By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) At this time last year, when he was suiting up in Armani instead of an NBA uniform, Derrick Rose was Public Enemy No. 1 in the eyes of many Chicago hoops fans. But this season, as the Bulls prepare for their latest playoff run without him, he’s isn’t even part of the conversation.
And that leaves me wondering: Just how much is Rose – probably still Chicago’s biggest sports name – even a part of Chicago’s sports consciousness at this point?
As a Bulls fan, do you think about him on a daily basis? Are you still counting on his triumphant return and expecting him to again be a superstar? Or in your mind, is Derrick Rose simply a part of this city’s basketball past until he’s actually a part of this city’s basketball present?
Sadly, for me, I’d have to say it’s the latter.
It doesn’t feel right to say something so dismissive about someone who’s meant so much to Chicago – and who absolutely still could yet again. However, when it comes to Rose, dismissing thoughts of him also seems like the only sensible approach right now.
After all, on April 28, two years will have passed since Rose – then the league’s reigning MVP and the apple of Chicago’s eye – blew out his left ACL when making simple jump stop. Rose missed all of the 2012-13 season, generating vitriolic backlash from many Bulls fans who believed that since he’d been cleared to play by doctors, he should have played during the playoffs.
Personally, considering his youth and long-term value, I was fine with Rose sitting out the entirety of last season – with the idea, of course, being that it could ensure 100 percent health for this one. But then in the 11th game of this 2013-14 season, it also was over when Rose tore his right meniscus while making a simple back cut.
Two routine plays, two seasons lost, and now too many stability concerns for my liking. When Rose, as expected, does finally return to the Bulls’ lineup for the opener of the 2014-15 season, he will have played only 50 NBA games in three seasons, making him more Mark Prior than Michael Jordan. Unfortunately, until proved otherwise, he’s become a guy who Chicago simply can’t count on because Rose simply can’t count on his own body.
Rose, however, still counts heavily among his teammates’ thoughts, according to a story published in the Chicago Tribune this past weekend. In the article — entitled “Rose still very much on Bulls teammates’ minds” — Joakim Noah said of his recovering teammate, “Even though it’s hard, I talk about him because I see what he does every day. I see the work he puts in. He never exhales. He stays upbeat and positive for this team. He always stays aware of what’s going on with the team. He tells me what to do offensively.
“That’s who Derrick is. He’s always humble, always thinking about the team. It’s almost like he handles his situation better than I handle it. What he has dealt with, I don’t know that I could do it.”
In December, Rose told his doubters, “You can be a fool if you want to,” when asked by writer Sam Smith what he would say to those questioning whether after two serious knee injuries he can still be the Bulls’ centerpiece. I admire that dedication, toughness and desire, but such words are also very similar to what we heard a year ago. And the fact is that it’s not foolish at all to question whether Rose can really be that No. 1 guy again, while it would be quite foolish if the Bulls weren’t wondering about that themselves and preparing for a future that may, or may not, include a star-caliber Rose.
On Saturday, the New York Daily News reported that Knicks star Carmelo Anthony recently asked a former Chicago Bulls player what it was like to play for Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. Whether that indicates Anthony, who can become a free agent this summer, has serious interest in relocating to Chicago is unclear. But what is absolutely apparent is that as the Bulls pursue a title, they absolutely should be pursuing elite-level talent such as Anthony or Minnesota’s Kevin Love.
To have a realistic shot at winning a championship in today’s NBA, a team needs at least two superstars – or even better, two and a half in the case of the Miami Heat’s LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Even before Rose was injured the first time, I believed that the Bulls needed another superstar to play Robin to his Batman. In Rose’s absence, a second superstar appears to have actually emerged from the Bulls’ current roster in Noah. However, to become a top title contender the team still needs yet another top gun – especially if Rose can’t return to his old self.
I’m sure he’s hoping to return in full, about which teammate Taj Gibson told the Tribune, “(Rose) has that mindset that he’s going to come back strong. And we believe him.”
I believe in his mindset, too. Unfortunately, I’m no longer sure I believe in his knees. And as the Bulls begin what’s hopefully a deep playoff run, it’s probably best for our collective sanity that Rose stays deep in the back of our minds.
Until he proves that he can actually step forward again.