Derrick Rose might just be happy to be in his current situation, but there’s no denying that the 32-year-old veteran point guard has been one of the sparkplugs of the Knicks’ surprising season — including their Game 2 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night to knot the first-round playoff series at a game apiece.
Rose scored 26 points off the bench, getting the nod from head coach Tom Thibodeau to lead the team out for the second half where they overturned a 13-point deficit.
It was just the latest instance of a revamped Rose, who has found his niche in the second act of a career once derailed by injuries as a mentor who still has plenty to turn a game on its head.
“My appreciation is at an all-time high. Not only in the playoffs, I’m appreciative just to be in the league,” Rose said. “There are a lot of guys that are my age, that are a little bit older and still feel like they can hoop. There are a lot of guys younger than me who are out of the league and they want another opportunity. My job is to play as hard as I can and do it for them.”
The long-term prospects of Rose’s career were once in peril after a steady onslaught of injury issues that saw the bottom drop out of a young resume that once had Hall-of-Fame aspirations. A decade ago with the Chicago Bulls, he became the youngest player in NBA history to win an MVP award and was considered by many to be the most dynamic player in the game.
Those devastating injuries forced Rose to re-work his game. No longer could he be the main man to lead a team.
“I’m very fortunate to be in this position. Not only am I in the league, I’m on a great team and they allow me to come here and play the way that I play and that’s all that any player can ask for,” Rose said. “They let me come here with open arms, there was no fight for the ball or anything. My job is to let them know what I see on the floor, calm guys down on the floor and just be vocal. I think I’m doing an alright job.”
That was all on display in Game 2 as Rose dropped 18 points in the second and third quarters while hitting what was ultimately the game-winning hook shot with five minutes to go. All the while, he’s setting a perfect example for rookie point guard Immanuel Quickley, who has shown flashes of becoming the franchise floor general of the future — something the Knicks have lacked for decades.
But in the meantime, Rose is doing exactly what needs to be done at such an important position during such an important time.
“I try to stay in the moment, try to stay present,” he said. “They say when you think about the past or think about the future, you go into default mode. So I try to stay mindful of where I’m at. I’m just happy that I’m feeling good.
Game 3 between the Knicks and Hawks tips off on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. ET in Atlanta.