Because nothing lasts forever, particularly NBA careers, players leave as quickly as they arrive. Did anyone notice Monta Ellis wasn’t in the league this year. Or, Brandon Jennings. While role players exhaust their moment, elite players are the exception. They are just too talented to leave the stage before they turn 30 years old. But as of March 2, 2018, Derrick Rose is an unemployed point guard in a league that has a point guard romance.
If it seems unbelievable and shocking that 29 year old Derrick Rose is not in uniform it is because it is unbelievable and shocking. Corey Brewer left one team, joined another. Joe Johnson left one team, joined another. Trevor Booker left one team, joined another. Ersan Ilysova left one team, joined another. Marco Belinelli left one team joined another. Shabazz Muhammad left one team, joined another. Brandan Wright left one team, joined another. All were bought out and found employment within a 48 hour time span. But Derrick Rose is a man without a team, a lone wolf on the outside. He is an old player at 29 years old. The league that he once owned is doing fine without him which is the saddest part of the Derrick Rose saga. Derrick Rose isn’t even missed.
Derrick Rose has become an answer to a trivia question: who was the youngest MVP in NBA history? A second question follows: who was the only MVP to take an in-season hiatus with two different teams?
It feels as if Derrick Rose is being punished for what he did when he walked away from the Cavs, as if doing it to the Knicks was almost expected giving their dramatic swings of heaven and hell. But a team with LeBron James doesn’t reward committment lapses. You are held in contempt. Now the league is taking that same vacation from Rose that he took from it. They are re-evaluating Rose and finding him not really necessary.
The verdict is pretty transactional. Not much market out there among the elites for Rose, and so he waits. But one last question. Why would a contender want Rose considering what we’ve seen of his half in, half out mental approach?
This is the Derrick Rose story of 2017-18. He can’t shoot the three ball. His offensive rating is a throw back to his just-finished-rehab-days, not even cracking 100. But let’s say he was a victim of the Cavs dysfunction and no one thrived in that mess much less newcomer Rose. His 117 defensive rating and 11.6 PER means that Rose has lost his glamour, touch, exceptionalism and a bunch of other adjectives.
It hurts to say this but Derrick Rose is not an All-Star player anymore. He was treading water with a random highlight here and there as he beat his man off the dribble to get to the rim. Maybe that happened two or three times a game. But the rest of the Rose pacakage was mired in inconsistency. It wasn’t just the horrible three point shooting which has plagued him most of his career but the last four seasons he couldn’t crack 30% from behind the arc. That’s not all. He made 25% of his shots 3-10 feet and his long two’s weren’t much better. Worse, he was only shooting 30% on jumpshots and his 4th quarter shooting was a grotesque 29%. That’s why he doesn’t have a job. He can’t even be called a specialist anymore.
How did it come to this, how did it happen that a MVP who everyone penciled in as building a Hall of Fame career abruptly slide so ubiquitously into anonymity where GM’s aren’t feeling Rose, not at all?
In a twisted way, Rose was punished by his own success. When you look at the post-modern NBA you are looking at a NBA Derrick Rose helped invent. He entered the league as the number one pick and slashed his way to the rim, his torque a thing of wonder and beauty, a quick and limber slasher who no one could stop. Until his body sent him a message about all that speed. It couldn’t support the Rose who was never a jumpshooter; his body, in an act of defiance, said to hell with it and just quit.
Because Rose has walked away from two teams in two years, it is logical to assume Rose’s psyche is what teams just don’t want to deal with. No one knows if he is in or out. His game is problematic too. He struggles with versatility. Speed in the wonder years with nothing else to support it is the death of the perfect player. It is the old Derrick Rose we miss and long for, forgetting that person is gone. It is the new Derrick Rose that has people yawning.
When you look around the league you see a NBA that is filled with dynamic and skilled perimeter shotmaking point guards or defensive ball hawking guards who make life difficult. Derrick Rose is neither. His shot is spotty and he doesn’t stretch the floor despite his ability to get to the rim. He doesn’t defend at all. If he is aware of what he has lost, it is hidden in a mask of placidity. It doesn’t change the facts. He is on an island, frustrated. It makes sense considering who he used to be, how he used to dominate NBA images. But now Derrick Rose has exited stage left. His career is in no-man’s land limbo as he is thrust to the sidelines to wait it out, retire or try a comeback in 2018-19.