Can we all just calm down a bit? I’m not suggesting a major attitude adjustment, but perhaps we can find it in ourselves to start looking upon Derrick Rose as a mere serial killer instead of the Antichrist. You know, baby steps, folks.
In all my years of writing about sports, I have never witnessed the kind of angry reaction Rose is enduring without it involving accusations of murder, animal cruelty, domestic abuse or some other repugnant behavior.
Is the Bulls point guard injury prone? Yes, he is. That obvious fact has been ignored in favor of debates about Rose’s fortitude, his priorities, his massive contract and pretty much everything else except his love of country, though I might have just planted the seed.
Is he soft? I don’t see how you fight through two major knee surgeries, the torturous rehab that goes with them and a string of nagging injuries, and be soft. I don’t see how you play as ferociously as he does whenever he’s on the floor and be soft. I don’t see how you face the challenges of growing up where Rose did on the South Side and be soft.
I see a guy who keeps getting hurt. That’s all.
Why him? I don’t know. It stinks, but life happens.
No, it didn’t help two weeks ago when a hobbled Rose said he needed to consider his post-career health while making decisions about his availability for games. It was a stupid, tin-eared thing to say. But there is no squaring what Rose said with how hard he plays when he’s in games. That’s the ultimate answer to all of his critics. He has always played hard. He has always played too hard. It’s something some of us pointed out before his first knee injury, a torn anterior cruciate ligament in 2012. He wouldn’t be able to survive if he continued to go into the lane with such abandon, we said.
There’s a chance Rose is never going to be the player he used to be, the MVP-level superstar, and fans and media are having a hard time accepting that. They are projecting all sorts of moral failings on him to explain why he keeps getting hurt, when the simplest answer is the correct one:
He just keeps getting hurt.
It’s possible that no amount of pushing him back onto the floor is going to help him “break through’’ the pesky injuries he keeps collecting. If it’s not the ankles, it’s a hamstring. It’s more than possible that being conservative with a strained hamstring is the right thing to do, but no one wants to hear that right now, not when everyone is screaming about his lack of heart. Strained hamstrings have an unfortunate habit of turning into torn hamstrings. If that were to happen, I’m guessing it too would be a result of his courage deficiencies.
If you are condemned to reading Twitter regularly, then you have been led to believe that not only is Rose a wimp but that hundreds and hundreds of everyday people are tougher than he is. I don’t care that those people believe he should have been back sooner from his injuries or that fans still high on the fumes of their prep athletic careers would have done anything to get back on the court or field with their teammates.
All that matters is that Rose is struggling to stay completely healthy. It doesn’t appear to be from a lack of training or trying. He wants to be out there. His teammates are behind him. No one has questioned him in the locker room.
In 2001, White Sox pitcher David Wells publicly questioned the severity of Frank Thomas’ arm injury. The temperamental Thomas was an easy target, and Wells was always looking to be the center of attention. As it turned out, Thomas had a torn triceps and was done for the season. I learned something from that: Never question someone else’s injury. You have no idea of the unique circumstances of each injury and each person.
Rose gets hurt, a lot. Maybe that will change. He played well Friday afternoon, scoring 21 points and throwing bullet passes to open teammates in a 109-102 victory in Boston. Will he be ready for Brooklyn on Sunday? I don’t know. And neither do you.
All the anger over Rose is more of a reflection on fans and media than it is on a struggling basketball player. It’s up to them to figure out why they’re so mad.