Whatever You Do Don’t Call It a Comeback

Six players have scored 50 points or more in a single game in the 2018-19 season. Derrick Rose is one of them. Rose, who many left for basketball dead coming into this season, may in fact win Most Improved. His 19.1 ppg is +10.7 over last season. His 49% from the field is a career high. Same with his 46% from three. He’s playing 30 minutes and putting up ballin’ numbers. His offensive rating is 118, an increase of +21 over last season. He has re-entered the 20.0+ PER club for the first time in 7 seasons.

But what about shooting, the Rose weakness?

He shoots 49% at home and 48% on the road. Even when the Wolves lose, Rose is doing his making shots thing, 47%. He’s taken 72 shots at the rim and 69 threes, both efficient. On jumpshots, Rose is making 45%. He has only dunked once. As the game wears on, he gets stronger. 54% in the 4th quarter. 50% in the 3rd quarter. When the score is within 5 points (or less) he has taken 157 shots and made 51% of them.

Derrick Rose just turned 30 years old. Technically, he is still in his basketball prime. Everything that was said about Rose when he was breaking ankles and finishing at the rim while dudes just watched him blow by is not what they are saying now. What they are saying now is guard him in the midrange. Put a hand in his face beyond the arc. Dude can stroke it. Whatever quickness he lost because of the repetitive injuries, he’s figured it out, which, is what great players do. He knows how to play with his limitations. And he has worked hard as hell on his game. The player most thought would just walk away and quit because he was tired of the roller coaster is having his best season since his Chi-town heyday years.

If his game has matured, so has Rose who has been through a lot of ups and downs and around the blocks. After scoring 50, his emotions that had him openly weeping, (and everyone understood why given that the Rose career was hijacked by injuries and bad situations), presented to the world the new Derrick Rose. His gratitude to Minnesota and his teammates for what they allowed him to do, meaning let Derrick Rose be Derrick Rose, this version of him, was powerful and dramatic. It felt like this is Derrick Rose all grown up.

We met him first in the national championship game when he missed those free throws and the game went to overtime because Memphis wouldn’t foul and Mario Chalmers hit a shot to send it to overtime. He was the number one pick for his hometown team, a shy kid from Englewood. His first time in the playoffs, he posted numbers only a rookie Lew Alcinder (Kareem Abdul-Jabaar) had posted: 36 points in Game 1 in Boston Garden. He added 11 assists. He was Rookie of the Year, the savior of the post-MJ Bulls, and more importantly, he introduced guard speed into the game. No one could beat him to the rim and to top it off he was explosive. Three years later he was league MVP.

That was the ecstasy. The agony happened in the final minutes of a playoff game, a ripped ACL that would lead to more injuries, stops and starts, trades, Rose walking away and not communicating with teammates. His resurrection with Tom Thibodeau was seen by many as mercy. Thibs, the father, helping a former son out.

This summer Rose and the Wolves agreed to a one year $2.1 million contract. In a league where what you are paid signals what you are worth, it felt like pity money. Rose, at the end of his usefulness, just hanging on.

And then he scored 28 points in the third game of the season, making 40% of his threes, a Rose weakness. Eleven days later, he dropped 50 which will happen if you make 61% of your shots, 57% of your threes, play 40 minutes and take 30 cracks at the basket. After scoring 50 points, the next game he scored 3, which made all the I-told-you-he’s-not-all-that crowd gloat. But then he dropped 21, 31, 21, 21 and 23. All while the Wolves were circling the drain with Jimmy Butler drama and Karl-Anthony Towns looking like he wanted to escape the world. Derrick Rose was consistent.

He’s not a perfect player at 30. His defense is garbage. He doesn’t have the lateral quickness to stay with defenders and to put it mildly, you can put the ball on the floor and take him to the rack. But on the other hand, you have to guard him. You have to be conscious of his spots on the floor because the Derrick Rose career has suddenly changed.

Adidas never canceled the mega Rose contract, even with a gang rape charge he beat, an appeal pending. His fans never lost hope and that night of 50 they were ecstatic Derrick Rose has joined the party again. He’s returned to the NBA.  Sort of.  Not really.

Derrick Rose never left. He changed. That’s all. Change is good. Derrick Rose change, though unexpected, is giving Minnesota a breath of fresh air. Dwyane Wade famously said “knocked down seven times, get up eight.” It’s the Derrick Rose mantra too. Knocked down. Getting up. Playing a different way. Being a factor all over again.