I remember Derrick Rose going down with his ACL injury with little over a minute left against the Sixers in the Chicago Bulls first playoff game in 2012. At the time, I wrote an article wondering if Rose would ever reach the heights he appeared capable of after becoming the youngest MVP in league history.
It looks like we have the answer.
Actually, we’ve had it for a long time now. Rose looked to be a transcendent player, taking the point guard position to new heights as he recklessly streaked to the basket without thought of bodily harm. We never knew he was so fragile. The injury didn’t tell us that. It was in the aftermath where we learned the truth.
It wasn’t the constant breakdowns that alerted us. Instead it was the demeanor that changed from a cold-blooded killer who only wanted to win into something else. I remember the fearless Rose from when he came into the league. He said “I only want to win” to me and repeated it to anyone who interviewed him. It’s like he saw his mortality and became another person.
I was at his last Media Day with the Bulls when he talked about all the money out there in the league and how he couldn’t wait until he was a free-agent in two years to get his. That was after he already pocketed millions and millions from the Bulls and Adidas for his shoe contract. Winning wasn’t so important anymore. Going to meetings and watching his son PJ’s graduation several years away now took precedent.
I remember watching him shooting before games the year after his injury when everyone was speculating when he would return. Most prognosticators had him returning after the All-Star Game. I had no reason to question the speculation because he certainly looked healthy enough to play.
Instead, he sat out the rest of the seasona��including the playoffs. He was the healthiest player on the team at the time, but would not suit up. Even though doctors cleared him, he insisted he still wasn’t ready to play.
The injury took its toll more on the mental side than the physical. He lost the fire; the desire. When he looked at the basket, he saw dollars rather than points. He lost the spirit he grew up with that took him from the mean streets of Englewood in Chicago to become the first pick in the 2008 NBA draft. Living in Trump Tower shielded him from the realities of his life.
He was no longer the same player. In the locker room, he was harder to talk to. He kept his distance from reporters instead of welcoming the exchanges like he used to. He lived and was treated like a stara��though the shine was off.
Rose was Russell Westbrook before Russell Westbrook. They were both in the same drafta��Westbrook going No. 4. Westbrook kept his edge. He was hungry. He crashed to the basket just as recklessly as Rose had. But when he broke, he put the pieces back together and played. Westbrook became what Rose should have been.
When things soured in Chicago, the Bulls sent him to New York. He played better than expected between the usual injuries and strange disappearances, but the league was no longer clamoring for his services. Now he was on the outside looking in.
He finally accepted a one-year deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers for minimum coin. Instead of becoming a piece of a championship contender, he had more setbacks and was contemplating retirement. Cleveland released him and he ended up back with his first coacha��Tom Thibodeaua��in Minnesota.
It’s ironic he ended up with the coach who might have altered his career. The Bulls had the game in control when Rose went down with the injury. To Thibodeau, the outcome was still in doubt and the game is never over until the final seconds tick off the clock.
If Rose was seated comfortably on the bench at the time, he might be able to join every other MVP in the league in the Basketball Hall of Fame someday. Instead, he has the distinction of being the only one to win the award who will never see the inside of the Museuma��unless he buys a ticket.
It could have been different. It should have been different. We will never know just how good Rose would have been if not for that fateful day. It’s funny how things work out. He’s back with former teammates Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson in Minnesota. Except now he’s the player trying to prove he still has something left instead of being the star of stars.
Rose has come full circle. I can’t believe this is how he wants the story to end.