Derrick Rose has only participated in one dunk contest in his life. And he can’t even remember exactly when. Arguably the most athletic point guard in the NBA and one of the League’s most explosive players, period, Rose has a strong resume of in-game dunks — this season alone he’s had notable bangers on Greg Oden, Zach Randolph and Goran Dragic — he’s just not a contest dunker.
But that won’t stop him from being a tough dunk contest judge. Rose and Chris Paul and part of Powerade’s Dunk Domination, where regular folks can send in videos of their best dunks to be evaluated by D-Rose and CP3. The winner gets a trip to Columbus, Ohio, for the McDonald’s High School All-American Game (March 31) and will help judge the national high school dunk contest.
Before his game against the Mavericks on Saturday, I got up with Rose for a few minutes to talk about dunking, and an up-and-down season in Chicago …
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Dime: So what are you gonna be looking for as a dunk contest judge?
Derrick Rose: I wanna see lots of flashy stuff. It can’t be nothing regular. It’s hard to impress me, so a lot of people might be mad at me, but I’m gonna be a hard judge. I wanna see something new.
Dime: Have you ever been in a dunk contest?
DR: Probably one time, but never again.
Dime: You had the dunk on Z-Bo, the one on Dragic, and the one on Oden. Which one of those sticks out the most?
DR: All of ’em (laughs). Too bad the one against Memphis and the one against Portland didn’t change the momentum. It’s just exciting to make a play like that — the fans love it, the team loves it. At the time it’s the right thing to do.
Dime: I’ll take the Phoenix one over the others. Walk us through that play.
DR: I didn’t think he was gonna try to block it. At first I saw him running kind of hard, but I didn’t think he’d make it. When I saw him jump, I just took it back as far as I could. I was kind of surprised when I hit it, because he’d hit me a little bit under the basket. When I saw it go in, I was just too excited.
Dime: Was making the All-Star team a specific goal you had going into this season?
DR: Definitely. I set pretty high goals for myself. I want to be the best player at my position, and hopefully be the best player in the NBA. I want to win MVP numerous times.
Dime: People were ready for you to blow up this year, but you started off slow. Was that mostly due to the ankle injury you had in the preseason?
DR: Yeah. That was my first time really being injured. I was trying to get my explosiveness back, but my ankle was messed up. I had to wait for it to heal. Then we were going back and forth, winning and losing. After I got healthy we went on a little winning streak and got back in the playoff race.
Dime: Since last summer the Bulls have lost Ben Gordon, John Salmons and Tyrus Thomas. Those were three guys on the other end of a lot of your assists.
DR: It’s crazy when people get traded and you’d kind of gotten used to them. But that’s how the NBA is — you’re not gonna play with the same people every year. We had the new guys come in, and thank God they’re vets who have been in the League for a while. They’re just basketball players who don’t care about stats or things like that.
Dime: Does that force you to change your style or your mindset on the court, even in the middle of the season?
DR: Yeah. Like last year when we had Ben, he’s a guy that’s gonna score a lot. So with him gone, I had to get used to shooting a lot more. Eventually I got into that aggressive mode, always attacking all the time.
Dime: You’ve been all over the place as far as endorsements, commercials and everything else. You’ve got Powerade, adidas, 2K Sports, you’re on some NBA.com ads…
DR: It feels good, man. You walk out of the house and see a giant billboard with your face on it, or your mother or your brother is calling you saying they just saw your commercial, or somebody says they just heard you over the radio and you sounded good. That’s how you want it to be when you’re a little kid dreaming of being in the NBA.
The greatest marketing person in our sport is Michael Jordan. His marketing was just crazy, and being in Chicago, I saw that. He was everywhere, overseas and around the world. Everybody knows Michael Jordan. So there’s nothing wrong with having a lot of endorsements and marketing, as long as you’re still working hard.
Dime: As the reigning Rookie of the Year, who has your R.O.Y. vote?
DR: I’m picking Tyreke. He’s been doing a good job with all the trades they’ve had and injuries, and he’s playing the same way. Plus, he’s from Memphis, so that’s my guy.
Dime: Compare Tyreke’s style to Brandon Jennings and Stephen Curry.
DR: Brandon is very, very quick. Curry, he’s more shifty. He’s not as quick, but he’s got a lot of moves. Tyreke is kind of like that, too, but he’s bigger than both of them.
Dime: Physically, what’s the biggest difference between your rookie year and your second year?
DR: You just know how to save your energy. In training camp you learn a couple of tricks, like how to ice yourself. Every year you learn a little bit more about how to take care of your body. Some people like Kobe, they know they’re gonna play for (Team USA) right after the season and they really won’t get any time off. So you’ve gotta make sure you eat right, you lift right, and everything else.
Dime: A lot of people say you’re the most athletic point guard in the League. Who is the most athletic PG you’ve faced so far?
DR: Russell Westbrook. He’s real athletic, just attacking and being aggressive going to the hole and getting layups. He’s very explosive.
Dime: What do the Bulls have to do to secure a good playoff spot and get past the first round?
DR: First, we gotta stop people. We gotta defend. The way we play, our offense starts with our defense, and we’re not that good in the halfcourt. So we have to stop people to run, and when we run we can be very effective. Then, when we have teams down by 10 or 15, we have to find a way to take their confidence. Take ’em out of the game and stop playin’ with them.