Let me start by saying something that shouldn’t rattle off of the tongue so easy for a Philadelphian: I generally tend to agree with and enjoy the articles that I come across with this Washington Post columnist’s byline. That said, my head was basically shaking from side to side as I read Mike Wise’s piece today defending Derrick Rose for sitting out while the rest of the decimated Chicago Bulls lineup tries to play the role of David against the Miami Heat.
Getting past the headline, “Derrick Rose, by any other name, is making the right call by not playing for Chicago Bulls,” is hard enough. Just a few months ago, Robert Griffin III’s name was in that headline and Wise took a completely different stance—something he admits to in the article, but says he’s seen the light on the issue and had a change of heart.
I haven’t offered much of an opinion on Rose, mainly because it’s the too-obvious story to be covering right now, and there’s been so much back and forth between scriptuals and talking heads that I didn’t want to get caught up in it. But reading Wise’s words, it almost seemed like he was taking half facts to help make his case, so I feel obliged to fill in the rest of the story for everyone out there.
Let’s go through it piece by piece, shall we?
To the electrician who last played in high school, to the gym teacher who once played small-college ball, Derrick Rose appears “gutless,” a “coward” for failing to lace up his sneakers the past few weeks. Even as Rose’s Chicago Bulls teammates and coaches continue to support his decision to allow his surgically repaired knee to heal fully, the chorus continues:
If D. Rose has medically been cleared to play by a team doctor, why won’t he?
First half truth: That surgically repaired knee is healed. Rose has been resting it for well over a year now, and it’s been declared fit-for-play for the past two months. The only thing that isn’t 100 percent is Rose’s mental state surrounding the injury. He doesn’t feel quite comfortable enough yet to go game speed. Honestly, if that’s how he feels, if he’s not mentally prepared to go back out there in the heat of the battle, that’s fine. But you can’t tell me that it doesn’t look a little hogwash-y when he finds his name on a roster with guys playing through plantar fasciitis, strained tendons, stomach viruses, and pulled muscles.
While he’s busy getting his head back in the game, these guys are going out there night in and night out, putting it all on the line. And let’s just say for a moment that the Bulls are able to supplant the Heat and march their way to the team’s first championship since his Airness wore their colors—no matter how unlikely that seems—it’s kinda shitty, in my mind anyway, that Rose would get a ring. Forget what his teammates are saying in public, you know damn well that they’d much rather have him out on the floor helping them attempt to do just that.
If the Bulls were to stun the Heat, the path to a title would be wide open. Why wouldn’t Rose want to be a part of that?
Easy. He’s not ready.
And if the player whose knee was cut open says he’s not ready, that he really wants to give it one more offseason before he feels 100 percent healthy, that’s all that should matter.
I already answered the first part of that, but to Wise’s second statement, let me help him complete his half-truth. If Rose wants to give it one more offseason before making his return, then he should make that known publicly or at least with his teammates. The longer he’s silent on the matter, the further this thing gets dragged out, the more reporters dig, and his teammates are left to fend off those questions. No matter how focused they are on the task at hand, the blood-sucking media have to be at least a little distracting, no?
How annoying must it be for Nate Robinson to answer more questions about how D-Rose looked in the morning shoot-around or if he expects the team’s sidelined all-star to play any time soon, rather than about his clutch play over the last five games—he’s averaged over 22 points per game in place of an injured Kirk Hinrich—while he himself has been sick as a dog?
Wise quoting former Bull and current ESPN analyst, Jay Williams:
“From a player that was in his position about nine years ago, I’m not trying to come back off a damn ACL and go against LeBron every night. Not my first game back. It’s a lose-lose scenario for me. You need to work out the kinks before then. … I don’t care how many people say, ‘Play,’ you cannot come back from an injury like that until mentally you feel confident in yourself.”
While Williams wished Rose would publicly shut it down for the season so the focus is on his team’s resilient playoff run instead of his own health, he also understands why a player of Rose’s caliber would wait to be safe and sure.
“As quick as everybody loves you, people can forget about you — I watched Kirk Hinrich get drafted from my hospital bed,” said Williams, whose career was derailed by a motorcycle accident. “I made my own mistake, but that’s the way things happened. And once a team moves on, they move on.”
Fair enough. Not Wise’s own words though, so I don’t have a problem seeing Williams’ argument here.
It’s the very next line, though, and the way Wise tries to almost immediately move on from it that is the real kicker here:
The Bulls have been criticized for not ruling out Rose for the season much earlier. But an organization’s internal rumbling is one thing; outright embarrassing a guy to get back on the court is another.
He goes on to talk about Pat Riley calling out Charles Smith in the ‘90s, essentially duping Smith into getting back out on the floor after Riley heard he was trying to take him time coming back from an injury.
I get Wise using the example, and I understand how that kind of coaching wouldn’t fly in this day and age. But can we back up for a second and look at the statement he makes about the “internal rumblings,” that he completely fails to expand upon?
Those rumblings have been happening for the past two months while Rose has been participating in practices and pregame warm-ups. He’s essentially made it look like he’s a game-time decision every night since he’s been cleared to play, but at tipoff the only place you find him is on the bench looking dapper as ever.
That right there is why this is an issue. That right there is why fans in Chicago are getting restless and agitated about how their franchise player is treating them. It’s one thing to not rule out a comeback and then, you know, actually come back. It’s another to play games with peoples’ heads for this long. You show them the light at the end of the tunnel, but the train is stuck on the tracks and not going anywhere fast.
It’s not right. They’ve already waited too long to do so, but at some point the brass in Chi-town need to put this issue to bed. Ask Rose to suit up, or as him to shut it down and focus on next year, for everyone’s sake.