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2006, Nov. 7: San Antonio Express-News – Chance for new success humbling to Suns Rose

June 24, 2008

Brand-new Phoenix Suns guard-forward Jalen Rose watched his old team on
TV on Monday night. The New York Knicks were being schooled by the
Spurs at Madison Square Garden.

Late in the first half, Knicks coach Isiah Thomas dusted off Malik
Rose, the longtime Spurs fan favorite who had been buried deep on
Thomas’ bench. With his first playing time of the season matching him
against Tim Duncan, Malik Rose immediately used his combination of
guile and energy to frustrate Duncan and invigorate New York. The
Knicks made a game of it before finally losing, something to which they
had better grow accustomed.

Watching from his new surroundings in the desert, Jalen Rose couldn’t
help but reflect, both on his own good fortune at escaping the Knicks
and on what he is certain is Malik Rose’s frustration at being stuck.

"Once you play at the highest level, in the Finals, like me and Malik
have, you know that’s all there is to strive for," Jalen said via cell
phone as he boarded a bus for his first road trip with the Suns.
"That’s what it’s all about."

Rose knows something else: For the first time since the Pacers traded
him to the Bulls in a multi-player, trade deadline deal in 2002, he has
reason to believe he may actually get to play in another Finals. The
Suns are off to a slow start, 1-3 entering tonight’s game against the
Spurs at the AT&T Center, but they remain one of the teams with a
legitimate chance at getting to the Finals from the Western Conference.
They have been to the Western finals the past two seasons, something no
other Western team can say, and they still have the reigning NBA Most
Valuable Player, Steve Nash.

"At the end of the day," Jalen Rose said, "winning is what it’s all
about. I’d love to get back to playing for a championship. Getting
traded from Indiana to Chicago to Toronto to New York put me in a long,
uphill battle.

"Being waived by New York gave me options."

Good options. Rose got to choose between two potential NBA finalists:
the Suns and the Miami Heat. Still owed $14.5 million by the Knicks
after agreeing to a contract buyout, both the Suns and Heat offered him
nearly the same deal, something slightly above the NBA’s veteran
minimum, about $1.5 million.

Why choose the Suns rather than the defending champs?

"It was a very hard choice," Rose said. "It was two entirely different
styles with two great coaches. But at the end, the Suns haven’t (won a
championship) yet, and if I can be a part of a situation that resulted
in something like that, it would be tremendous."

The Suns’ up-tempo style was a big factor, too.

"Everybody’s happy playing Mike D’Antoni’s style," Rose said, "whether
you’re a high school player, college, pros, coaches. Get it up and get
a great shot in tempo. Who doesn’t want to play like that?"

D’Antoni is happy to have Rose, just the sort of versatile playmaker
that thrives in his system. It won’t be a shock that Rose ends up
playing some point guard if Marcus Banks does not better absorb the
Suns’ system than he has through the preseason and the first four
games. Banks was signed primarily to allow D’Antoni to lighten Nash’s
work load over the course of 82 regular-season games.

"We think," D’Antoni said, "Jalen can be another guy who makes plays for us."

Rose can play the point, big guard and small forward. He has started at
all three spots at various times in his 13-season career.

Last season, the Suns found their most valuable backup, Tim Thomas, on
the NBA’s scrap heap. Sent home from Bulls camp because coach Scott
Skiles did not like his practice habits, Thomas was signed for a
pittance by the Suns after the Bulls bought out his contract.

Does Rose want to be this season’s Tim Thomas?

"I don’t know about that," Rose said. "I’m definitely looking to be this season’s Jalen Rose, that’s for sure."

This season’s Jalen Rose, he said, is humble. That is not something you
always could say about him. A member of the famed University of
Michigan Fab Five team, Rose never lacked confidence that often
approached hubris.

Being plucked from the waiver wire after all those years on lottery teams has given him a different outlook.

"I was totally humbled by the whole thing," Rose said. "When you’re on
a losing team, you even stop looking at the standings. To have this
opportunity to win again is humbling."

By Mike Monroe: