Derrick Rose remains mystery despite being Chicago mainstay

A couple of terms for you to consider as they refer to Derrick Rose: ‘‘snakebit’’ and ‘‘enigma.’’

Snakebit comes from the obvious concept of being bitten by a snake. Not good.

But there are all kinds of snakes. You can get clamped on by, say, a garter snake (harmless creatures that eat crickets and the like).

Or you can be bitten by a blue krait, whose venom is 16 times more potent than a cobra’s.

Let’s say Rose has been bitten by something in between.

Three knee surgeries in three years. Aching this and that. Probably bunions and corns.

So that is snakebit. In other realms, they might call it injury-prone. But for Rose, snakebit has more of the sudden-disaster element to it. Which is appropriate.

Then there is enigma.

Enigma means riddle, secret, puzzle, conundrum. Perplexity, if you will.

Who is Rose?

Even after being born and raised in Chicago, playing championship high school basketball here, leaving for only part of one full year to attend Memphis and play in the NCAA title game, getting drafted by the Bulls and spending his entire six-year NBA career here, Rose is still a mystery to us.

So much that he has accomplished has been done right in front of our eyes. The soaring dunks, the charitable giving, the MVP award in 2011 (youngest player in NBA history to win it) and, of course, the injuries.

We know all about his physical failings and subsequent rebirths, no matter how short-lived. But we don’t really know how he feels about all this. Rose is a watch we can’t hear ticking.

His statements the other day — a week and a half into the rehabbing from his most recent knee surgery — were baffling in their reserve and nonchalance.

“Who knows?” he said when asked when he’d return to play for the Bulls. “Whenever I feel well, that’s when I’m going to step back on the court.”

Well, duh. Nobody wants an injured player destroying himself on the floor. (Though some of us do remember epic things such as Knicks center Willis Reed dragging his half-dead leg to an NBA title.)

What people wanted to hear is: ‘‘Four weeks. Then I’m full-tilt boogie!’’

Or five weeks, six weeks, whatever. Something definitive, fiery, passionate.

Instead they got ‘‘listen to my body,’’ ‘‘cheer on my teammates’’ and this: Rose, while out for however much time, would “just try to better myself as a person, basketball player, businessman and as a teammate.”

No, no, no.

We do not want to hear about self-actualization or cheerleading or entrepreneurship. For God’s sake, if you want to be like billionaire Michael Jordan, how about playing like him first?

This disconnect between desire and talent and injury has been ratcheted up since Rose did not come back and play in 2013, even though doctors apparently thought he was able to.

Nobody’s calling the guy a quitter or a softie. But a person not fully in charge of the English language? Yes. A person whose actions are unclear? Yes.

His monotone alone makes us question his thought process. No doubt that flat-line emotional display helped him make it out of Englewood and the Murray Park neighborhood, where the gangbangers shot so often that Rose and his pals had planned escape routes through backyards and alleys.

It’s possible Rose, at 26, is realizing that there is more to life than a single-minded focus on hoops, even as the NBA game demands more dedication than ever.

Indeed, there are so many young, talented guards out there that Rose, even when healthy, might not be in the top 10. From dead-eye Stephen Curry to octopus Russell Westbrook, flying guards have left the snakebit, wavering Rose in the dust.

Why, unless something changes in his faltering game, Rose might return as only the fourth-best player on the Bulls. That’s right: Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler. All have been All-Stars more recently than Rose.

We’re confused about this guy. We don’t even know who his father is. That’s a private matter, one supposes, but biographies never list any parent for Derrick other than Brenda Rose. And somewhere, there’s a dad.

Rose comes under all this scrutiny because he has shown us glimpses of genius that swiftly and sadly turn into vapor.

How much glory does he want? How badly has he been wounded by life? How badly have the injuries sapped his spirit?

Only the snakes know for sure.


Twitter: @ricktelander

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