John Calipari: Derrick Rose ‘Still Thinks He Can Be the Best Point Guard’ in the NBA

Bryan Brandom
(Photo: Getty)

The New York Knicks haven't had a point guard reach the All-Star game since Mark Jackson in 1989.

Not that the newly acquired Derrick Rose is a shoo-in for the February classic in 2017 or anything like that, but it goes to show you how long it's been since the Garden had a talented point to call their own.

And while Rose almost definitely will never sniff the heights he reached as a player five years ago, don't tell him that. According to his college coach John Calipari, Rose still thinks he can be the best in the game at his position.

"I just got off the phone with the kid, and here's the deal. He loved Chicago, it's where he grew up, he will always think of himself as a hometown kid," Calipari, who with Rose led Memphis to the national championship game in 2008, told Mike Lupica. "He loved his time there. Loved being a Bull. But he is so excited about this next phase, I can't properly describe it to you.

"And let me explain something to you: He still wants to be the best point guard, and thinks he can be the best point guard. Everybody knows about the injuries. But what they don't know is that this kid keeps working his butt off to get back. And will continue to work his butt off. Don't tell him he can't get back to where he was, because he believes he can get back to where he was. That is what the kid is chasing. And guess what? Even if he's a little bit below that? In New York? Are you kidding me?

"You know what I just told him on the phone? 'I need tickets, you got me?' He laughed and said, 'I got you, Coach.' I told him, 'Don't make me buy season tickets, because I will if I have to.' Because I am going to be at Knicks games this season, rooting for Derrick. He is one of the great people I have ever coached and one of the great teammates."   

The Kentucky coach is confident the former Chicago Bulls point guard can return to his MVP form.

"Yes. Straight up," he said. "And he is driven to get back there."

Calipari also said the Knicks will have to convince him to take it easy on the workouts.

"You know what the Knicks will be stunned at? How driven he is," he said. "They will be amazed at how disciplined he is. You know what they're going to be telling him? 'Get out of the gym.' I don't care what they care what they had to give up to get him. The only thing that matters is that they got him."

After some improvement in 2015-16, there's a chance Rose can display a flicker of the player he once was. If he does, the Knicks would have the early in with the former MVP when his contract expires after the coming season. If he doesn't improve, or—and at this point it's something Knicks fans should brace for—he gets hurt, having unloaded Robin Lopez's contract for Rose means the team could have boatloads of cap space in the summer of 2017, which features one of the strongest free-agent classes of recent memory.

Of course, having cap space in 2017 would mean not overpaying players in this year's very mediocre free-agent class. And that's something for which Knicks fans probably shouldn't hold their breath.

 

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