The Derrick Rose we once knew is gone and never coming back
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I don’t have all the answers, but that has never stopped me from coming up with one.
In the sad case of Derrick Rose, I’m lost and can’t be found. There are no answers. There is nowhere to turn for optimism, for reason to believe. There is no one left to blame.
It will be impossible to trust his body anymore. You could use his knees of clay as skeet-shooting targets. Even before Tuesday’s news of a planned third surgery landed with a mushroom cloud, whatever trust there might have been was hanging by a few strands of ligament and cartilage.
The very idea of Derrick Rose, of a ridiculously explosive point guard, is finished. This is not a eulogy, just reality. That man is gone. He might work his way back to relative health, as he did after his most recent surgery for a torn meniscus, but no one in his right mind thinks Rose will ever be close to the player he once was for the Bulls. He is the latter-day version of Gale Sayers, a burst of brilliance for the Bears until his knees betrayed him. And that hurts like hell.
As Rose prepares for surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee, one thing is painfully clear: His body wasn’t built for the way he plays the game of basketball. Think about the cruelty in that. He was blessed with a dizzying amount of talent but cursed with a body that can’t handle all the stresses his talent demands. He’s a cutting-edge airplane with landing-gear design flaws.
We’ve spent years arguing about anything and everything involved with Rose — his rehab, his courage, his handlers, his minutes, his desire, his medical decisions and his huge contracts with the Bulls and with Adidas. From the perspective of where he is now, leg elevated and spirits sunk, it seems like so much noise. It seems like so much silliness.
Rose’s game was upside down this season. He wanted to shoot three-pointers more than he wanted to drive to the basket with reckless abandon, the way he used to in healthier days. Maybe he knew something. Maybe his knees were whispering to him that they couldn’t live life in the fast lane anymore. For months, coach Tom Thibodeau had been harping publicly on the importance of Rose getting into the paint, and the Bulls were encouraged of late by his willingness to do so.
And now this. Was cause and effect involved? Even if it were, I’m not sure what could have been done to protect his knees. At some point, Rose was going to have to fully press down on the gas pedal. Whenever that happened, this injury was going to follow.
Would Rose the basketball player still be with us if Thibodeau knew how to pace his players? We will never know for sure, but, again, I think the answer is clear. Nothing would have made a difference. No amount of coddling or tough love would have changed the future. Rose rehabbed like a madman after his previous two surgeries, one to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in May 2012, costing him the following season, the other to repair the meniscus in his right knee in late 2013, limiting him to 10 games last season. And none of it could stop what happened this time.
I’m convinced of that predestination now. He was born under a bad sign: Can’t Stay Healthy.
“It’s so unfair,’’ Thibodeau said. “He’s been through so much.’’
What now? We know the drill. At some point, Rose will have a news conference to let everyone know he’ll be back better than ever. He’ll declare his unwavering belief in the idea that things happen for a reason. And many of us will feel awful for him. Those of you who believe that his many millions of dollars will take away his pain don’t understand what drives him. He plays basketball. Period. If this happened for a reason, that reason was to deprive him of all he knows. And that stinks.
The Bulls are in a bad way. They gave Rose a five-year, $95 million contract extension in 2012, and they’re on the hook for the next two seasons at about $20 million per. They are hamstrung by that contract. No, they are kneecapped by it. Whatever championship window existed was just slammed on the fingers of vice president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman.
There will be plenty of time to bemoan the Bulls’ situation. We come together now to bemoan Rose’s terrible luck. This was the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2010-11. This was a kid headed for a decade-plus of greatness. And then everything fell apart at warp speed. Geez.
I don’t have all the answers, but I can usually conjure up one. Not today. Maybe not ever on this topic.