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Derrick Rose finally appeared to run out of gas Wednesday night, and it turned out that he was a bit dinged up from his heavier workload earlier in the Knicks’ playoff series against the Hawks.
The 32-year-old Rose started for the third straight game Wednesday night, but he was on the bench for all of the fourth quarter of the Knicks’ season-ending Game 5 loss at the Garden.
“I had some knick-knack injuries last game, got hit in the knee. Just had to play smart, tried to give it a go, and it just didn’t feel right and Thibs decided not to play me in the fourth,” said Rose, who finished with six points on 3-for-11 shooting in 27 minutes. “As far as the season, I can’t complain.
“I came to a winning team. It was a great group to play with. They love playing with one another, great young energy, the synergy they built was unbelievable, unreal. It’s just tough when you lose.”
Rose ended up becoming a huge component of the Knicks’ 41-31 turnaround this season after he was acquired in February from Detroit — for little-used guard Dennis Smith Jr. and a second-round pick — for a second stint with the organization. It also was his third alignment with Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau after previous stops together in Chicago and Minnesota.
The former league MVP averaged 14.9 points per game in 35 appearances (three starts) for the Knicks down the stretch, finishing third in the voting for NBA Sixth Man of the Year despite also missing several weeks due to a bout with COVID-19.
Though leading scorer Julius Randle struggled to find his offensive touch throughout the series, Rose led the team with 22.8 points per game through the first four games against the Hawks. He replaced slumping Elfrid Payton in the starting lineup in Game 3.
Rose now will be among several Knicks veterans headed for free agency the summer, but he’s unsure of the team’s plans at the position.
“You know how that goes, man, that’s not up to me,” Rose said. “That’s up to the front office. They got big plans. Who knows if I may be back. I don’t know. I’m going to let my agent and them talk about it. But it’s really not up to me at all. We’ll just leave it like that.
“But I would love to come back. Who wouldn’t want to play for the Knicks or be in New York? I would love it, but at the same time, I know it’s out of my hands and they may have bigger plans.”
Asked if he believes the Knicks have the pieces in place to take another step forward following their first playoff appearance since 2013, the 13-year veteran replied, “Of course, I’ve told you that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to come here. Because it has a great core. A young nucleus like that, for a guy my age, who wouldn’t want to come and try to build on top of that? But like I said, it’s all out of the players’ hands.”
As for facing and falling short against emerging star point guard Trae Young in this series, Rose offered nothing but compliments to the player who quieted the Garden crowd with a remarkable five-game performance.
“He was great. Great basketball,” Rose said. “Prior to even playing against him in this series, I’ve always been a fan of his game. I’ve always told him whenever he plays, he’s the new era of point guards.”
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