Derrick Rose was looking forward to visiting with his old friend, mentor and teammate, Luol Deng, who’s now with Miami, before the Bulls faced the Heat.
“We play Lu Sunday. That should be good,’’ Rose said. “Probably go out to eat with him the night before. But on the court, it’s something different.’’
Although they’re no longer teammates, Rose still values the lessons he learned from Deng.
“It’s just his professional side, taking care of his body,’’ Rose said. “That’s huge. I wish I would have looked at him more when I was a rookie.
“Little things you wouldn’t think about. He’d come in at halftime and eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. For real. You don’t think about it, but health-wise, that’s great. You’re burning the peanut butter, and you’re able to run around more. Your endurance picks up.’’
Rose has been showing flashes of his inner MVP lately. His 31 points vs. Portland on Friday, combined with his 23 vs. Brooklyn, give him 54 in the last two games — the most in consecutive games since he scored 56 against Utah and the Knicks on March 10 and 12, 2012 — the month before his boggling stretch of injuries began.
“Even with this performance, I can’t be up,’’ Rose said. “Next time I play, it could be something different. We’re just trying to scratch them off — win by any means, and find our way through this.’’
If we look closely, we can almost see Rose growing up before our eyes. In his seventh NBA season, he’s 26 now. Has a big shoe contract. Took a stand by wearing an “I can’t breathe’’ T-shirt in warmups last week.
He’s working through the scars of two major knee surgeries, and the hurt of some fans who have questioned his commitment as he eases back from injuries. It’s all made him more mature, and more guarded.
What really matters, though, is that he’s showing signs he can be the linchpin of a highly successful team.
“We all feel he’s going to be the same that he was,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He’s got to keep building, keep attacking. When he’s aggressive, there’s no one like him.’’
After his season-high 31 on Friday, Rose mentioned that he’s still feeling his way, saying, “I have to listen to my body, listen to myself, and just learn how to play with my teammates.’’
Along those lines, defense-oriented Thibs showed some offensive creativity by teaming Rose with his backup, Aaron Brooks, to create a fourth-quarter scoring surge against Portland.
“It gave me a chance to look at the game a different way,’’ Rose said. “Being off the ball, it was a different feeling, picking and choosing when I was going to cut.’’
It gave the buttoned-down Bulls a different look.
“When you can do a tandem like that, our games are different, so our roles are different,’’ Brooks said. “It’s like those double running backs they use in the NFL.’’
Don’t expect to see that combination often, Pau Gasol cautioned.
“I liked it because both guys were hot,’’ Gasol said. “But it’s not sometihing I think we’re going to see too often. Because we give up a lot of size.’’
More strides from Rose is a different matter.
“It’s a marathon,’’ Brooks said. “You dont want to rush him back. You want him to be comfortable.’’