The recent trade of Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks should come at no surprise to anybody at this point. We sometimes have the tendency to forget that the National Basketball Association is indeed a business and that these athletes are just simply commodities. That being said, it was also time to part ways. Every injury he sustained only further wore out his welcome. This is the era of replace it, not fix it. There is still time to grow and develop but perhaps a change of scenery is just what the doctor ordered.
I remember this young explosive guard from Simeon Academy of Chicago playing for the University of Memphis. There was something very familiar about his game. Rose was strong, fast and efficient with his dribble especially in transition. I told a friend of mine that his in-and-out dribble drive reminded me of Rod Strickland and with in minutes we spotted Strickland on the bench as an assistant. To this day I believe that the National Championship game between Kansas Jayhawks and Memphis Tigers was one the best games played in that it had a minimal amount of coaching and was locked into this transition based style from base line to base line. It showcased Rose’s explosiveness, athleticism and potential to be great in the NBA.
Rose’s talent was noticeable early on. He had the physique and acceleration of an NBA athlete but did he posses the skill? He earned the NBA Rookie of the year award and a first round playoff appearance for the Chicago Bulls against the Boston Celtics. It seemed like the sky was the limit for this young man. In the 2010-11 season, Rose led the Bulls to a 62-20 record and became the youngest player to have won the NBA Most Valuable Player award. The season would come to an end in the Eastern Conference Finals at the hands of eventual champions Miami Heat. The Chicago product was now the new face of the Bulls.
Suddenly, as luck would have it, after signing a five-year extension for $94.8 million, he hurt his left knee during game one of the first round playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers. Everyone held their collective breathes. An MRI later revealed a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament which caused him to be done for the rest of playoffs. With the advances of sports medicine and rehabilitation methods, his ACL surgery was not the end of his career. After being cleared by his physician, it made absolutely no sense for the Bulls to sit him out the entire 2012-13 season. Rust had set in the following season but it was to be expected. It was often said that it would be in his best interest to evolve his game into a mid-range shooter with better passing skills that could utilize his explosiveness when needed. One of the first things that new players must learn is the management of an entire NBA season and the toll it takes on their body. November 22, 2013, Rose injured his right knee against the Portland Trailblazers which resulted in a torn meniscus. Another surgery, another season, and yet another come back. February 24, 2015 brought another meniscus tear (medial) and another surgery but this time he came back after 20 games. He became only a shadow of what he used to be. Rose is now the punch line to some very cruel internet memes. It is definitely time for a change.
Every great player comes to this crossroads of his career where he must evolve or succumb to age, injuries, or the evolution of the game. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant went through it. Now it is time for Derrick Rose to transform. For years, many believed that Rose’s game would have to evolve because of how much he depended on his physical attributes. It wasn’t apparent until he became injury prone. Making the transition from the college game to the pro-game is a monumental feat in that you are adding at least 50 more games to your season, not to mention summer league, pre-season and post season games. Veterans of the league develop the skills to become efficient players, which allows them to become consistent players. This newfound productivity allows them to utilize their physical attributes sparingly in a calculating method that minimizes the toll on their bodies and solidifies their consistent play. A consistent 15-foot jump shot and a commitment to a more complex passing game would revolutionize his productivity.
The Knicks have hired Jeff Hornacek as their coach and he has gone on record to favor an up-tempo style of basketball. Hornacek refers to the style of play utilized by the Phoenix Suns that he actually played for in the mid 80’s early 90’s. “Statistics say in the first eight seconds, you shoot a much higher percentage,” Hornacek quoted. Although he acknowledges aspects of the triangle, he understands the importance of knowing your personnel and accentuating their unique abilities. Phil Jackson relinquished full control of the offense to Hornacek. “This is a coach who can teach and also has an idea of what kind of practice he wants to run and how he wants to do business,” Jackson stated. This seems like a prime situation for Rose in that he will have a fast paced offense which will allow him to assert himself in transition and a have coach that will know how to utilize those attributes. If Hornacek can retain the services of Jerry Sichting, a former NBA point guard, he could further develop Rose’s vision and passing angles.
It seems that Rose has embraced his change with no ill will towards his former city. The change of atmosphere will do his soul some good. New York provides for him a rebirth of sorts. He will become part of an established legacy of players and history. It is an opportunity to become part of an upstart team with a young star in Kristaps Porzingis by virtue of anchoring the veteran play of its most tumultuous scorer Carmelo Anthony, yet another hometown product. Although I don’t see who will develop his point guard game on the coaching staff, I do believe that Phil Jackson may provide tutelage of the soul that may lead him on his path towards technical enlightenment. There are no guarantees that this will work as there are no guarantees in life, however it’s the chance to re-invent yourself in a new city with a new fan base. We should all be so lucky! It worked for another Chicago product by the name of Tim Hardaway when he was traded to the Miami Heat from the Golden State Warriors. Good luck Mr. Rose. America still loves its underdogs and soon you will be able to add your story to that legend.