HONOLULU — Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose has established himself among the elite NBA players in just three seasons. His salary, however, doesn't come anywhere near the top in the league, let alone his own team.
Because of rookie salary scale restrictions, the league's reigning MVP earns about $5.5 million a season — far less than other NBA stars. The scale is on the table between the league and players' association during its extended labor dispute that could result in more games being canceled and might wipe out the season.
Rose, in Hawaii this week visiting military personnel as part of the Hoops for Troops USO Tour, will undoubtedly earn a lot more when he becomes a free agent at the end of his four-year, $22.5 million contract, depending on the new agreement, of course.
"I wish it was back like where it was in the old days where there wasn't a cap," Rose told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "Back in the day, they were giving guys coming out of college with multimillion-dollar contracts, so why stop it now? The game is growing. There's no need to stop it."
The union would like players to get out from the rookie salary scale quicker than five years. On Monday, union executive director Billy Hunter mentioned Rose and Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin during an hour-long podcast with ESPN.com as examples of players who are underpaid because there are still locked into their scale figures.
The league said it has proposed a new bonus pool for top-performing rookie scale players who earn league honors as such as MVP or are on the All-NBA first, second or third teams.
Rose said the labor strife is about getting an agreement that's fair.
"Greed is not on our side," Rose said. "We're not greedy. ... What they're trying to do to us is dead wrong."
The sides met for three days with a federal mediator before talks broke down Thursday after players said owners insisted they commit to a 50-50 split of revenues before any further discussions about the salary cap system could continue. Though staffs from the sides have met since, no full bargaining sessions have been held and the NBA is expected to announce soon that more games will be canceled.
"I know that everybody is waiting for us to play, but it has to be on the right terms." Rose said.
Rose has been waiting and spending most of his time training in Los Angeles with other NBA players, including Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford, who also is in Hawaii.
"We owe it to ourselves and others like the guys who are coming up to have a good deal," Horford said. "I felt like in the past, the players have given up a lot to the owners and I just feel like it's excessive that way they're trying to do it ... At the end of the day, if you look at who's asking for money and all that, it's the owners. They're the ones that want to make all the drastic changes to all these things that haven't really been an issue."
Rose, who turned 23 this month, is the youngest MVP in NBA history and joined Michael Jordan as the only Bulls player to earn the honor.
"The most difficult part is, every day you wake up and you see games canceled," he said. "The fans are fiending for it. I know we're itching to play. And I know that it'll hurt the game because our fans are loyal and for us not to be playing, I think it'll hurt them more."
He is coming off a season where he averaged 25 points and 7.7 assists, while leading the Bulls to a league-high 62 wins and the Eastern Conference finals. The Miami Heat overwhelmed the top-seeded Bulls by dominating the fourth quarters, with LeBron James containing the Bulls' point guard.
Rose said he couldn't wait to get back on the court to silence some of his critics and test some of the things he's been working on since the playoffs, such as conditioning, isolation skills, going against bigger players and learning how to get fouled.
"I put a lot of work into my game. I take my basketball life very serious. That's just my life," he said. "For people to still talk negative about you, I think that's just life, period. You just go with it. But I feed off of it."
As far as his first trip to the islands, Rose said he was humbled by his welcome and meeting the troops. Rose and Horford are joined by Atlanta's Joe Johnson, Charlotte's D.J. Augustin, Sacramento's Tyreke Evans, New Jersey's Brook Lopez, Phoenix's Robin Lopez, Washington's JaVale McGee and Miami's Mike Miller. They are scheduled to visit military families, hold clinics and play games at an Army, Navy and Marine Corps bases.
Earlier this week, they met with some soldiers wounded in action.
"They're around my age and younger than I am," Rose said. "Just seeing that they're fighting for us, I just let them know we're not taking them for granted."
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