Derrick Rose keeps underdog mentality heading into wild offseason in Chicago

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Can the Chicago Bulls become Jimmy Butler‘s team if Derrick Rose is still on it?

That question — and the evolution of the team’s roster to fit the style Fred Hoiberg wants to play — promise to make this an interesting and tumultuous offseason in Chicago.

Rose doesn’t want to talk about any of that. He never does. All he would say in an interview with K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune is that he will work to get better for next season, and he’ll deal with free agency in the summer of 2017 when his contract is up.

“I’ll think about that when that time comes,” Rose said. “As far as right now, the only thing I can think about is this offseason. I’ve had that mentality ever since my injuries. I learned to deal with reality and live in the moment. I feel I’m doing all I can for this team, myself and my family. And that’s all I can control right now….

“I sometimes feel people forget I’ve endured three surgeries, three rehabs. But even when I was younger, I always had the underdog mentality. People always would put people in front of me. I always had to fight my way to the top.

“In this league, having the success that I had so early and then having the injuries that I had, it kind of put me in the same place. I’m familiar with it. It’s not foreign ground. I’ve been here before and there’s nothing but hard work to get back to the top.”

Rose played 66 games this past season — more than in the three previous seasons combined — and overcame an orbital eye fracture to average 16.4 points per game on a true shooting percentage of 47.9 percent (below the league average) while adding 4.7 assists a night. His shooting numbers were a lot better after the All-Star break, with the facial injury healed and his legs under him he averaged 17.1 points a game and shot 37 percent from three.

He’s still a quality player, but he’s not a franchise player anymore. Three knee surgeries robbed him of the explosive athleticism that set him apart and made him an MVP, a max salary guy that was a fan favorite around the league. Now he’s a good player, not great. The question is fit. Of course, it was hard for anyone in Chicago to find a steady role or fit this season.

The Bulls are expected to see if there is a trade market for him this off-season, but at $21.3 million it will be tough to find a taker even if it is the final year of his contract (and other teams are flush with cap space). Rose likely remains a Bull.

Expect Rose to keep his head down and keep working. (Although, if he does get moved it will be interesting to see what he says on his way out the door.)