By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) Chicago is filled with all sorts of civic treasures.
Down south, there’s the Museum of Science & Industry. Up north, there’s Wrigley Field. To the east, there’s Navy Pier. And over on the West Side?
Well, there’s Derrick Rose, of course.
With foundations buried deep in the Chicago tundra (or moored beneath Lake Michigan in the case of Navy Pier), most of our local gems aren’t going anywhere as long as we maintain them. However, I do have to say that I’m starting to worry about the long-term stability of D-Rose.
No, not because of his knee. That should be fine as long as the Bulls – and Bulls fans – are patient with their superstar’s recovery. Rather, what I’m more concerned about regarding Chicago’s favorite son is whether he’s truly happy playing basketball for his hometown team – and if he will remain content enough to stick around the Windy City for his entire career.
Because it seems all of Chicago pretty much just assumes that he will.
But like a sunny day in February, Derrick Rose isn’t something that Chicago should ever take for granted. Because, no matter his birthplace, the Bulls still need to do all they can to ensure that home is indeed where Rose’s heart is, lest they – and the city’s hoops fans – potentially suffer the consequences.
Last April, after Rose opened up for a surprisingly candid interview with GQ and lamented to writer Will Leitch about life and stardom in the Windy City, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Is Derrick Rose Really Happy in Chicago?” The reason why I posed that question at the time was because of how forlorn Rose sounded when he talked about feeling suffocated by the local attention. Discussing his hometown, Rose said, “Sometimes it’s too much” and added that “Chicago isn’t used to stardom … they don’t know how to act toward celebrity.” With comments such as those, Rose sounded to me as if he’d just signed on as a pitchman for Southwest’s “Wanna Get Away?” campaign. He didn’t seem content.
In the GQ piece, Leitch delved similarly into Rose’s psyche. After noting how the Bulls star bristles at the thought of going out, he reflected: “In one way, this is refreshing. He just wants to do his own thing. But the more I think about it – the more I hear Rose talk about how little he enjoys interacting with strangers, how desperately he misses being able to walk around unnoticed, how mournful he gets when the topic of ‘attention’ is breached, how obviously uncomfortable he is even in basic social situations outside his immediate circle – it strikes me as unbearably sad.”
At the time, I worried that if Derrick Rose indeed seems “unbearably sad,” is there really any way that he can be truly happy spending the rest of his career here in Chicago? Might he one day start to think that the grasses are greener in some other NBA city?
Now, for his part, Rose – who signed a five-year contract extension with the Bulls in December 2011 – has previously said that he’s not planning to leave Chicago. In fact, in 2010 after LeBron James broke Cleveland’s heart by leaving for Miami, he went so far as to vow, “I’m never [leaving Chicago]. Never.”
Notably, Rose didn’t reiterate that promise in last spring’s GQ story, instead saying, “I won’t ever put myself in a bad position so that people can say bad things about me.” But what he did share about his unhappiness was largely forgotten just a few weeks later when, on April 28, he tore his ACL in a playoff game. Since then, Chicago has been fixated only on the stages of Rose’s rehab, not the levels of his moods.
At least, that was the case until last week when Rose’s older brother and manager, Reggie, suddenly stirred up a storm when he criticized the Bulls for not strengthening their roster during Derrick’s absence.
“It’s frustrating to see my brother play his heart and soul out for the team and them not put anything around him,” Reggie told ESPNChicago.com. “What have you pieced together? Have you made any moves? Have you made any trades to get better? You know all roads to the championship lead through Miami. What pieces have you put together for the physical playoffs? … Joakim Noah is a great player. Luol Deng is a great player. But you need more than that.”
Reggie’s points had merit (the Bulls do need more weapons). But, interestingly, most Chicago media seemed more eager to criticize him for speaking out of turn than to actually listen to what he was saying. At the same time, many observers – and Bulls officials – also wanted to dismiss Reggie’s comments by stressing that they came from his mouth and didn’t necessarily reflect Derrick’s beliefs.
“Obviously Reggie and Derrick are very close,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “It’s not a big deal. We all want the same thing. We want Derrick’s health and we’re trying to pursue winning a championship. Reggie’s entitled to his own opinion.”
And, hey, maybe it’s just that: Reggie’s opinion. But considering how close Derrick and his family are aligned, I find it difficult to believe that the point guard isn’t also frustrated about the Bulls’ failure thus far to provide him with the superstar running mate that he needs to win a title – even if he’s not going to come out and say it publicly.
Following Reggie’s comments, what Derrick did say through a statement released by the team was, “I have always felt that the Bulls organization’s goals have been the same as mine and that is to bring another championship to this city.”
I don’t at all doubt that is everyone’s goal. But based on what Derrick expressed last year and Reggie said last week, I do have my doubts about just how thrilled D-Rose is these days with Chicago – both the city and the Bulls. And if he isn’t satisfied, that’s not good for anybody. Not Rose. Not the Bulls. Not Chicago.
Reggie could have kept quiet last week, and maybe he should have. But perhaps what he told us was also telling about Derrick. I suspect that it was. But either way, the Bulls would be very wise to give Rose a compelling reason soon to feel “right” at home. He needs a true superstar sidekick to really compete with for a championship in today’s NBA.
After all, no one in Chicago wants to see Rose one day leave to become someone else’s sidekick and end up winning a ring in some town other than the one he calls home.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.