CLEVELAND – In the hours before his Knicks debut, Derrick Rose took a fist and knocked it on the hardwood at Quicken Loans Arena. He had been asked if this was the longest period he hadn’t had a setback with his knees.
Rose, who admitted to “nerves’’ before his first game as a Knick, said his knee issues are so far in the past that he no longer thinks about them on the court.
That wasn’t always the case, Rose said. The Knicks’ new point guard and 2011 MVP underwent three knee surgeries in a 2 ½-year span from May 2012 to February 2015.
He’s been healthy since – the only on-court obstacle a fractured orbital bone last training camp. Off the court, he missed training-camp time this month for a civil sexual assault trial in which he was cleared.
“I haven’t had [any setbacks],’’ Rose said Tuesday as he tapped the floorboards. “It’s a blessing. Just happy I have chance with this great franchise and great guys.’’
After returning from knee rehabs, Rose always had to measure his movements. No longer.
“I’m not thinking anymore about it when I’m out there,’’ said Rose, who played 66 games last season. “Usually for me coming back, it was all about decelerating, slowing down, counting your steps. Now that’s out of my head. I’ve just been playing.’’
There’s always more work to be done to get back to the same strength level, according to Rose.
“You can always improve when you have surgery or any trauma to that area — you have weak spots in that area,’’ Rose said. “It’s all about hitting those weak spots with hard work like weightlifting, recovery massages to help strengthen those weak spots.’’
His conditioning may not be perfect, but his head is clear – even if the Knicks medical staff is monitoring him for stress-hormone irregularities.
Rose, 28, missed the final five preseason games defending himself in federal court in Los Angeles after being accused, with two of his friends, of gang rape by a former girlfriend, stemming from a 2013 incident.
Rose said he was feeling the “normal” amount of nerves at the morning shootaround at Quicken Loans Arena on Tuesday.
“I’ve been preparing for this moment a long time,” Rose said. “I can’t wait to see how things go out and shake off the rust.’’
This would be the fourth time in five years Rose faced a LeBron James team in either the season opener or home opener.
“He’s a great in this league, someone who accomplished a lot, and if anything, we can’t go around him, we have to go through him,” Rose said. “So it’s great we have him the first game around and get a chance to see where we’re at.
“It’s fun. It’s great for the league, great for us going against the champs,’’ Rose added. “If anything, it should help us.’’
Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said he will closely monitor Rose’s body language for signs of fatigue. Rose has been instructed to inform the coaches when he needs a rest after not playing since Oct. 4 in Houston.
“I think I should be fine,’’ Rose said. “I was working out in L.A. the entire time. Of course practice is different and more physical. Coach just said if he sees me tired out there, they’ll pull me. I have to indicate to him what’s going on.’’
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