NEW YORK — This phase of Derrick Rose’s roller-coaster career has been assisted by self-awareness.
The youngest MVP in league history has embraced his role as a gap filler and effective supplementary piece, making the Knicks a clear winner of their mid-season trade with the Pistons.
Likewise, the 32-year-old has been rewarded for requesting a relocation to New York for a reunion with Tom Thibodeau.
“It’s great being on a young team where everybody is locked in, everybody loves playing with one another and everyone is on the same page — which is to win games,” Rose said. “So it’s perfect.”
Rose is still scoring at a nice clip — 13.1 points per game over 24 minutes — but almost always within the flow and without forcing the issue.
In Sunday’s 122-112 overtime victory over the Pelicans, Rose was asked for more than usual because Alec Burks remained in COVID-19 protocols.
Rose responded with probably his best game of the season, dropping 23 points in 35 minutes while facilitating the game-tying 3-pointer in regulation. It showed he can still dig deep for a special performance, even if the occasion is rare.
“With this team, I don’t have to do much” said Rose, who recovered from a nasty battle with COVID-19 last month. “When I was in Chicago, I always had the pressure of trying to score 25 or 30 points every night just to have a chance. Whereas here, I can kind of see what the game needs and adjust.”
In his previous stint with the Knicks during the 2016-17 season, Rose still carried the star mentality but without the ability to perform consistently. He pieced together decent numbers, but the team stunk and Rose’s year ended with another knee surgery.
With Thibodeau’s Knicks, the playing time is more sporadic and so are his opportunities with the ball. But being effective in spurts is probably his best role after so many knee injuries. And he’s fine with that.
“He did it early on, like most young players, with his talent. And he didn’t have the experience that he has now,” Thibodeau said. “So he has the mental part now. You combine the mental with the talent and you’re getting a different type of player. ….With the experiences he’s had, he’s learned a lot over the years.”