After tearing his ACL in the playoffs a couple of years ago, Derrick Rose missed all of last season to recover physically and mentally. So far this season he played 10 of the 11 games for the Chicago Bulls, injuring his opposite knee on yet another non-contact play. When he tore his ACL, the Bulls had game one in the books against the 76ers, when Rose drove to the hoop and stumbled after a jump stop (or power hop). Last night against the Blazers he cut backdoor and the ball got stolen on a pass intended for him, then he turned up the court in transition before dropping to the floor. Today after Rose underwent an MRI, the news is bittersweet because an MCL tear isn’t as major as an ACL tear, requiring less recovery time. We have seen several players go through this horrible sequence of events, such as Grant Hill, Baron Davis, and Greg Oden.
My initial reaction reflects on a personal level. I was born and raised a Chicago Bulls fan, and rarely do I go out and get someone’s jersey, but I got a Derrick Rose one. He has won rookie of the year with a couple of all-star appearances, and in his last full season he beat out the king, LeBron James for the MVP throne. Rose willed the Bulls 60+ wins in back-to-back seasons, in large part to head coach Tom Thibbodeau’s defensive genius. Offensively, he was the engine, the catalyst, the go-to guy, everything. The sad thing is, he was improving every aspect of his game, even coming into this season although he was working at a gradual pace. Of course I’m one of those fans wishing him a speedy recovery while hoping he gets to extend his career into his 30s (currently 25).
He’s young and could very well persevere through these couple years of major setbacks, disheartening even. If he can’t physically continue at a high level that’s one unfortunate thing, but the kid will give it his all to recover and get his mind right with optimism. We have witnessed players like Chauncey Billups and Baron Davis play at a high enough level without being fast, relying on fundamentals and their basketball IQ. He could join that list, we all have to stay tuned for what is next in the story of Derrick Rose. The NBA will miss his presence as will Chicago, but we have seen guys like Paul George fill the spotlight void and the Bulls have strung together enough wins to make the playoffs and be somewhat of a threat. This time around, the expectation is for him to return, but that does remain to be seen.
On a basketball level, he could go one of two ways as a player, even a combination of things. So he may lose some speed and athleticism which has made him one of the most explosive and dynamic players, let alone point guards, to ever grace the hardwood. When he returns he might in fact come back faster than the aforementioned Billups or Davis, but injuring both knees will force Rose to adapt his game from his once, MVP form. positively speaking, his fundamentals as a point guard could improve. He on was the right track of already doing so, now he will have to be more of a student of the game than ever before. Perhaps he becomes a better shooter from both mid-range and beyond the arc, being able to hit along the perimeter will make him a step quicker against defenders that have to respect his shot. This would open up the lane for him to look for more passing lanes to teammates, thus increasing his assists with improved court vision after studying.
The other way he can go is similar to Dwayne Wade, developing a post game with the ability to get to the free throw line almost any time he wants. He could then slide over to the shooting guard spot, something I’ve been clamoring for since before his MVP season. At the time my reasoning was to alleviate defensive attention from him playing on the wing and cutting around picks, which he can still come back and do. He hasn’t gotten to the line with regularity like Kevin Durant or LeBron James so he could improve in that manner. If he really is slowed down by a large margin, he can focus on the defensive end while being a second or third option when his team has the ball. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s better than not playing at all, and that’s if it even gets to that point. His situation is far from being resolved, but definitely expect any storybook or positive ending to be scripted in Hollywood and viewed on the big screen.
Nonetheless, hopefully Rose has a conversation with some of his predecessors that went through his pain. Maybe the Black Mamba, Kobe Bryant gives him a ring. This might be kind of out there, but why not reach out to San Antonio Spurs coach, Greg Popovich, about being a better basketball player when healthy? We shall see how the Bulls monitor the situation this time around.