There are only so many ways to ask Derrick Rose when he’ll return from his most recent knee injury, and reporters exhausted all of them Monday night.
And given how poorly he has handled this topic in the past, there was only one shrewd answer for Rose to give: I’ll be back sooner than anyone expects. Because I care so much about my team. So very, very much.
Instead, Rose’s tone deafness was on full display at a United Center news conference, and all you could do was shake your head, if not your fist.
When will he return from his torn meniscus, an injury the Bulls said would keep him out four to six weeks after his Feb. 27 surgery?
“Who knows?’’ he said. “Whenever I feel well, that’s when I’m going to step back on the court.’’
Does he think he’ll be back this season?
“I think so. That’s the plan,’’ he said. “So whenever I feel right, that’s when I’m going to step back.’’
OK, one more time. A fastball down the middle, just begging to be hit. The fans are looking for reassurance he’ll return this season. Can he give it to them?
“Whenever I’m ready to come back, I’m going to come back,’’ he said.
Rose brought an avalanche of abuse on himself in November when he said he had sat out games as a concession to his long-term health beyond basketball. That meant not wanting his body to be sore at future business meetings or at his son’s graduation, he said. In a city that thinks of itself as blue collar, the idea of a player pacing himself for boardroom comfort or commencement contentment went over about as well as a Packers parade might.
But you figured the kid learned his lesson after that.
You figured wrong.
“This could be a blessing in disguise,’’ he said Monday. “Just trying to take my time, listen to my body, cheer on my teammates while I’m out, just try to better myself as a person, basketball player, businessman and as a teammate.’’
The word “businessman’’ should have been permanently removed from his public vocabulary. He’s a basketball player who happens to be worth tens of millions of dollars. Where are his “people’’ to save him from himself?
Even if Rose was saying what he truly believed about his return, there was nothing in it for him. That’s the crazy part of this. There was no benefit in telling reporters that he’ll listen to his body, a body that says “ouch” too often. This guy either needs a public-relations intervention or a gag order.
Those of us who supported him through his other knee injuries and PR gaffes were left almost stupefied by what we were hearing Monday. Those of us who defended him against criticism that he was selfish couldn’t believe he would open himself up again to the same disparagement.
He can’t possibly be going there again, can he?
Yes, he can.
We’re always trying to assign deeper meaning to Rose’s inability to stay healthy, when it really is very simple: He’s injury prone. It’s not about being soft or unwilling to work. He can’t trust his body, and the people who depend on that body can’t trust it either. End of story.
But if you had any trust left in Rose, Monday’s news conference would have shaken it right out of you. There is a fatal combination of naivete and stubbornness to this kid, and it’s beyond exasperating.
A Pray-4-Rose shrine has popped up at the Fullerton underpass, the kind of tribute you might see near the site of a fatal accident, not the site of a repaired meniscus tear. The memorial includes candles, crutches, kneepads, flowers and the requisite drawing of the point guard with a crown of thorns. I’d call it tongue in cheek, but given Rose’s luck, I’d be worried he’d sprain his tongue and wrench his cheek.
We don’t know when he’ll rise from the dead, hoops-wise, but the smallest hint would go a long way with the viewing audience.
“It’s not (about) trusting my body, it’s trusting faith,’’ he said. “I gave up my life to God a long time ago, so all this is out of my control. All I can do is just roll with the punches and know that at the end, I’m going to be fine.’’
Yeah, but when? Throw us a definitive bone, Derrick, even if it’s not so definitive.