By Mike McGraw
After having his left knee buckle in the closing minutes of a playoff game, then pushing himself through an extensive, grueling 18-month recovery, maybe confidence is a strange choice for Derrick Rose's best attribute.
But on Friday, the eve of his return to training camp, Rose insisted his confidence has grown more than anything during his time off.
"I think I'm going to play the same way," Rose said. "The only thing that probably changed is my jump shot. I can shoot it a little bit further. But the biggest thing that changed is my confidence level. I think if you work hard at any sport or anything you're doing, you're going to have a confidence level that's pretty high because you know other people aren't doing the same thing."
That should sound good to Bulls fans. Rose is confident he'll be able to do everything he could before the injury. He feels good about the Bulls' chances to contend for the NBA title this season.
Rose provided an interesting parallel to his confidence theme when asked about being a father. His son, Derrick Jr., is nearly a year old and has spent plenty of time with his rehabbing daddy. Rose felt the confidence Friday to mention his own father for one of the few times since his life became so public.
"Having a kid, he runs everything," Rose said with a laugh. "It's a blessing at the same time. My father wasn't in my life, so I have the opportunity to be around (his son) like that. If I do everything the opposite of what (his dad) did, I should put myself in good position to raise my son the right way."
Everyone has waited so long for Rose's comeback, it won't have anything close to the same dramatic effect it would have if he was introduced in the starting lineup at the United Center late last season. Rose's return to game action is expected at Indiana on Oct. 5.
Still, the Berto Center was buzzing with optimism on Friday. A group of players that made it to the second round of the playoffs is now joined by a player just three years removed from winning the league's MVP award.
"We're definitely on one page in understanding the time to win is now," Luol Deng said. "We showed what we can do without him and now you add him into it, I think that's why the expectations are high."
Rose is generally low-key in most everything he does. Coach Tom Thibodeau even talked about not being able to read Rose's "poker face."
But as he sat, mostly stoically, fielding questions from the media, Rose was able to show some enthusiasm about his return to the court.
"It should be a crazy, magical year," Rose said. "My teammates, they're preparing themselves for a big year and I am too. I think there's going to be a lot of people watching and it should be exciting.
"The thing that drives me is just winning a championship. I think that's the only thing I'm missing on my resume is a championship. This is a great time to do it, when everybody's watching."
The Bulls are expected to be part of an entertaining quintet at the top of the Eastern Conference, joining Miami, Indiana, New York and Brooklyn. General manager Gar Forman suggested with Rose back and Jimmy Butler rising quickly, this should be their best starting lineup in recent memory. In other words, since 1998.
"The pressure of expectations is really a privilege," Thibodeau said. "Last season, we were probably undersold. Maybe this season, we're being oversold. But none of that matters. What matters is if we're willing to put the work in each and every day."
If Thibodeau makes the Bulls run sprints until they throw up (he probably won't), Rose should enjoy every step.
"Just the opportunity to be walking, running, doing the same things that I did previous to the injury, it's great," Rose said. "To be here, seeing you all, being back in Chicago, actually feeling like a basketball player -- this excites me right here."
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