A happy ending is what’s needed here. Nothing sappy, just a good story in which the hero rides off into the sunset with his twice-repaired left knee comfortably in the stirrup. If the tale includes an NBA championship ring on his finger, wonderful. But a career of relative good health is all we’re asking for.
The Bulls did not bring Jabari Parker to Chicago to retell the Derrick Rose story in a more positive, uplifting way. They brought him back to his hometown because they think he can help their rebuild, provided his knee stays healthy. They think he can add scoring punch to what will be an extremely young lineup.
But wouldn’t it be nice if Parker could finish what Rose started?
The Parker-Rose connection is impossible to ignore, and if the Bulls didn’t see the possibility of a nice cosmic do-over when they signed Parker to a two-year, $40 million contract Saturday, there’s nothing wrong with the rest of us seeing the symmetry of it.
Parker has been inextricably tied to Rose since he decided to attend Simeon, where Rose had starred before him. Both were voted Mr. Basketball in Illinois. Rose was the first pick overall in the 2008 draft, Parker the second in 2014. You just hope the ties aren’t too tight. Rose saw his career derailed by knee injuries and, over time, was scorned and ridiculed in Chicago. Nobody wants to relive that story again.
Most people with a heart would like to see Parker stay healthy and help the Bulls win an NBA title. Like Rose was supposed to do. Parker crammed success and heartache into four seasons with the Bucks. There’s nothing that says his story has to play out the way Rose’s did. But after watching one star shine so brightly and then crash, we’re all a little skittish around here. And maybe we’re a little sheepish, too. The critics among us also get a do-over. Will we treat Parker better than we treated Rose? I hope so.
So here’s to Parker’s chance to get his career right. It’s going to take time. Given the Bulls’ youth, time is available.
If you want to know what a rebuild looks like, here you go: Besides Parker, who is 23, the Bulls could start Kris Dunn (24), Zach LaVine (23), Lauri Markkanen (21) and Wendell Carter Jr. (19) during the 2018-19 season. It looks like a graduate-level class that’s open to undergrads.
But Parker has a different feel to him than the other young’uns do. You’d call it a grizzled-veteran feel if it weren’t for his age. He has been through two surgeries to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, costing him large parts of two seasons.
It feels as though he has been in the league forever, probably because we waited impatiently for him to be done with the formality of high school and a year of college. He had five Division I scholarship offers by the time he was in fifth grade. No wonder everyone was in such a hurry to get him to the NBA.
Some of that story sounds very familiar.
The hope is that Parker’s body won’t fail him again and that the local kid will make good. If hope refuses to play ball, it won’t be devastating for the organization. The Bulls were wise enough to make the second year of his contract a team option. They can cut ties with him if it’s not working out.
Let’s hope for a different ending this time.
Sun-Times sports columnists Rick Morrissey and Rick Telander are co-hosts of a new podcast called “The Two Ricks: Unfiltered.” Don’t miss their candid, amusing takes on everything from professional teams tanking to overzealous sports parents and more. Download and subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts and Google Play, or via RSS feed.