- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAS VEGAS -- Derrick Rose texted LeBron James and talked to Chris Bosh about coming to Chicago, but in the end, the face of the Bulls franchise remains a 21-year-old point guard whose confidence in himself and his team was not shaken by any free-agent snub.
"I want to be that guy," Rose said Tuesday in an interview with ESPNChicago.com before the start of Team USA's training camp. "I want to be the reason why the Bulls are back to what they were [during the Michael Jordan era]."
"Why wouldn't I want to be [the face of the franchise]?" Rose asked. "That's the point of playing the game. That's the greatest thing right now.
"I came to a team where they didn't make the playoffs, not for a couple of years. No one was really interested in the Bulls like that in Chicago, not like [it was during the Jordan era]. And I'm making it back [to being] exciting. I'm from Chicago, [and] it would mean a lot if I would just bring back one championship there, or even get past the first round. The city would go crazy. So for me to even bring that team back to like the old days, it would mean so much to this city."
That doesn't mean Rose didn't try to do some recruiting. He texted James off and on throughout the free agency period, and he figured James' decision to come to Chicago was a "no-brainer." Same goes for Bosh, with whom he spoke during the period.
So when James made the announcement that he was headed to Miami, Rose had the same feeling that many Bulls fans shared: He was surprised, but he didn't think the world was coming to end.
"Yeah, [I was surprised]," he said. "But the season must continue. It's just going to be fun. The East is just going to be fun this year, but it's going to be tough."
Last season, Rose became the Bulls' first All-Star since Jordan was selected in 1998. And while he wants to lead the Bulls back to prominence, he shies away from obvious comparisons.
"Noooo," he said with a laugh. "I'm not even near him, not in the same shoes as him, not even close to him. Not even be mentioned with his name. Not yet, until I win a couple of championships. So until that day, that's when you could even mention my name with his."
As much as Rose may shy away from Jordan's shadow right now, he doesn't sound scared of becoming the next great Bull.
"It should be a good thing," he said. "It's something I'm not scared of. That's why you play the game."
Does he wish he would have done even more to recruit James to Chicago?
"If anyone knows me, especially in my hometown, they know that I don't like being in the public like that or getting all the attention like that," he said. "To me, I think it was a no-brainer, [but] he made the decision."
"I think we made the right moves," Rose said. "We got Boozer for the half-court game in the playoffs. The fast-paced game is not always going to be on your side, so we got somebody we can throw it to in the post.
"With Brewer and with Korver, [they are] just guys that like running, shooting, athletic slashers. And C.J. Watson, who just signed, he's a guy who can [play either backcourt position]. And he's the type of player where he's smart. I hear he's a good guy, and we need him."
What the Bulls really need this season is for Rose to take the next step in his progression, which began with rookie of the year honors, followed by his All-Star selection. And if you couldn't tell already, he is confident he can deliver.
And that confidence has been bolstered by spending countless hours in the gym working on his long-distance shooting.
"I know that if I extend that, I'll be a tough player to guard in the NBA, and it will open other people up," he said.
In the short-term, Rose wants to make Team USA and win a gold medal at the World Championships in Turkey this September.
The bigger picture is clear. He wants to return the Bulls to the elite level. And while some view the Bulls as having struck out in free agency, Rose views it as an opportunity to prove the team had someone all along who could lead that resurrection.
"It makes me feel a little bit better that they really believe in me and have trust in me about decisions that they make," he said. "It just means a lot, man.
"A little guy coming from the South Side of Chicago got his own team. It shows that just hard work and dedication really pays off."
Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.
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