As part of an ongoing summer media tour, Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose recently sat down for a rapid-fire, word-association-style interview with CNN's Pedro Pinto. The cable news correspondent asked the 2010-11 NBA Most Valuable Player who he thinks is the league's best player right now ... and, I mean, it's not like he was going to say, "Kent Bazemore." (Although it'd be neat to see what Kent would put on his shoes after that.)
Let's go to the videotape, via our friends at the Yahoo! Sports Minute:
So, yes: When asked to name the best player in the NBA, Derrick Rose said, "Derrick Rose." He didn't stutter, and he repeated it. You got a problem with that?
I mean, obviously, this is not true. Even if he hadn't been sidelined for the past 15 months after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, LeBron James exists, and as noted by Angela Sun in the Yahoo! Sports Minute, the Miami Heat superstar has won two league MVPs, two NBA Finals MVPs, two NBA championships and an Olympic gold medal since the last time Rose suited up. Pretty strong argument for "I'm the best," there.
Beyond that, James has significantly sharpened his all-around game while Rose has been on the shelf, embracing the low block, becoming a 40 percent 3-point shooter, increasing his rebounding and assist rates while turning the ball over less often, and evolving into arguably the best defensive player in the NBA. Perhaps Rose's rehab work has smoothed out some of the rough edges in his own game — we've often heard about how the restrictions of ACL rehab mean you can really only work on improving your jumper for a while, which could serve Rose (who's shot a solid but not elite 42.8 percent on midrange shots during his career and hit just 31 percent of his 3s in four NBA seasons) in good stead. Even so, he'd have to take a quantum leap forward to get into the LeBron conversation — and the Kevin Durant conversation, and the Chris Paul conversation, and so on. Rose's road back to rejoining the NBA's elite isn't over just because he says it is.
That said: Man, how awesome is it that he's saying it is? If you're a Bulls fan, you must be ecstatic that Rose took that tack.
Remember, the reason Rose sat out the duration of the 2012-13 season despite being cleared for game action by team doctors in March was that he didn't feel 100 percent confident that he could do everything he was able to do on the court before his injury, whether that was dunking comfortably off his left foot, changing directions at top speed in the open floor, barreling into the paint in search of both hoop and harm, or whatever. He wasn't confident that he could be the same 110-miles-an-hour demon who carved up opponents to the tune of just under 23 points, seven assists, four rebounds and a steal per game between 2009 and 2012, who led the Bulls to the NBA's best record in two straight seasons and who had Chicago primed for a rematch with James' Heat as the top seed in the 2011-12 postseason before that fateful jump stop.
Time and again, we heard from Bulls doctors, team reporters and sources that the issue this past spring wasn't Derrick's body anymore, but rather a mental block he needed to overcome. This — much more than a dunk on an 8-foot rim — sure seems like a clear indication that he's overcome it. And with the Bulls reportedly set to visit the Heat to open the 2013-14 season, that's a very, very good thing, not only for Chicagoans, but for those of us who've been counting down the days until we get to see one of the game's truly electrifying young stars take the court once more.
Here's Rose's full CNN Q&A session, in which he talks about his career highlights, lowlights, career and life inspirations (Malcolm X!), and more:
While Rose's confidence is clearly high, NBC Sports Network's Michelle Beadle seems to think the Bulls guard's self-evaluation is a just bit off-base:
Related coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
• Madison Square Garden given 10 years to move
• LeBron James' Team USA career likely done
• Carmelo Anthony reacts coolly to Lakers talk
• Mike Miller set to sign with Memphis