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Rose feels right at home

By Marc J. Spears
Globe Staff / November 1, 2008
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A rose may look beautiful and smell great, but underneath it is a stem often armed with thorns. Such could be said about the situation surrounding Chicago Bulls rookie Derrick Rose. From the outside looking in, it looks and smells right. But Rose also has some hidden thorns to be aware of.

"There are other players in the league that are getting more juice than me now, so all I have to do is play basketball," said Rose before last night's 96-80 loss to the Celtics.

He is about as close to his family as one can be. Other than a school year at the University of Memphis, he has spent his entire life in Chicago. The 6-foot-3-inch, 190-pounder also welcomed the idea of playing his NBA career in his hometown, an opportunity the Bulls gave him when they drafted him with the top pick.

While the pressures of playing in your hometown would seem overwhelming for a youngster, Rose, 20, has always had a protective family circle that is hard to penetrate and keeps him focused. In appreciation, he rented a suite at the United Center in Chicago for his family and close friends to watch his NBA debut Tuesday, in which he had 11 points, 9 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 turnovers, and 3 steals in a win over Milwaukee.

"There's really nothing bad yet," said Rose about being at home. "The only bad thing is the tickets. I get to see my family, I get to see my friends, and I'm not homesick."

Rose's family also keeps him grounded.

"My mom always told me that I'm not better than anybody," said Rose, who averaged 14.9 points and 4.7 assists while leading Memphis to the NCAA championship game. "I took that to heart and I do feel that if you think you are better than anybody, God will punish you in some type of way."

Rose needs to become a more vocal point guard, more selfish offensively at key times, and has to develop a more consistent jumper. Expect him to fix those weaknesses since he is a coach's dream who welcomes constructive criticism and works hard to become a better player.

Last night, he led the Bulls with 18 points on 6-of-14 shooting with four rebounds, but just one assist.

"I need to work on everything," Rose said. "All-around game. My mental approach to the game. Dribbling. Passing. Jump shot. Learning about my opponent. It's a lot of things . . .

"Tell me the truth about anything. I always ask stuff."

Said Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich, "He's a humble kid. He's willing to learn, and you can tell he really wants to be good. And he is good."

There are actually two No. 1 draft picks making their debuts this season - Rose and Portland center Greg Oden, the top selection in 2007 who missed last season following knee surgery. Oden has the pressure of being projected as the next can't-miss Hall of Fame center, has received overwhelming media attention, is being labeled injury-prone, and attracted national television attention in his debut against the Lakers Tuesday, a game in which he was hurt again.

As for Rose, the national media have been paying him little attention and his NBA debut was shown only locally at the same time the NBA champion Celtics made their much-anticipated season debut on national television. Even Miami forward Michael Beasley, the No. 2 pick this year, has been receiving more national attention.

"I don't have as much pressure," Rose said. "I can go out there and play basketball. All eyes are on [Oden]. People don't even know that I'm here."

Just two years ago, the Bulls shocked the defending champion Heat by knocking them off in the first round. Chicago was expected to be one of the teams to watch because of its young talent. But with coach Scott Skiles fired early last season, players worried about their contracts, and despite a big midseason trade with Cleveland that brought Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden, among others, to Chicago, the Bulls struggled and were the NBA's most disappointing team, posting only 33 wins.

The Bulls have a new coach in Vinny Del Negro and the same young talent along with the addition of Rose. So with the expectations lowered, Chicago has a chance to be a surprise team again.

"I want to get the most wins I can get," Rose said. "I don't care if I don't score anything. If I win, everything else will come after that."

Said Hinrich, "He's coming along great. He's been a lot better earlier than some people expected. It's been fun playing alongside him."

But questions abound for Rose and the Bulls.

How will the inexperienced Del Negro fare? Could shooting guard Ben Gordon's pending free agency be a distraction? Could Rose face jealousy from becoming a starter over Hinrich and the face of the franchise overnight?

After rarely losing since high school, Rose is expected to absorb his share of losses this season and has a reputation for taking defeat extremely hard.

Hey, kid, good luck trying not to get pricked while you smell the roses.

Marc J. Spears can be reached at mspears@globe.com.

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