Derrick Rose, returning to MSG on Tuesday for the first time as an opponent in nearly five years, said there are no hard feelings toward the Knicks or Tom Thibodeau after their separation in the summer.
Despite a report the Knicks were open to re-signing the fan favorite after declining his contract option, Rose said he was informed by the team “they were moving on.”
And with 15 seasons under his belt, Rose, 35, said he was debating his basketball future.
“Around that time I was still trying to figure out if I still wanted to play,” Rose told The Post, acknowledging the thought of retirement for the first time. “Just trying to figure out my route, if I wanted to stay or leave.”
Rose stayed in the NBA. He resurfaced on a two-year fully guaranteed contract with the Grizzlies, where he’s been dealing with injuries but also needed on court because of extended absences to Ja Morant and Marcus Smart.
In New York, Rose didn’t have a basketball role last season.
He was appreciated for veteran leadership — lauded up and down the roster for his professionalism — but only logged 27 games at 12.4 minutes per.
It was a letdown given the expectations, with Rose entering that campaign fully recovered from ankle surgery, slimmed down and eager to contribute.
But Jalen Brunson became a star and Immanuel Quickley/Miles McBride took up the backup minutes. Thibodeau, who has coached Rose for nine seasons on three different teams, kept the former MVP out of the rotation through the playoffs.
“I haven’t talked to Thibs since Jalen’s wedding (July 29). But it’s good,” Rose said. “He sent me a bottle of champagne for my wedding. LIke a vintage bottle, too. So it’s love. That relationship, it won’t be strained. Even when they said they’re going in a different direction, I can’t be mad at Thibs for that.”
On Thibodeau’s Moet gift, Rose was clearly impressed.
“I didn’t know he had that in his game,” he said.
Rose also backed the idea for Thibodeau staying in New York long-term.
Thibodeau’s contract expires in 2025, and, since NBA head coaches rarely operate on expiring deals, it’s likely a decision on his future will be made before next season.
“You look at his résumé,” Rose said. “You look at how comfortable — the guys who are on the team, how comfortable they are playing with him. They’re showing improvement every year, too. He’s put them in the right position for sure.”
On his own career, Rose understands the departure from New York underscored that he’s in the unpredictable part of his career.
“It feels weird but at the same time knowing and understand the business, you’re not going to be in one place your whole career,” he said. “With me, I’m kind of becoming a journeyman. It’s part of the deal.”
And he’s embracing it.
“Hell yeah. I’ve been on (five different) teams, something like that,” he said. “And still trying — with longevity, that comes with becoming a journeyman. You look at Vince Carter. You look at how many teams he played on, the years he played. It just makes sense.”
Rose’s Knicks career spanned four seasons and two stints. The first, which began in 2016 and was marred by controversy, was regrettable with a civil rape trial in the preseason (Rose was found not guilty) and briefly going AWOL.
The second stint started exquisitely, with Rose turning back the clock during the pandemic season to earn himself a final big payday from the Knicks.
It helped Rose appreciate the city. His son even played for the Gauchos.
“I really appreciated my second time back. The first time, I was going through a lot of s–t,” Rose said. “Second time, I was able to have my son here, he grew up here, my other kids, they love it here. I was able to build relationships that I still have to this day with neighbors I thought I would never have. It was great.”
Rose, who sat on the bench last season with Evan Fournier, said he feels for the Frenchman (who remains out of the rotation and on the trading block while being paid about $19 million) but put the situation in proper perspective.
Years and experience have given Rose that.
“Living in gratitude. [Fournier] could be anywhere else in the world,” Rose said. “For the city that you live in, the paycheck that you get — to just cheer, be a great teammate, where else can you get that type of money from?”