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MSG dispatches: ‘Vintage’ Derrick Rose is gone, but teammates are excited by his recent play

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Rose says judge him on whether or not he can hoop, not on whether he’s “Vintage Derrick Rose.”

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at New York Knicks Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation’s Kristian Winfield gives us the low-down from inside the Knicks’ locker room following New York’s 107-103 win over the Trail Blazers.

If you ask Derrick Rose, the question shouldn’t be whether he’s playing like his 22-year-old self, the youngest player to ever win the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award in 2011.

No, Rose is 28 years old now. He’s endured three devastating knee injuries and was dealt over the summer from his hometown Chicago Bulls team. So the question, in his mind, isn’t whether he’s “vintage Derrick Rose.”

“The question should be, ‘Can I hoop?” Rose said. “And I can hoop.”

Rose put all doubts to the contrary to rest with a flurry of acrobatic aerial attacks in the Knicks’ 107-103 win over the Trail Blazers. Or as Carmelo Anthony put it, “He was aggressive. That’s the Derrick I want, and I need and we all fell in love with."

He took Damian Lillard off the dribble for a gorgeous up-and-under finish at the rim:

He did it again, this time gliding through the air for the finish :

Lastly, there was this shot to seal the deal—a step-back jumper over Mo Harkless to give the Knicks a four-point lead.

Courtney Lee, who worked out with Rose at UCLA over the summer, said it was good to see his point guard wow the Madison Square Garden crowd.

“I knew he was capable of [playing like this],” Lee said. “Derrick’s a guy that’s got a lot of weight on his shoulders. So when you see him go out there and make plays like that and hit a big shot for us down the stretch, you can only be happy for him.”

Rose finished with 18 points (8-for-15 shooting), five assists, four rebounds, two steals and a block, and the Knicks improved to .500 for the first time since Oct. 29. He said the difference on his final, game-sealing shot was getting his legs back under him.

“I finally shot the ball up. It’s all legs, man,” he said after the game. “Your whole life, you’re used to a one-two rhythm. You have one knee injury and that kind of resets everything. Let alone you have three. And you gotta find your one-two.

“How you high gonna jump on your shot, how high you gonna jump on your threes. I missed preseason. All those little things count. Like this entire time, these three or four years, I’m playing catch-up. So, just working on my game every day and putting in deposits, that’s all it’s about.”

Justin Holiday says he can tell Rose has had a summer of being completely healthy. He was only in Chicago for the final two months of the season before being packaged in a deal to the Knicks, but Holiday says Rose’s recovery time is much better than last year.

“It would be times I felt last year where after a game [Rose] could be a lot more sore or have more aches and pains after games. He had things that were nagging him,” Holiday recalled. “And so now, he can play a game, and you can see him the next day and he looks like he didn’t even play a game the day before.

“He plays like he’s been through so much. I think he’s thankful that he is playing. It was a time when he wasn’t. It was a time when he was hurt. It was a time when people were like, ‘Will he be able to?’ And he always knew that he would get to this point, but it was a long journey to get here. And it shows in his play. It’s kind of when someone makes a song about something that went down in their life. You can see it in his play.”

But the question, again, goes not back to “vintage Derrick Rose,” but “can Rose hoop?” And while the answer may, indeed, be “yes,” Rose says he’s not near where he sees himself just yet.

“I’m still far away from where I wanna be, the player I wanna become,” he said. “But in the meantime, I just want to win. I really labeled myself as a winner. It’s nothing better than winning. And with this group, we’re just trying to figure things out. So we’re just being patient.”