Derrick Rose’s heart always will be in Chicago. You can’t blame the man.
It was in the Cubs’ city (Cubs fans never thought they’d read that clause in a sentence) that Rose was born and raised, learning the game he loves at Murray Park, a small outdoor basketball court in Englewood.
It’s a similar story as those of New York playground legends that made it to the NBA – Kenny Anderson, Ron Artest, Bernard King, Stephon Marbury, Kemba Walker and hundreds of others.
No matter where those New Yorkers played professionally, you couldn’t take the Big Apple heart out of the kid.
“Chi-town,” Rose told reporters earlier this week in Detroit. “It’s still the same with me, man. It’s never going to change.”
But New York Knicks fans need not worry about where Rose’s head and soul reside now.
“I was on the phone with him when the news broke that he had been traded to the Knicks,’’ John Calipari, Rose’s college coach at Memphis. “He was screaming, screaming in happiness.”
“He knew what a great situation it was. He knows how smart and passionate New York fans are. It’s the perfect place for him to reboot his career.’’
Which is exactly what Rose, the 2009 NBA Rookie of the Year and 2011 NBA MVP is doing.
Going into Friday night’s homecoming game for Rose in Chicago against the Bulls, the Knicks point guard is averaging 16.3 points in 30.8 minutes with 16 total rebounds, 10 assists and three blocked shots, including one baseline rejection of Mike Conley.
Rose is doing this while adjusting to new teammates, a new coaching staff and an abbreviated preseason.
He has shown flashes of the remarkable explosiveness he showed early in his career before knee injuries, that required surgery, slowed him.
Calipari, now the coach at Kentucky, used the word ‘reboot,’ but when Rose talks about his role on this Knicks team, it sounds more like a rejuvenation.
Unlike in Chicago, where he was the homegrown face of the team, Rose does not carry that burden with the Knicks. This is Carmelo Anthony’s team and maybe, one day, Kristaps Porzingis’ team.
Rose knows this. He embraces it.
“I don’t have to do the things I did in the past with the team I have right now,’’ Rose said. “I’ll look crazy going out there shooting some of the shots I shot with the Bulls. There’s no need for that.”
Rose said after the team’s home-opening win over the Memphis Grizzlies that he’s not thinking about his individual stats – at all.
But he was pleased that reporters noticed he had significantly cut down on his turnovers. After committing four turnovers in the season-opening loss in Cleveland, Rose has turned it over a total of four times in the last three games.
“I’m happy you noticed that, man,” Rose said. “I’m happy you noticed that. Yes, I was able to sleep, especially being a point guard.
“Of course you can get sidetracked by all the matchups that we have every night, who we play, like the Chicago game, this and that, I’m just trying to get better every night. I’m waiting for this to come together.”
Calipari has no doubt that Rose will flourish with the Knicks. He remembers recruiting Rose and being amazed at the grace and humility with which the Simeon Career Academy star carried himself.
“Every interview he did, he always had a teacher or a teammate sitting next to him on the podium,’’ Calipari said. “Teammates loved playing with because he never made it about himself. He made it about the team.
“Don’t get me wrong. He wants to be the best player on the court. It drives him. But more than anything, he wants to win. He’ll do whatever he’s asked to do to win. New York is going to love him.’’
ZOMBIES ARE COOL
The best two costumes I saw at this year’s Halloween Parade were donned by Amanda Scianta and Hillary Kelly, both 13. They went as Knicks Zombie Cheerleaders.
“We thought zombies are really popular and so are the Knicks,’’ Scianta told MSGNetworks.com.
“I want to be a Knicks City Dancer when I’m older,’’ said Kelly. “They wear the coolest outfits. They should do a zombie act.’’