(AP Photo / Nam Y. Huh)
MIAMI (AP) — Derrick Rose emerged Tuesday morning from the tunnel connecting the visiting locker room and the court where the Miami Heat play their home games.
He surveyed his surroundings, and made no effort to hide his enthusiasm.
“For us, to be playing our first game here, it’s unreal,” Rose said. “And I hope everybody enjoys it.”
Ring night for the Heat will be Rose night for the Chicago Bulls, who get their best player and 2011 NBA MVP back on Tuesday night when the Eastern Conference rivals open the season against one another.
The 25-year-old Rose will be playing in his first real game — not counting preseason exhibitions — since a knee injury derailed him in April 2012. A year and a half later, Chicago’s superstar point guard is back, saying he’s better.
Rose believes there is no more of a fitting opponent to debut against than the two-time defending NBA champions, who will be hoisting their newest banner in an elaborate pregame ceremony.
“They’ve got something that we want, so we can’t hold back,” Rose said Tuesday before the Bulls went through a shootaround practice. “They have great players on their team. They’re trying to three-peat. They’ve won two already, so there’s a little bit of a rivalry there.”
That’s also a little bit of an understatement.
The Bulls’ postseason runs in 2011 and 2013 ended against Miami, and the teams make little secret of their collective dislike for one another. On Monday, Heat star LeBron James — the winner of the four of the last five NBA MVP awards, with Rose claiming the other in that span — said after Miami practiced, “We don’t like them and they don’t like us.”
Rose didn’t necessarily disagree.
“It leads to this where it feels like you hate one another’ Rose said, “but you’re just trying to get the same thing.”
Rose was asked about if this is the best Bulls team assembled since the Michael Jordan era (he seems to think so) and if he plans on recapturing his MVP form.
His answer there was clear — that’s not the trophy he wants.
“I’m just trying to play the game,” Rose said. “Of course I want to come out here and be the best player, but my whole goal is to come out here and just try to win a championship. … Winning MVP or whatever, I’ll take it, don’t get me wrong. But my job is to come out here and just try to win a title.”