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When he got to Memphis, he grew even more deferential. Rose was so quiet that teammates could not hear him call plays. "What's wrong with you?" teammate Chris Douglas-Roberts asked him last fall. The Tigers did not know what to make of a blue-chipper who covered his eyes when his highlights came on TV and bowed his head when he was praised in a press conference. They appreciated his modesty but wondered about his maturity. Nicknamed Pooh for his sweet tooth, Rose ate so much candy at the Final Four that he had to miss practice because of a stomachache. That weekend he also said he was not ready for the NBA—Rose averaged 14.9 points, 4.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds in his one season at Memphis—suggesting that backup Andre Allen was a better one-on-one player, a generous but preposterous evaluation.
Rose becomes animated only when discussing his shortcomings. When Bulls assistant Del Harris approached him this season to discuss a mistake, Harris could barely get a word in. "I know, I know, it was terrible," Rose told Harris. "I can't believe I did that. I should have been over there, and the guy was open, and I missed him." Harris walked away, his job done for him. "He is harder on himself than any coach," says Harris.
Vinny Del Negro has given Rose a forum to vent, using a system he learned from his first NBA coach, Dick Motta. Del Negro presented Rose with a stack of questionnaires before the season, to be filled out after every game. "Each one has six questions," says Del Negro, Chicago's rookie coach. "What offensive sets worked well against this team? What defensive sets were they in? Who did you guard? Was he a post-up player? What was effective and what wasn't? What did you learn about this team, and what did you learn in transition?" Rose and Del Negro go over the questionnaires on flights, then Rose puts them in a binder so that he can look back at his answers before rematches.
During the Bulls' loss to defending champion Boston in their second game, Rose noticed something about the Celtics that did not necessarily fit on the questionnaire. "They never stopped talking on the court," he says. "They were aggressive with everything, always showing emotion. That's not my way. But to be a leader, I've got to do it."
When Jordan arrived in Chicago in 1984, the Bulls were loaded with recent top 10 picks, among them Orlando Woolridge, Quintin Dailey and Sidney Green. "Michael really wanted to fit in and be one of the guys," says Sam Smith, who covered the Bulls for the Chicago Tribune, "but it was visible early on that he was the most talented." In order to make the playoffs, Jordan could not worry about offending teammates. He had to take over.
This year's Bulls are also stocked with top 10 picks—including Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah—and Rose is reluctant to overstep his bounds. He buys the team doughnuts before practice and carries luggage on road trips, traditional rookie duties. But for Chicago to make a run at the postseason, he must be more than a caddie. Just as Rose carried Memphis in the second half of the NCAA title game, scoring 14 points in an eight-minute span, he has proved that he can do the same for the Bulls. In a 98--91 win over the Dallas Mavericks last Thursday, the rookie dropped 14 in the third quarter on three driving layups, two pull-up jumpers, an offensive rebound of his own miss, and a pair of free throws.
Rose still needs work on his range, but he is a natural penetrator, with a thunderous first step and a fearless streak in the lane. While other point guards settle for floaters, he attacks with double-pump layups and jams. "He may already be the best finishing point guard in the league," says Noah. After Rose scorched the Hawks for 26 points on Nov. 11, Atlanta forward Marvin Williams said, "He's so strong and explosive, it's hard to even think of him as a point guard. I'm an opposing player, but tonight I was also a fan."
WHEN ROSE met with the Wasserman Media Group in Los Angeles last spring, agent Arn Tellem asked if he wanted to play in Chicago. Rose laughed. The Bulls had only a 1.7% chance of winning the lottery. But he appreciated Tellem's optimism and signed with WMG, choosing former Bulls point guard B.J. Armstrong as his representative. When the Ping-Pong balls bounced Chicago's way on May 20, Derrick called Reggie. "Can you believe it?" he asked.
Of all the brothers, Rose is closest to Reggie, the one who protected him from street agents and college recruiters and who now shields him from ticket requests and friends looking for handouts, the kinds of distractions that have doomed other hometown stars. When Rose signed his first contract, a two-year, $10 million deal with team options that could make it worth $22.5 million, Reggie forbade him to buy a mansion. Derrick instead purchased a town house in Deerfield, Ill., the suburb where the Bulls practice. "I wouldn't want a mansion anyway," he says. "That's too big for me." Reggie helped him order furniture, pick out linens and set up the cable.
Rose's town house is about 35 miles from Englewood, the South Side neighborhood where he was raised. Englewood has a long history of gang violence, and it has been in the news recently for the triple homicide of singer-actress Jennifer Hudson's mother, brother and nephew. All of Rose's immediate family have moved out of the area, and they're staying away for the time being.