LOS ANGELES — It came down to the last shot. Make it, and the basketball skills session would be over.
But Derrick Rose, alongside his longtime trainer Rob McClanaghan since 2007, missed the three-point shot in the left baseline corner. So Rose, who created the post-workout competition with McClanaghan, started again from the right baseline corner. He had to make seven consecutive shots in seven spots around the arc—make one, move on—with McClanaghan lending some defense and a hand up to guard Rose’s release.
After a few tries, Rose made all seven in a row.
“He’s persistent,” said McClanaghan, who works with Rose to come up with different post-workout challenges. “We would’ve been there all night.”
As it turns out, this was the first offseason in his NBA career that Rose started working out much earlier than usual. He returned to the gym at the end of May in Los Angeles, his annual summer home. In the past, he would start back up at the end of June. Taking fewer trips and mostly staying in LA, he treated this summer differently; for one, because the Bulls didn’t make the playoffs last season for the first time in his eight-year NBA career. Also, in an upcoming contract year, he felt like he had something to prove heading into this season.
Rose discussed his training mentality this time around, after the late August workout with new teammates Noah and Courtney Lee at a private residence up on a hill in Bel Air, where its owner built a replica of the Staples Center. The three of them, along with their Knicks teammates, start training camp next Tuesday.
“I come in here and it’s still a challenge to me to impress [McClanaghan],” said Rose, who also did yoga consistently this summer for the first time to help with recovery, flexibility and preventing injury. “I impress him by going hard, even though he’s seen me since my rookie year. I want him to see me, like, ‘Man, this dude didn’t miss a step. He’s still moving the way he’s moving, he still has that drive.’ Me impressing him makes me sharpen my game along the way, makes my game more efficient.”
McClanaghan remembers the first time he worked out Rose, which was for a couple of days in the summer of 2007 before Rose went to Memphis for college. After McClanaghan introduced him to an intense NBA-style workout, he said Rose was “pretty tired pretty quick.” He wasn’t sure how Rose would respond, but he “came back the next day as a different player.”
“He’s so competitive and such a killer that he felt so bad about not giving up to his par, as far as the workout went,” McClanaghan said. “He showed up the next day and from that workout on, he’s been high intensity and reliable. He’s going to be on time, he’s not going to miss any workouts.”
While Rose has had multiple injuries and surgeries—missing all of 2012-13 and 72 games in 2013-14 from knee tears—he’s never wavered from how strongly he feels about the game. He said that’s rooted in what he feels is the biggest misperception about him.
“That I don’t love the game,” said the former All-Star, who made major health strides to start and play in 66 games last season—the most since his MVP 2010-11 season. “It’s crazy how people can make opinions about someone just off the strength of the media perspectives. Sometimes the [media] has an agenda that they have to follow, and at the end of the day, I can’t get mad at that. It’s funny to see, it’s funny to laugh at to see who doesn’t watch the game.”
In a rare sit-down interview with the reserved Rose, the Knicks starting point guard opened up to the NBPA about his life on and off the court, covering his impact in Chicago, the days before and after coming to New York, training preparation for playing in the triangle offense and empowering at-risk youth through his community work. He also talked about the special qualities of his daily interests, including being a father, connecting with his close friend Joakim Noah, reading Malcolm Gladwell books and much more.
Arriving in the Big Apple
About two weeks before the Knicks traded for Rose on June 22, one of his three older brothers, Reggie, 41, who helps serve as his day-to-day manager, received a phone call from Carmelo Anthony. He wanted Rose’s phone number. After, Reggie rang his youngest brother with the news.
“I called Derrick, ‘Melo asked for your number,'” Reggie said. “He said, ‘Wow.’ I said, ‘I think the Knicks might be interested.’ And Derrick said, ‘Reggie, you serious?’ I said, ‘He wouldn’t ask for your number if he’s not serious.’ But we didn’t really pay that much attention to it because there were so many rumors.”
While Rose saw a missed call one day from Anthony, they never actually talked on the phone or about a possible trade, according to Reggie. Ironically, in that same two-week window before the trade, Rose received a promo pair from adidas of his upcoming D Rose 7 sneakers. They had Knicks-like orange on the sides, inspired by the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 and how the city rebuilt itself from the incident.
“It was crazy. I’m, like, ‘Did [adidas] know beforehand?'” Rose said. “It makes you think about that stuff. It was a sign. I take everything as a sign.”
The week of the NBA draft, while Rose was in LA, Reggie just so happened to be in New York City. His 14-year-old daughter was competing in the national finals of the Jr. NBA Skills Challenge. The day after the trade happened—which was headlined by the draft—Reggie, Rose, his agent, B.J. Armstrong, and personal manager, Randall Hampton, were all checked into The Ritz-Carlton hotel in Central Park—the same place they all stayed during the 2008 draft, when Rose was named the No. 1 pick.
When Reggie first called him about the trade, Rose was stunned, especially because he didn’t hear from the Bulls before they made the trade, according to Reggie. He was also a bit emotional about leaving his hometown.
“He knows he poured his heart out for Chicago, he wanted the best for his city, he wanted to bring them a championship,” Reggie said.
Rose had never envisioned playing anywhere but Chicago. He also didn’t have any family there. When it came to the Knicks, he only thought of them as the nemesis in their longtime rivalry with the Bulls. But he felt awakened by New York the day before his introductory press conference on June 24. The fans captured his attention, from walking on the street (“Yo, D-Rose, we can go to the playoffs,” a passerby said) to Philippe for dinner to ending the night at 1Oak nightclub (“Welcome the newest member of the Knicks, Derrick Rose,” the DJ shouted over the mic).
The next day when Rose drove by Madison Square Garden on his way to his presser, he took a photo from inside the car of the MSG Marquee, which said “Welcome, Derrick Rose,” and had a customized photo of himself on the digital board. The Knicks showed him in his new No. 25 uniform.
And who was the first noteworthy Knicks representative Rose met at the Garden that day? Popular die-hard fan and filmmaker Spike Lee, who told him, according to Reggie, “I’m here if you need me. Now you’re a Knick and I love you as a player. You’re one of my own now.”
“I was feeling a lot of love,” Rose said. “You feel that a little bit in Chicago, but it’s not on that level of New York, so it kind of makes you anxious to actually get on the court. It’s, like, ‘Man, they’re excited that I’m actually there.’ I haven’t even picked up a ball yet, I haven’t made a basket yet, and I can only imagine how they’re going to act when we start winning.
“It’s a basketball culture there that’s missing. Our job is to bring that excitement back to the city. And it’s different playing there than actually being on the team, like the crowd there oohs and aahs for the little moves that you do when you’re on the opposing team. But when you’re on their team, they ooh and aah with everything. So I’m waiting for that excitement and just trying to be patient for it, because it’s going to be an exciting year I think for the whole city.”
Still, two months since becoming a Knick, it hasn’t really resonated with him yet. And it may not until he’s retired.
“Probably after I put on the jersey, but even then it probably won’t hit me until after I get done playing basketball,” said Rose, who’s still getting settled in his five-bedroom apartment in the Tribeca neighborhood of NYC. “And I’ll look at it, like, ‘Damn, I actually played for the Knicks.’ It’s one of those type of ordeals. So for right now, I’m just trying to work my butt off for this upcoming season.”
Prepping for New York On and Off the Court
When McClanaghan first met up with his client in May, he focused on the aspects he’s always had with Rose: continuing to elevate his energy and confidence, improving his pull-up game and three-point shot, and playing with more hesitation and change of speed. McClanaghan explained the latter two.
“With all the guards I work with, especially the really athletic ones, the fast ones, like the [John] Walls, the [Russell] Westbrooks and the Roses, the main things since day one, when I met them and they were rookies, were just slowing down,” he said. “When Derrick really slows down and then hits the turbo button, he’s much harder to guard and he’s much more in control. So when he does that, especially now with his midrange and three-point shot becoming better, he’s going to be very hard to guard, like he always has been.”
After Rose got traded to the Knicks, who incorporate the triangle offense, McClanaghan implemented drills off the pinch post and pin-down screens, especially when Noah joined the workouts in LA. McClanaghan envisions Rose handling the ball more in New York, and getting additional touches in the post because of the triangle and his bigger point guard size at 6’3 and 190 pounds. Rose believes he’ll have more passing opportunities starting from Anthony’s shooting ability and how he draws defenders.
“I think he’s going to make the game way easy for the entire team,” Rose said. “And that leaves everybody open on the other side, the weak side. You add shooters to that, you add just other threats on the floor, and you’re going to be a dangerous team. And my job is to just come in and just be a point guard. I think it’s the most talented team I’ve played on, even though I haven’t played with them yet—just looking at the stat sheet, working out with them. So my job is to come in and get everybody going, then have my spot where I can try to dominate the game.”
Earlier this month, Rose had his first chance this summer to hang with Anthony over a few days. They were in Puerto Rico, where more than half of the Knicks came to support the star’s seventh annual “A Very Melo Weekend” community event in his home country. In between enjoying the festivities, which included Anthony unveiling his seventh refurbished basketball court in town, the players trained in the gym and ran on the beach together.
Rose said the Bulls never had an offseason bonding experience like that.
“We never hung out together. We just showed up at training camp, like a couple days before,” he said. “It’s just about pushing each other, being able to talk trash to one another while you’re working out. It’s that bond. That’s what we’re trying to build at least working out together, trying something different. Last year or eight years straight, we did the same thing and it didn’t get us any championship. But now we’re trying different things and staying positive and pushing each other.”
Off the court, while Rose and his business team will continue to run their community initiatives in Chicago, they’ll soon start exploring duplicating them in New York.
“We want to help the community [in New York] also,” Reggie said. “But at the end of the day, we’re not going to forget where we came from, Chicago.”
The focus of Team Rose’s outreach has been at-risk youth empowerment in Chicago, working alongside his two other older brothers, Dwayne, 42, and Allan, 36, on his community work. They have an AAU team, partnership with The Support Group non-profit organization and its program called Lunch with a Leader (where students network with business, entrepreneurial and community-based influencers), and a major investment with After School Matters.
In 2014, Rose donated $1 million to After School Matters, a non-profit organization that creates out-of-school programs for teenagers in arts, science, technology, communications and sports. His generous contribution, which covered everything from computers to after-school locations, actually kept the organization alive, according to Reggie.
Rose said his involvement is his most proud achievement off the court.
“That was a program that started when I was in grammar school,” he said. “[Former] Mayor Daley’s wife, Maggie, who passed away [in 2011], was the one that started it for the kids—after-school activities, classes, whatever they wanted they had. And when I got to high school, it stopped because people stopped funding it. They weren’t advertising it. People actually kind of forgot about it, but I donated to them. That’s the biggest accomplishment that I did in Chicago.”
Rose highlighted why the youth matter so much to him.
“My biggest thing is just being a role model for the kids because they’re basically my fans, they’re the future,” he said. “You never know later on if one of them is going to end up hiring you. So it’s all about expanding the youth and giving them the vision. Where I’m from, people dying is regular, and the youth don’t really think about their future. They live in the present, they’re in impoverished areas, they’re not worried about their future or they can’t because they’re trying to survive in that moment. So my job is to give them that hope.”
Impact of Being a Father and More Inside His Daily Life
Rose sometimes gets scared thinking about the future for his son, P.J., who turns four next month. He thinks about the recent racism and police brutality dominating the national conversation, as well as the increasing poverty and violence in Chicago. According to the Chicago Tribune, in July there were 65 fatal shootings, the most for that month in the city in 10 years. Overall, more than 2,600 people have been shot this year in the city.
Rose makes it a point of speaking with P.J. about important issues, and watching educational programs with him.
“My job is a little bit different now that I have a son, so it’s having talks with him,” Rose said. “You want to protect him a little bit, but you’ve got to let him go at a certain age. And who is he going to be around? Is there any way that I can stop him from being around police brutality, dealing with racism, how to deal with racism, how to deal with police brutality? There are other ways than just arguing at that moment, which we talk about, because you never know these days.”
A major influence on his fatherly approach is close friend Noah, who started his NBA career in Chicago one year before Rose arrived in 2008. With P.J. in mind, that’s a big reason why Rose likes being around Noah, who’s expecting his first child soon.
“I think about Joakim a lot when it comes to my son because Jo was somebody who was a privileged kid,” he said. “Arthur Ashe found his dad [as a tennis phenom at 11 years old]—some historic stuff. [Noah] had a chance to go an opposite way, and he made it to the NBA. He was a silver-spoon kid. So he’s going to be the example that I show [P.J.], like no matter what he did, he worked his butt off and he stayed true to himself and he made it this far. It’s bigger than basketball between us two. I got his back and he’s got mine.”
On an off-day for Rose, “it’s his day no matter what,” he said regarding P.J. They like to wrestle, play soccer and basketball, and overall enjoy having fun outside together. Last month, Rose even took him to see his favorite musical artist, Drake, in concert at Madison Square Garden, where the performer saw them in the crowd and brought them both on stage. Reggie said after that moment, P.J., who had been previously shy in crowds and would not show his face or hold on to his father’s leg, is now more confident on his own in public.
“I want to him to be able to look back at it, like, ‘Man, my dad was pretty dope, involving me in everything he did,'” Rose said. “If P.J. plays basketball or whatever he does, I’m just going to make sure that I give him all the opportunities and make sure that he touches everything, so he can see what he likes and what he dislikes before he actually chooses what he’s going to go with. My job is just to support him.”
When Rose is not palling around with P.J., he play darts and ping-pong with family and friends. He recently got a dartboard in his house in LA. Reggie and McClanaghan call Rose, who doesn’t seek attention from the media, a jokester around his close circle of family and friends who he’s opened up to over time.
“Derrick is just a silent assassin. He just lets his game do the talking,” McClanaghan said. “But he’s a fun guy to train and a fun guy to be around. When he got hurt [starting in 2012], it was tough not being in the gym with him. I will always say if he retired tomorrow, we’d still be very close friends.”
The Rose family’s biggest pastime is getting together at their mother’s house in Chicago, where they reminisce about life before the NBA over Brenda’s ham, turkey, greens, mac and cheese and all types of cakes.
“It’s almost like a Thanksgiving dinner when she knows all the boys are coming over,” Reggie said.
Rose also likes documentaries—the last one he saw was Murph: The Protector about the late Navy SEAL’s courage and commitment during Operation Red Wings in 2005—and reading books, such as Driven by Eternity: Making Your Life Count Today & Forever. He also enjoys an uncommon facts book.
“It’s nothing but facts in there, like crazy facts about the world that you won’t even think about—from peanut butter to spaghetti. It’s an actual read, 250 pages,” he said.
His latest fix is all of Malcolm Gladwell books. The last one he read was David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. He went through some of them while he was traveling to and around China and South Korea last month for his annual summer promotional tour with adidas.
“This summer has been the most I’ve read,” he said. “It just clears my mind, I don’t have to think about anything. It sharpens everything, it makes my interviews better.”
There is an overarching theme of Rose’s recent book interests: batting an internal demon and wanting to reach his best potential.
“I remember last year I could tell, he was kind of doubting himself. And I just told him, ‘You’ve got to break yourself down to build yourself up,'” Reggie said. “So basically those books are like a mental thing because at the end of the day, everybody wants to get to a level of greatness. The physical part of it, if you look at his body, he’s great—even when the Knicks took the physical. So sometimes it’s just more mental more than anything.”
What Reggie sees in his youngest brother now more than anything is that he’s as happy as the day he was drafted.
“Trading him gave him the push because through life he’s always been labeled as an underdog,” he said. “So I just feel like by him going to New York, that gave him the push to rebound his career. And I think that he’s going to be the Derrick Rose that came in the league in 2008 and that people in Chicago remembered him as.”