Published December 21, 2011
DEERFIELD, Ill. – Derrick Rose was going down the list, thanking just about everyone who helped him become one of the NBA's best players, when he looked to his right.
Seated off to the side was his mother, Brenda.
"I think I can finally say this now. Mom, I finally made it," he said.
Rose, the Chicago Bulls' superstar point guard and the league's reigning MVP, agreed Wednesday to a five-year contract extension worth more than $94 million that kicks in next season.
It's fair to say Rose made it long before this latest news conference. The extension is just another stop in a rapid and steady rise from a tough neighborhood on Chicago's South Side to a starring role with his hometown team after being taken with the No. 1 pick in the draft.
He's gone from Rookie of the Year to All-Star to MVP in just three seasons, becoming the youngest player to win the award. That's why the extension was more a formality than a surprise.
The only thing missing from his resume is a championship and that's something he hopes to change in Year 4.
"He embodies all the characteristics that you look for," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "It's a lot more than the talent. The talent is the obvious part. Then, when you look at his will to win, basketball IQ, unselfishness, his humility — I think those are the things that you can build a championship-caliber team around."
The Bulls came close to winning it all last year, leading the league with 62 victories during the regular season and advancing to the Eastern Conference finals before losing to Miami.
That capped a spectacular season in which Rose showed up for camp wondering why he couldn't be MVP after LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh turned down Chicago to unite in Miami. Then, he backed it up with one of the best seasons by a point guard.
He averaged 25 points, 7.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds over 81 games, the only NBA player last year to rank in the top 10 in both scoring and assists. He also became just the fifth player in history (along with Oscar Robertson, John Havlicek, Michael Jordan and James) to post 2,000 points, 600 assists and 300 rebounds in a single season
More important to Rose, he led Chicago to its best season since the Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen championship era, and he joined Jordan as the only Bulls players to win the MVP award.
He keeps adding new wrinkles to his game, too. In the past, he extended his shooting range. This past offseason, he worked on his post moves.
"I don't think you can put a ceiling on what Derrick can become," general manager Gar Forman said. "It's scary to think that I think he'll continue to get better and better throughout his career."
The extension could bring some more pressure.
Rose shrugged it off. He said money is "the last thing I think about."
Even so, he has some ideas about how he might use it.
He mentioned pouring some of it back into his old neighborhood in Englewood, one of the roughest sections of Chicago. He pointed out a lack of indoor courts and after-school programs for youngsters in that area.
He also thought about how far he's come, going from there to here, and he acknowledged he's sometimes amazed. Along the way, he helped Simeon Career Academy win back-to-back state championships, then led Memphis to the NCAA championship game before the Bulls drafted him with the top pick in 2008 after defying long odds to win the lottery.
Rose is now all of 23 years old.
"Coming from where I'm coming from, I can't explain it," he said. "I really can't explain it. I never would have thought in a million years that I would have signed a contract like this, especially coming from an area where I'm from. No one from Englewood has ever been in my position so sometimes I think, 'Why me?'"
Forman thought about that day when the franchise's fortunes changed. The Bulls' director of player personnel at the time, he was at home and wasn't really paying close attention to the draft lottery. After all, the Bulls' had just a 1.7-percent shot at winning it.
"What I remember most about it is the ice cream truck was coming down the street right then," Forman said. "I went out with my two boys and we got ice cream to celebrate."
Rose will be approaching his 29th birthday when his deal expires, and he wants to spend his entire career with the Bulls "unless they trade me or something."
That seems unlikely. He was also asked if he thought about taking less money in order to give the team some extra salary-cap space.
"I don't even know how much I make right now, to tell you the truth," Rose said.
Forman pointed out that Rose made it clear he wanted to stay with the Bulls and didn't seek a player option.
"Derrick absolutely didn't want that," he said. "He wanted a full commitment to the Chicago Bulls and to stay in Chicago. To us, that's really special. He stepped up. The maximum length he could sign is what he wanted to sign."