MIAMI (AP) — The first thing Derrick Rose did in his second stint with the New York Knicks was start handing out assists.
And that was before he even played.
Rose made his second Knicks debut Tuesday night in Miami, scoring 14 points in 20 minutes in New York’s 98-96 loss to the Heat. He hadn’t even gone through practice with the team yet but it’s not like he didn’t know the plays; this is his third go-round with Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, after they were together in Chicago and Minnesota.
“It’s obviously someone that I’m familiar with and we’ve been through a lot of things together,” Thibodeau said. “But the biggest part is what I felt he can contribute to our team. And I’ve always been partial to good players. If someone is a good player, I’m interested. And I think he’ll add a lot to our team. I know his character. I know the type of teammate he is.”
Those teammate skills went to use right away. Rose met up with the Knicks on Monday night in Miami, found the only rookies on the club — Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin — at dinner, gave them his phone number and told them that he’s available for anything they need to know.
“He’s here to help us,” Quickley said. “He’s here to help us grow.”
He’s back to help the Knicks win again, too.
“I believe I’m a winner,” Rose said. “I mean, I know I’m a winner.”
Rose didn’t get near the playoffs in his first stint with the Knicks — New York went 26-38 in his 64 appearances during the 2016-17 season, the last with Phil Jackson overseeing things for the franchise — and the last time New York appeared in the postseason was 2013. But after a trade with Detroit earlier this week, the 33-year-old Rose is set to assume the role as New York’s savvy veteran, the only former All-Star now on the current Knicks roster, obviously the only former MVP as well.
“He definitely can add quite a bit to that team,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “One, the partnership between he and Thibs has had a lot of success, so they both feel confident in that. And with a new team, new leadership, it helps to have familiar faces that understand the culture and what they’re trying to drive. And Derrick is just a heck of a player. When he’s healthy, he really moves the needle.”
Rose was with Thibodeau for six seasons in Chicago — including the 2012-13 season that he missed because of a torn knee ligament — then 41 more games over parts of two seasons in Minnesota, and now they’re together again with New York.
Rose checked in late in the first quarter Tuesday; he made an immediate impact, with the Knicks outscoring Miami by 11 points in his first 11 minutes.
He told Thibodeau that he was ready.
“I worked my butt off. I stayed in shape,” Rose said. “That was one of the things that I told Thibs, with me coming in, that I was going to be a pro. Even though I wasn’t playing in Detroit, I was still practicing with them and conditioning whenever I got the chance.”
Rose and Thibodeau have had great success alongside one another. Rose won the 2011 NBA MVP award, capping his first season under Thibodeau and a 62-20 season for the Bulls. The Bulls finished No. 1 in the Eastern Conference standings that regular season and did the same the next year — the 2012 playoffs being the ones where Rose blew out his knee.
Including playoffs, Rose has played 256 games with Thibodeau as his coach. He’s averaged 21.0 points and 6.3 assists in those games on 43% shooting; under other coaches, Rose has averaged 17.6 points and 5.2 assists on 47% shooting.
“I think he’s learned a lot about how to manage his body,” Thibodeau said. “I think he’s in great shape. He’s lighter than he’s ever been. So, I think he’ll have a great impact on our young guys in terms of how to navigate the league, how to overcome adversity, that sort of thing — and understanding the game.”
Rose was mentioned as a trade candidate for other teams, but said Tuesday that New York was where he wanted to be.
He said it feels like family.
“I still can’t believe it,” Rose said.