LOS ANGELES — Derrick Rose has some secrets.
He often plays chess online against random people who have no idea that their king is being attacked by the 2011 NBA MVP. He was a decent tennis and baseball player in high school. He’s spent a good amount of time this summer studying the life of Albert Einstein. He watches documentaries.
Most people don’t know these things. Rose doesn’t care if people know these things.
Here’s what Rose hopes people know, or at least soon know: He believes he’s still among the NBA elite. So for Rose, this season alongside LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers is a reset, maybe a redemption, maybe even a reinvention. He made $21 million last season; he’ll make about $2 million this season after signing for the minimum , even after averaging 18 points with the dysfunctional New York Knicks a year ago.
Now — recovered from a fourth knee surgery — Rose is set to start anew and resume chasing what would be his first NBA title.
“I’ve always been into movies,” Rose said. “And I’ve always asked why you don’t see famous actors all the time. Why don’t you see George Clooney? For real, why don’t you see him? It always comes back to how they don’t want the fame. So when I got into the NBA, I never wanted to tap into that.
“Personally, that’s just not me.”
In an interview with The Associated Press about his offseason and his future, Rose said he believes he’s misunderstood by many, but realized long ago that he’s not interested in changing those misconceptions.
“I’m stubborn,” Rose said. “I like moving at my own pace. So as long as I’m not harming anybody, I feel like I’ve got the right to do that. People think that I’m cocky, reckless, unruly. That’s not me. That’s not who I portray myself as. But it’s not up to me to care or worry about that. My family and friends know the person that I really am.”
Rose is a self-described introvert, someone who rarely posts on social media. He does his own thing, without apologies. He arrives in China this week to promote his latest adidas shoe, is hopeful to have a place to live in Cleveland picked out by the time he gets back to the U.S. from that trip, and has been so busy this summer with on-court work that there’s been little time for much else — not even a haircut or shave, both of which he thinks are desperately needed.
“I’m not going to lie to you; the last two or three years, Derrick has been through a lot mentally,” said his older brother, Reggie Rose. “When you’re losing more than you’re winning, it can get difficult. So with him going to be in a winning environment again now, able to see how LeBron prepares himself, the things LeBron does with his body, Derrick can incorporate that into his own game.”
“I’m stubborn. I like moving at my own pace. So as long as I’m not harming anybody, I feel like I’ve got the right to do that. People think that I’m cocky, reckless, unruly. That’s not me. That’s not who I portray myself as. But it’s not up to me to care or worry about that. My family and friends know the person that I really am.”
Rose is past his latest surgery, one that repaired his meniscus and, probably mercifully, ended his season with the Knicks. He isn’t worried about how the now-tenuous trade between Boston and Cleveland with the principals being star point guards Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas works out; Rose is willing to play with either one.
Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman said when signing the 6-foot-2 Rose that he would be a good fit. Altman added he knew Rose could have signed with a number of teams, but he signed with Cleveland because of “his specific mindset, goals and total focus and commitment to winning.”
Rose, 28, has no doubt he’ll be ready for the season.
He has been working out at least five days a week, strength work some days, agility work other days, along with on-court work.
Last year fuels him, in many ways. It started with him facing a civil trial in Los Angeles over a rape allegation that a jury did not believe. It ended with him playing for a bad team in New York, the Knicks season dominated by drama off the floor — the Jim Dolan-Charles Oakley mess, the eventual departure of Phil Jackson and the still-going talk of Carmelo Anthony getting traded someplace.
“On the court was when it was the craziest to me,” Rose said. “Some of the strategies and all that, I didn’t understand. It was confusing. It was just a learning experience.”
Rose’s rise was meteoric: Grew up amid poverty in Chicago, then saw basketball as an escape route and way to take care of his mother and family. In 2006, he hit a shot to win an Illinois state high school championship. Only five years later, he was MVP of the NBA.
Then came the injuries : the ACL tear in 2012 and three meniscus surgeries since, along with back, hamstring, ankle and foot issues as well. Out of a possible 164 games in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons, Rose appeared in 10. The love affair in Chicago between a native son and the Bulls was clearly waning. He finally got traded to New York in June 2016.
The lowest of the low points in Chicago, on the injury front, may have been when he made the statement about how he didn’t want to be sore at his son’s graduation. He doesn’t regret saying it, or the fallout that it caused.
What Rose was trying to do was illustrate how being active in his son’s life matters to him. It just came out less than perfectly, and he believes the message got twisted.
“He’s the only reason that I’m playing this game,” Rose said of his son. “My dad wasn’t around. So my mom was that figure for me. I want to be the example to my son, the dad that I didn’t have. He’s going to do what he wants to do, but sometimes he’s going to be like, ‘Damn, Pops was right all these times.’ It’s going to hit him one day.”
Thing is, Derrick Rose’s son will never grow up poor like the way Derrick Rose did. His father has earned somewhere around $300 million in contracts and endorsements.
“He gets joy just being around immediate family and reminiscing about how things used to be financially before now,” Reggie Rose said. “You can see the glow in his face when he talks about the old times.”
He gets the same glow when he talks about what’s coming next.
Rose knows people doubt whether he can still play. He doesn’t share those doubts. And though he won’t say so, he wouldn’t mind proving some wrong.
“When I get on a good team and I’m still hooping the same way, what are you going to say then?” Rose said. “The only thing that you’ll can say is that I can still play.”