesn't feel pressure, just wants to win

Bulls superstar doesn't feel pressure, just wants to win

December 28, 2011|By Bryan Crawford, For RedEye

Sometimes, it's better to be lucky than good.

The Bulls got lucky when they snagged the top draft pick back in 2008 with only a 1.7 percent chance of doing so. The team then used that pick to take Derrick Rose No. 1 overall who, as it turns out, is good. Very good, actually.

In the three years since coming back to Chicago from Memphis to play for his hometown team, the Englewood native has led the Bulls to three consecutive playoff appearances, including carrying the Bulls –almost virtually on his back—all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals last season.

Of course we all know how that ended. Chicago was dispatched by the Miami Heat in heartbreaking fashion as it appeared the young superstar had simply run out of gas.

Rose is ready to lead his team back to the top despite feeling the Bulls are being overlooked. But the 23-year-old wouldn't have it any other way.

"I think [being overlooked] is fun, personally," Rose said recently. "I hear everything, and if I don't hear it, I know my friends hear it and tell me everything that people say. Then I take it to the gym where I work out a lot, and I just think about all the things that people are saying and how they're forgetting about us.

"But it's all right that we're under the radar."

After a 1-1 start—a thrilling victory over the L.A. Lakers and a deflating loss to Golden State—the Bulls still might be flying under the radar.

Despite such a successful 2010-11 season—an NBA-best 62-20 record and MVP honor for Rose—it was clear the biggest hole on the Bulls roster was at shooting guard, where Keith Bogans averaged 4.4 points a game. In the era of NBA superstars actively recruiting guys to come to play for their teams, Rose has steadfastly refused, maintaining he is a "hooper," not a recruiter.

He received sharp criticism as a result. But Rose couldn't care less.

"I ain't trying to hear what they're talking about. I'm just trying to do me and keep this thing rolling," Rose said. "If somebody wants to come here, then come here."

Somebody did come here.

Richard "Rip" Hamilton made the decision to join the Bulls, and the 12-year veteran and former NBA champion with Detroit could be the missing piece to put the team over the top.

So far, Hamilton's arrival hasn't dramatically changed the Bulls, but coach Tom Thibodeau said that falls on his teammates.

"We have to get him shots and into the flow of the game," Thibodeau said.

Rose is quick to recognize the value of Hamilton.

"Rip is a veteran and he's seen it all," Rose said. "He's going to help us go places that we've never been because he's already been there before."

For Bulls fans, hopefully that place leads to a seventh NBA title.

Considering Rose just inked a five-year, $94.8 million contract extension, title expectations have never been higher in the Windy City. But it's no big deal to Rose. He has the same expectations, something Bulls fans should appreciate.

"I don't play for money, I play to win," he said. "Money is the last thing I think about."

And when asked if he feels any pressure from signing his new contract, Rose said sharply, "Hell nah. No pressure at all."

Bryan Crawford is a RedEye special contributor.

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