By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) — The repair of the damaged cartilage ultimately failed, or as Tom Thibodeau put it, “It didn’t take.”
To be fair, the risk of reinjuring the meniscus after that kind of procedure is relatively high, so it’s no surprise that Derrick Rose went under the knife again Friday morning for further work. This time the correction was simpler, however, cutting off the part that was causing the problem and taking it out. There may be issues for him well down the road after choosing this option, but it’s better for both the player and the team.
Rose would be wise to choose a similar approach when it comes to how he plays: take out what’s not working – what’s causing a problem – and use the abilities he has as best he can, while he can, the distant future be damned.
Let this comeback be a reconciliation for Rose, and an honest assessment of what player he still wants to be. After he rehabilitates, and beyond the time-restricted appearances expected toward season’s end, this is an opportunity to trim away the aspects of his game that are holding him back. He should pay close attention to the words of his coach, from early December.
“He’s gotta attack, that’s the bottom line,” Thibodeau said. “All I know is when he’s pushing the ball up the floor and attacking, that’s who he is. He can’t defer, he can’t pace himself, he’s gotta go. That’s the big thing. He’s gotta go. We need him to be Derrick.”
Rose ignored this exhortation for the most part, remaining content to hoist three-pointers at a career-high rate (6.3 per game and accounting for 32% of his shot total) and a near career-low percentage (.287). Also alarming is his 28% shooting this year in the 10-16 feet range. He has not seemed to care about these headwinds, either.
He has fancied himself a facilitator since returning to action over the summer with Team USA, enabled by the smoke blown by coach Mike Krzyzewski about Rose’s effectiveness even as he was cutting his playing time and benching him. Undeterred, Rose has too often been content to drift around the perimeter in games, accomplishing little of value on offense while struggling to keep up with whatever opposing waterbug is running past him and around him on the other end.
He has never been a point guard, though, in the true sense. He’s built like one, but has never played with the instinctive geometric vision of the real floor managers, instead racking up assists by compromising defenses with his own, unstoppable assaults on the rim. Guys were open because he was looking to score, first and foremost.
Advanced tracking stats available at NBA.com via SportVU show that among material players (using those averaging more than 25 minutes per game this year), Rose still ranks 9th in the league at team points per 48 minutes that come as a result of his drives to the basket, with 9.6. For comparison’s sake, he’s right up there with LeBron James (10.5), Russell Westbrook (10.3) and James Harden (10.2). So here is hard evidence that Thibodeau is right.
Even understanding the erosion of his physical abilities, it is time for Rose to reassert himself as a professional athlete. He may not have enough, but he has to find out by really pushing himself this time, because there’s nothing to lose.
His money is guaranteed, financial futures secured for many generations. Not one of those dollars is at risk, despite his reluctance to go full out in a stated attempt to preserve his body for a less painful life after basketball. Enough of that.
Enough of the protective bubble placed around him by the parasitic coterie of friends and family who still wield undue influence over an ostensibly grown man. His actual employer has $94 million committed to him, and it should go without saying that the Bulls are fully entitled to his best effort.
Enough of the narratives, too. The Chicago kid, the tough neighborhood, The Return, all of it. Surgically carve those tired storylines away, and strip this down to what it needs to be about, now.
Derrick Rose needs to have the cold self-awareness to know what he is and what he is not, the maturity and intelligence to make sound, important decisions for himself, the professionalism to maximize his value to his teammates and bosses, and the courage to stare down the possibility of further injury and accept it as part of the job he chose.
He can’t defer, he can’t pace himself. He can’t float around, taking and missing bad shots.
Derrick Rose has six weeks to emerge as something better than what he has been so far this season. If he just can’t do it anymore, so be it, but he owes it to himself and those invested in him in any way to pull out every stop in finding out.
He has to try.