| The Detroit News
After joining the Pistons last season, Derrick Rose found himself in an odd space. Although he had plenty of accolades in his NBA career, including a league MVP, rookie of the year and three All-Star selections, he wasn’t secure in his leadership role.
With other veterans such as Andre Drummond, the longest-tenured Pistons player and Blake Griffin, Rose didn’t have to step into the forefront as an outspoken leader. Drummond was traded at the deadline and new general manager Troy Weaver has gutted the roster, leaving only Rose as one of the few holdovers.
The Pistons drafted point guard Killian Hayes with the No. 7 pick, putting more of an onus on Rose to be a mentor to the 19-year-old who played in Germany last year.
Though the Pistons haven’t had a team workout in training camp, the process has begun.
“I already talked to him and told him that he was the future of the team and there’s no competing. My job here is to push him and groom him into a great player,” Rose said Saturday via teleconference. “I have to get on him in practice as much as possible because in the game, he’s a kid and coming from overseas and guys are going to try to play aggressive with him. So, it’s my job to play aggressive on him throughout this whole camp, so that when we get into a regular game, he doesn’t feel that much pressure.”
For Rose, 32, it’s not that he’s being put out to pasture, but as he enters the final year of his contract with the Pistons, it’s clear that he’ll be counted on to help usher in the new age after this year, which is clearly centered on Hayes and their other two first-round picks from this year’s draft.
In some cases, that can create animosity when there’s a tug-of-war between the young players and the veterans in a power struggle. That won’t be the case for Rose and Hayes, or any of the other vets. That seems to be the construction that Weaver chose in assembling this new roster the way he did.
“I’m really excited to play with D-Rose, being able to learn from him, compete against him at practice. It’s a great opportunity for me to get better and to learn really early. Without any Summer League or anything, the season is going to come really quick,” Hayes said recently. “So, being able to learn from this guy is really a blessing. I think we all grew up kind of watching Derrick Rose. It’s definitely going to be cool being with him.”
There’s a palpable level of respect there from Hayes and it’s reciprocated from Rose, who hasn’t been thrust into the role of a mentor in a number of years. Instead of grousing about it, though, he’s embracing the opportunity to help the Pistons however he can.
That could entail watching Hayes in the starting lineup, while Rose comes off the bench and provides a scoring punch that the reserve group needs. It could be just as much work and time off the court and in conversations with Hayes than lessons taught on the court.
“It’s learning one another. It’s been a while since I’ve had somebody like this under me. The last time, I had Marquis Teague from Kentucky and that was back when I was in Chicago, a point guard who came under me, Rose said. “Now that I have the opportunity again with someone like this, I’m very excited to see how hard he works, just the engine, the motor he has and to see what his game is, to see it up close.
“After that, I’ll be able to express how he should adjust to certain things. Whatever it is, I should be able to communicate that to him.”
It’s not a completely smooth transition for Rose, who is on his fifth team in his esteemed career. He’s beloved by NBA players young and old, but as he starts to wind down his career, he’s in a position to leave a legacy beyond his on-court accomplishments.
That seems to be the mandate by Weaver and the front office, to establish a culture built around the veteran players, while simultaneously leaning on the young players to take the baton in constructing the core for the future.
“Right now, my job is to try to help (Griffin) and help the team with being one of the leaders, one of the vets on the team and voicing my opinion when I see some things that aren’t good,” Rose said. “Or if I see guys that aren’t pushing themselves as hard as they could, it’s my job to voice my opinion or voice however I feel.
“Last year, I felt like I really couldn’t do that because it was my first year. So, with this being my second year, I’ve got a year under my belt, and I should be able to say something. I’m not the guy that’s going to come in and say something right off the rip, just off of what I did in the past. The past is in the past. I’m a different guy and I’m trying to take everything in and I’m very appreciative of that.”
It’s a philosophy that’s similar to what Miami Heat team president Pat Riley assembled — and that helped the Heat get to the NBA Finals this year, blowing by the likes of the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics, who were the favorites to challenge atop the Eastern Conference.
The Pistons’ talent may not be the same as Miami’s, with Jimmy Butler as the lead dog, but that model could be something to pattern their rebuild after.
“They have a bunch of young guys on their team, and they had (Butler), and he played a big role in pushing everybody. Pat Riley set a standard and Jimmy carried on that standard, and everybody else fell in line,” Rose said. “I look at that and when I look at our team, I think the same thing, where we have guys, but me and Blake have been through a lot of (things).
“We have a lot of experience and we give these kids a lot of knowledge, and it’s up to them how good they want to become. We’re going to do as much as we can do with pushing them, and trying to set the example for them. We’re just blessed to be in a situation with having young blood in the locker room, basically everywhere, just feeding off their energy and creating synergy.”
Rose isn’t in the twilight of his career yet, but he can do more to cement his legacy by what he does in what could be his final year in Detroit.