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The second rebirth of Derrick Rose is underway

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The Bulls star comes back again for a team that has changed and a city where he only needs to be himself instead of a larger-than-life savior.

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose's hair is longer and his shoulders are broader, but when the Chicago Bulls point guard folds his arms a certain way, you can still see a faint reminder of the player who was once best known for the being the youngest MVP in NBA history. Across his right forearm, Rose has the name of the Chicago neighborhood where he was raised: "Englewood," scribbled in a font that would make local graffiti artists proud. Across his left is the word "All-Star."

Rose started getting tattooed around the same time he began his ascent in the basketball world at Simeon High School. He still has a basketball-playing warlock tattooed on his shoulder with a play on the childhood nickname his grandmother gave him, "Poohdini." The city's skyline is on his right hand and an angel sits watch over his neck.

For Rose, the tattoos are an homage to his upbringing on Chicago's south side. For everyone else, they can help prompt the memory of the player he once was before multiple knee surgeries limited him to 10 meaningful NBA games in last 29 months.

Rose is sitting at a table for Bulls media day, a seemingly innocuous ritual that nonetheless played a crucial role in his own mythology. It was at this event four years ago when Rose openly asked, "Why can't I be MVP?" As he ponders that moment, Rose appeared to realize just how fast life can come at you.

"It seems far, man. So far," he said. "I know that seven years in, I haven't played in two years, so I should have two years on the back end for me."

Where he's going is anyone's guess. After a prolonged recovery from a torn ACL and another disheartening blow in the form of a torn meniscus early last season, Rose knows the team he left isn't the same one he's re-joining now.

Rose is different -- he's a father now, most notably -- and so are his Bulls. He's spent so much time away that the same player who has lived his entire life in the same city and incited a sports-crazy town like no one since Michael Jordan, is beginning his age-26 season with what feels like a fresh start. For both Rose and the Bulls, there could be no better scenario after all he's been through.

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(Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports)

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There is no corporation-approved hashtag for Rose this time around, no ad campaign triumphantly announcing his return. Most importantly, there's no false hope that he can play savior for a terminally flawed Bulls team that was just barely able to keep from being the worst offensive squad in the league without him.

It's the biggest difference for Rose. He no longer feels so burdened by his team, his city and his local celebrity status. For his entire career, Rose has felt an intrinsic obligation to all of the above.

He was surrounded by violence in Englewood as a child, an adolescence spent in one of the most dangerous parts of the country. Rose heard the gunshots. He knew about another Simeon star, Ben Wilson, similarly identified as a can't miss future pro, who didn't make it out of high school alive. From the gangs of his neighborhood to the street agents who tried to get a piece of him, Rose has always been a survivor. He's well aware of how lucky he is to have the gifts he possesses.

His burden on the court pressured him in its own way. The Bulls won the most games in the Eastern Conference the last two seasons Rose was (mostly) healthy, but they did it with only one perimeter shot creator. Rose had Keith Bogans starting next to him in the backcourt when he won MVP, a player who barely averaged over four points per game. In a true sign of how weak Rose's offensive help was, the Bulls almost never lost when Bogans scored a meager six points.

The Bulls signed Richard Hamilton in 2011 to give him a competent backcourt mate, but Hamilton was past his prime and couldn't stay healthy. The Bulls were only able to go as far as Rose could take them, and the toll of such an immense responsibility eventually helped break him. That's the past, a part of his career characterized by incredible peaks and spirit-crushing valleys. It's behind him now, and so is the two-plus years of rehab it took to get his body to where it is today.

"It feels like a new team," said Rose at the Bulls' new practice facility, which opened two weeks ago. "This is a new journey for me. I'm just trying to take it all in.

"I just want to be healthy. I think that's the only thing I'm worried about right now. I can care less about the awards, I can care less about any of the accolades or whatever. I just want to go out and win games."

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(via Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports)

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Rose enters the season with a gold medal for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup. He struggled shooting the ball -- making only 25 percent of his shots from the field across nine games -- but both Rose and the Bulls swear it was an invaluable experience for a star who had missed so much time.

The Bulls still don't have another player who can break down a defense as a ball handler after striking out on a highly-publicized free agent pitch to Carmelo Anthony, but they believe they've changed the complexion of the team enough to make life easier on Rose. When he was out, the Bulls' offense ran through center Joakim Noah, who established himself as one of the game's premier passing big men. This offseason, the Bulls added another gifted front court passer in Pau Gasol.

"With the way that Jo passes, it's just gonna make everybody's job simple," Rose said. "Me being the point guard, I'm going to get a lot of catch-and-shoot shots because of the way that he can find people people. I'm gonna have a lot of layups.

"With how fast I am and the way that people play me, I can go back door for a lot of easy baskets. We've got a lot of threats on this team, we just can't overthink everything."

The Bulls loaded up on shooting with rookies Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic and size with Gasol in part to alleviate some of Rose's workload. The Bulls now just want him to be another solid two-way player until he feels comfortable enough to take over the way he used to.

"All he has to be is the best he can be," Thibodeau said. "You have to be able to deal with the ups and downs of the season and coming back. I think he's mentally tough. He's dealt with a lot of adversity the last two and a half years. He's got a great resolve to him. And we know how important he is to our team."

Perhaps the Derrick Rose of old had to burn out for a new version to exist. The player, the team and the city might all be healthier for it.