Derrick Rose: The Vegas Conundrum

Between a rock and a hard place is where Derrick Rose finds himself as he tries decide if he should attend the USA Basketball mini-camp in Las Vegas, Aug 11-13. The mini-camp will have the best young players in the NBA, all vying for a spot on the Olympic team. Consisting of non-contact workouts and a scrimmage, the mini-camp is three days of chemistry building as Jerry Colangelo and staff look over their options at the point guard position which has a depth of talent thick enough to cut with a knife. This much is clear, though. Colangelo has put the word out that the mini-camp is mandatory for anyone wanting to participate in the Olympics in Rio in 2016.

Rose missed the Olympics in 2012 because of a torn and ugly ACL injury and although he won a gold medal last year in the FIBA World Cup, it wasn’t anything close to Olympic competition, not in perception nor in reality. That Rose wants an Olympic medal makes him ordinarily ambitious and this is where it all becomes complicated because a summer without basketball stress only has an upside. Rose has to heal further. More time off is good for him and an added bonus for his body and by default it is excellent for the Bulls who are trying to recover from a disastrous second round playoff exit that they seemed stunned by.

Basically it’s a Solomon splitting the baby in half solution if Rose attends the mini-camp. Odds are Rose, barring another spill, will most likely be on the Olympic team. Attending the mini-camp nearly guarantees him a place but it also is inclusive of activity that has the likelihood of something freakish happening, ala Paul George last year. At the worst, Rose could injure himself again in a variety of ways. At best he could generate fatigue. In the middle is nothing, no further benefit and no further harm.

It brings up the eternal question about where an athlete’s loyalties should lie given the fact that we are not them and this is not our decision to make although we act like it is. It’s not skewing towards traditionalism and business to wonder if the team that has made an inordinate financial investment in Rose, and in Rose’s bank account, and has built the team around him should be prioritized as number one since Rose is the face of the franchise. But what does that really mean to Rose? Do the Bulls come first?

On the other hand, Rose has every right to want to experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of a gold medal while his body is still able to cooperate on that level. Representing the United States in Rio, competing for a gold medal, winning it, coming back to Chicago heroic and patriotic while still in his prime would be an extraordinary achievement, almost revolutionary considering everything that has happened to Rose these past few years. He is deserving of something good, right?

But, this is where it gets dicey for Rose and for the Bulls because we don’t get what we deserve. Often what is in the team’s best interest conflicts with players’ need to be part of something bigger than themselves. The Olympics is a fantasy rooted first in childhood and then attainable for the talented few. The multiple choice list of why Rose should take a step back is of a tortured physical history, two injuries, multiple setbacks, a year in which he shot 40%, Jimmy Butler sliding into his role as best player on the Bulls, and still a ton of questions as Rose struggled in consecutive games. Rose hasn’t earned the right to put his career on the line for a gold medal when the Bulls still have millions of dollars invested in him.

The Bulls did nearly nothing during the summer season besides re-signing Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy. Pau Gasol is 35 years old and his body has begun to fail over the past few years, all those lingering hamstring and foot and leg injuries. The Bulls need Derrick Rose to be Derrick Rose even if that really is a pipe dream; the fact is they are depending on Rose to anchor their backcourt fully healthy.

There is no reason why Derrick Rose can’t have both things, the Olympics and the Bulls. But life is just as much risk as it is reward. One hardly co-exists without the other, it is a constant negotiation and re-negotiation. The saving grace is the luck of the draw, something no one ever knows until after the fact.

And so it is that Derrick Rose must stare risk in the face and not be scared nor desperate and prove to himself first, and then the rest of us, it is not ridiculous. Looking forward is the whole point. The summer only has 8 weeks left before training camp begins for real. Rose found out the hard way he isn’t a machine, his body can be temporarily ruined. Will he give it a small test in ten days and make it to Vegas. My money is on the Rose who suddenly seems a little bit rebellious. I say he’s in Vegas and on the Olympic team.


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