By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) The chatter began last night almost immediately after Joe Cowley’s piece in the Chicago Sun-Times on Derrick Rose and the Bulls and their supposed strained relationship that is only getting strainier.
Ensuring that talk about it would go into Friday and probably well past the weekend was Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf deeming it necessary to release a statement on the article, both pouring gasoline on the gossip fire and getting Cowley many more clicks, deserved or not, and kind of coming off as either overly sensitive or too hasty to force damage control on a situation that probably didn’t really need damage control. And, as Reinsdorf fails to acknowledge, Rose is quoted in the piece as being aware of a rift.
The most interesting aspect of the entire piece to me, though, isn’t directly about Rose’s supposed difficult relationship with team brass, Reinsdorf’s anger, B.J. Armstrong coming off as a counterproductive hardass or Cowley’s credibility. It’s the following that Cowley wrote:
Looking back, it’s clear Rose wasn’t all that interested in teaming with Anthony, who chose to return to the New York Knicks. Rose was much more aggressive in the Bulls’ pursuit of free agent Pau Gasol, not only asking for his phone number, but giving a hard sell to the big man on joining the Bulls.
So why Gasol and not Anthony?
“(Gasol is) someone that I knew I could play with,’’ Rose said. “You think about Pau, him now being in the East, what he’ll be able to achieve with the way we play, the way we dump the ball in the post a lot. It could be great.’’
There are multiple subplots going on in that chunk of text, and it’s the part of the piece that is most directly related to actual basketball. First, Rose in that quote infers that Anthony isn’t someone he could play with. Saying he knows he can play with Gasol is a condemnation of Anthony even without mentioning the latter’s name. What does that say about Anthony, and is it a reputation thing that goes beyond the opinion of Rose?
Also, for all the crap Rose gets regarding his recruiting of other players or lack thereof, we need not pretend Anthony was ever really coming to Chicago. It’s pretty clear in retrospect that his heart was always set on a New York return, and the visits here and elsewhere were a combination of due diligence and ego-stroking we’d all like to have if companies were interested in our services. Really, $124 million over five years is greater than Derrick Rose.
But Rose did recruit Gasol, even giving a “hard sell.” This begs the question of whether Rose will work to improve team personnel when it is personnel he thinks complement him personally and/or whether he’ll go bump on a log for a player he isn’t comfortable with. And why exactly does Rose recruit a guy who nobody in their right mind would argue is a better player right now that Anthony?
Which leads to other questions the quote about Gasol brings to mind. Head coach Tom Thibodeau really wanted Anthony. Rose was probably aware of that (though to believe Cowley regarding issues with communication between the Bulls and Rose, maybe not). Thibodeau and Rose have always been cool with each other, despite any soap opera stuff.
Does Rose showing something between apathy and downright unwanting of Anthony and the exact opposite for Gasol impact anything between him and his coach? And as we’re getting accustomed to the annual “Team X willing to trade for Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau” stories, does Thibodeau and/or his bosses now consider his future differently if he thinks he has a player who will undermine what he believes is best for the team, even if the player Thibodeau wanted was never coming here anyway? Or is there an agreement to disagree between the coach and player, and everything is still cool?
The Cowley article is full of stuff with which to examine, argue about and argue about the arguments. The most important bit to me, though, is the least about Rose’s reported rift with the front office and moreso about what will have a direct impact on the court.
You can follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe.