Derrick Rose opens up on returning to Knicks, reuniting with Tom Thibodeau and playing alongside Immanuel Quickley


Derrick Rose holds ball during pregame warmups

As a former player of head coach Tom Thibodeau‘s with the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves, Derrick Rose wanted nothing more than a chance to reunite on the Knicks.

Exactly a week after the trade went down, Rose reflected on last Monday’s deal. Evidently, an opportunity to play for Thibodeau — the former Bulls (2010-15) and Timberwolves (2016-19) head coach — on the ahead-of-schedule rebuilding Knicks (13-15) was more of a catalyst than a decreasing role with the cellar-dweller Detroit Pistons (8-19).

“No, it wasn’t that — I just wanted to play for Thibs, pretty much,” Rose said Monday. “I had a conversation with him, he brought up New York and I was just praying that the deal actually got done. But as far as for the future of that (Pistons) team, I didn’t think as far as the future because I just seen my role regress and that was pretty much it.”

Rose averaged 14.2 points and 4.2 assists in 22.8 minutes as a bench contributor in 15 of the Pistons’ first 20 games. Detroit did not play Rose for three games, then a trade to the Knicks for Dennis Smith Jr. and a second-round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft unfolded.

Rose signed a two-year, $15 million contract with the Pistons in July 2019. During his initial season with Detroit in 2019-20, he averaged 18.1 points and 5.6 assists in 26 minutes while starting 15 of 50 games.

Previously, Rose and Thibodeau overlapped in Minnesota for nine games of 2017-18 and then 2018-19. Rose was a three-time All-Star selection with the Bulls from 2010-12 — Thibodeau’s first three seasons in Chicago — including the 2011 NBA Most Valuable Player before a torn ACL and subsequent meniscus changed his career arc. But with the Knicks, where he spent 2016-17, Rose sees an opportunity to help accelerate what Thibodeau is building.

“I mean, in Chicago, that was his first time having a team,” Rose said. “So that was different. But in Minny, you could see that he was catching up with just the new league. There’s kids that’s in the league now. They’re young. They’re trying to figure themselves out. And Thibs has more patience than anything.

“Just being here, appreciating the situation, appreciating him a lot more, it’s a blessing to be here. But you could just tell that he’s just a totally different person now. He’s smiling. I’ve never seen him smile as much as he has right now. So it rubs off on me, feeling his energy.”

Through three games, Rose is averaging 14.7 points and 4.0 assists in 20.9 minutes off the bench, a key presence on New York’s second unit. That includes promising rookie Immanuel Quickley, whom Rose has blended well alongside. The Knicks are 2-1 since Rose’s arrival, with a chance to get a third straight win with Monday’s 7:30 p.m. road game against the Atlanta Hawks (11-15).

“I’m just naturally letting it come,” Rose said. “I’m not forcing it. I’m not trying to be too opinionated while I’m here. It’s only been three games. I’m trying to get guys involved. And the game will tell me what to do. And when I’m out there, I’m getting shots that I normally — that’s in my game. They’re giving me threes. They’re giving me my floater. They’re giving my pull-ups. And it’s just feeling that trust with my teammates.

“And of course with having Quick out there, I try to let him do whatever he wants — bring the ball up, whatever. Let him play his game. And with me being able to play off the ball, I think it helps because you kind of lose sight of him when he’s rolling like that. If anything I want him to be as aggressive as possible because with that second unit it clicks whenever he do got things going.”