The Derrick Rose career hasn’t been easy but with the way he played last night you couldn’t tell he has been through some things. Repeatedly, he drove to the rim and finished. More than once, he dribbled past two defenders like they were made out of paper, he elevated and laid the ball in the cup. He ran the floor the way you were used to seeing Rose run the court. His jump shot was a mess and his point guard game was average but a long time ago speed made Derrick Rose a star and it is still there, at least after one game.
Watching Rose weave and cut, it didn’t seem possible his preseason was spent in a Los Angeles courtroom. He looked fresh and in shape. In fact, taken on its own, a lot of the Rose history doesn’t seem quite fair. It was a perfect beginning for Rose when he was selected by his hometown team, the Chicago Bulls, who somehow, someway, sneaked into the lottery’s top spot. Everything seemed preordained for him when he was drafted in 2008.
Derrick Rose has never been a stranger.We knew him from the title game, one he lost in overtime. He burst on the scene with his quickness to the rim and his floater over bigs. He was incredible to watch. He made jaws drop with his performance against the Celtics in his first playoffs ever. He was Rookie of the Year. Then he was the league MVP in 2011 and the Bulls won 61 games. At that point everyone wrote Rose’s name in the going-to-be-in-the-Hall-of-Fame book. His shy personality endeared him to fans who were tired of the arrogant NBA gifted athlete. Derrick Rose was humble and he was local. He was a kid who didn’t use the media to line his pockets. He just wanted basketball. He loved his mother. That was the story.
In his early years, like Jordan twenty years before, losing was tolerated because all the great players lost. And they overcame it. But for Rose, there was a complication. The injuries started. A knee in the playoffs. Then the knee again. Then the knee was tweaked. His coach was fired. There was another star of the team. His game changed. He couldn’t play every single game anymore. He was trying to return to form but his defense was terrible. He couldn’t guard drivers and he wasn’t the quick blur to the rim anymore. Add in an eye injury, a hamstring injury and Derrick Rose wasn’t so lucky anymore.
He spent these last two weeks successfully defending himself in a sex trial where the details of his private life were front and center, repeatedly ripped apart and analyzed. Rose seemed unfazed by the drama, repeating his innocence over and over. When a jury believed Rose and not his accuser, Rose took pictures with the six women and two men on the jury and said, “I want to put this behind me.”
Isn’t that the Derrick Rose normal? Putting somehting behind him. All the injuries. The real or fictional beef (believe who you want) with Jimmy Butler. A coach exiled. A new coach who Rose seemed to like playing for. A goodbye to the city of Chicago. A rape trial.
Derrick Rose is 28 years old but his NBA life has aged him. With everything he has gone through and overcome, he feels like he is 35. And now he is in the biggest media lens of all, New York City.
The Knicks haven’t won a NBA title in 43 years. Unlike Chicago, there are no fond memories repeated over drinks. If you remember that ’73 Knicks team with Bill Bradley, Willis Reed and Walt Frazier then you are probably someone’s grandfather, in your sixties, and you are probably not active on social media, and you probably don’t waste your breath (or time) reminding the current Knicks players of a standard (you set) they have to live up to because let’s be real, what is the Knicks standard?
Derrick Rose will turn the page from his Bulls career, sort of. He is on his third coach in three years but he is reunited with Joakim Noah. As the starting point he will be asked to move the ball and use his athleticism to create mismatches, either as a driver and passer or as a pure scorer. Last night, he proved that was still possible.
This is the last year of his deal, this is an audition for Rose, not just for the Knicks but whomever.
With Rose on the perimeter, this Knicks team has the possibility of drama central. There is Rose. There is Brandon Jennigs. There is a disappearing Courtney Lee. There is Carmelo and military dissing Noah and Kristaps Porzingis and a coach that is supposed to get them all on the same unselfish page but as a head coach Jeff Hornacek has never been to the playoffs.
This year begins like a lot of Rose years post knee-injury. Questions. No answers. Turning the page. Putting something in the rear view mirror. Trying to remind people he still is a quality point guard. Perhaps he isn’t the Hall of Fame point he was projected to be but the former MVP is in New York hoping to revitalize his career. He still has speed and hops to elevate and finish.
Turn the page. Start over. Remind everyone that Derrick Rose used to be a special player. Once upon a time. His game will say what words cannot. Derrick Rose has a new normal.
photo via llananba