INDEPENDENCE — Derrick Rose is entering his 10th NBA season — if you count the one he didn’t play at all and another when he saw action in just 10 games — but the Cavaliers point guard is still just 28 years old.
“I know how good I am,” Rose said. “I’m 28. People act like I’m 38 years old. I’m 28. My job is not to boast. They’ll see me on the court and make their opinions after that.”
Though no longer the totally dynamic player he was while winning league MVP honors with the Chicago Bulls in 2010-11, the 6-foot-3, 190-pounder is still pretty good and has already drawn rave reviews from new teammates LeBron James, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson.
Rose, who signed with the Cavs for the veteran minimum of $2.1 million, played in
64 games for New York last season, averaging 18.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists while earning $21.3 million under a one-year contract.
Beyond that, he’s just grateful to be healthy after missing all of the 2012-13 season and appearing in just 10 games the following year due to serious knee injuries.
“These last couple years taught me to be mindful of everything. Just be mindful,” he said. “You get caught up into what everybody says and this and that, but I’m a big believer in hard work pays off. I’m a big believer in myself.”
Rose’s immediate task in Cleveland will be to succeed four-time All-Star Kyrie Irving as the team’s starting point guard while Isaiah Thomas, who is expected to play by January, recovers from a hip injury.
Veteran Jose Calderon will open the season as the backup.
“You look at Derrick Rose, a guy who’s been a starter, a former MVP,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “I feel very confident we can hold down the fort until Isaiah comes back.”
Rose, who averaged career highs of 25.0 points and 4.4 rebounds, plus 7.7 assists, in his MVP season, is equally confident in his ability to run the team, but vows to remain hungry and humble.
“Kyrie was a helluva player and the way he plays is a unique way of playing,” he said. “My job is to get guys open. I’ve been working on my game with opening the floor.
“Just coming back into a winning environment, every day you have to bring it. That’s something I’m used to. These last two years, I haven’t been in the playoffs, and that’s cool, but (it’s) just bringing that intensity to practice every day.”
Where Rose was once the star of the team in Chicago, he’s now being asked to fill a role on a Cleveland squad that features a ton of scoring power.
The Cavs have been to three straight NBA Finals and won a title in 2016, and their new starting point guard is eager to be a part of future success.
“It’s very exciting,” Rose said. “That’s one of the reasons I chose to come here. For one, I’ll be happy playing basketball. I’m back in a winning environment and everybody in the franchise has one goal, and that’s winning a championship.
“I’ve been wanting the opportunity to play for a championship. I have a huge opportunity in front of me and I’m not shying away from it.”
Lue likes that approach, saying, “I think it will be great for him. It will give him a new start. He’s ready to go and very excited.”
A serious injury, of course, is always a possibility — “I feel pretty good,” Rose said, “but I said that in all the years I got injured” — but it’s something he can’t waste time worrying about. All he can do is prepare and condition as much as possible, then let his talent take care of the rest.
Rose is highly unlikely to match his career averages of 19.5 points and 6.0 assists — he’s shot .451 from the field, .298 on 3-pointers and .820 at the line — but he’s still very athletic and loves to compete.
Not a great shooter from behind the arc, the Chicago native is at his best in the open court and when driving to the hoop, but he’s also an underrated passer whose assist numbers should improve now that he’s on the floor with better players.
“They’ve been together for a number of years,” Rose said of the Cavs. “They’ve been to The Finals. My job is just to come in and fit in.
“My love of the game didn’t change,” he added. “I know how hard I worked. I worked my butt off. ... I didn’t take any (vacations) this summer. I put everything into my craft.”
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