I just want to preface this article with an admission: I’ve always had a soft spot for Derrick Rose. He was one of the most exciting, dynamic and stupidly athletic players in the NBA; attacking the rim and putting defenders on skates with no regard to their occupational health or safety. I used to try and emulate his dunks on a short rim, throwing the rock down so hard that I had bruises on my hands for weeks trying to match the power of D-Rose.
He is the youngest MVP in NBA history, winning at the tender age of 22 in only his third season in the league where he racked up over 2000 points in those first three years and 600 points in a single season (the only other players to do that are Michael Jordan and LeBron James). He was so dominant that when he was up for a max extension from his rookie contract, the Collective Bargaining Agreement had to be changed so that he could earn the full 30% of the team’s salary instead of the 25% limited by his rookie agreement.
Unfortunately his wild style of play caught up with him, with limiting ankle injuries followed by a brutal ACL tear, causing him to miss the entire 2012-2013 season. There was great hope and expectation for his return, but his season started slowly and then during a game against the Portland Trailblazers he hurt his right (good) knee, eventually revealed to be a torn meniscus. This seemed to be the beginning of the end for D-Rose, consistently missing time due to continuing knee and ankle problems. He considered retiring as he was tossed from team to team; from Chicago to New York to Cleveland then finally to Minnesota where a possibly nostalgic Coach Tibs took a chance on the shell of his former superstar.
This seemed like the last roll of the dice for the former MVP, his body seemed to be disintegrating before our very eyes and no other team was interested in taking him on. At best, people were hoping for solid 10 minutes per game putting up a handful of points and assists but mostly being a mentor to the young Timber-Bulls. Nobody, I repeat, nobody was expecting the season we go out of him: 18ppg, 4.3apg whilst shooting 48.2% from the field and 37% from three (highest of his career). He was rightfully in the talk for most improved player before a series of ankle injuries limited him to 51 games for the season. He wasn’t the crazy explosive D-Rose of old, his knees are 100% limiting that, but he showed flashes of what made him the youngest MVP of all time with some circus shot layups, highlight-reel passes and up-and-unders that made a lot of big men look very silly. This wasn’t just a resurgence, it was a resurrection.
To top the season off, he won the House of Highlights moment of the season with his monster 50 point game vs the Utah Jazz. He absolutely carved up great perimeter defenders in Ricky Rubio and Dante ‘The Son of Ceciil’ Exum as well as continuously challenging the DPOY Rudy ‘Stifle Tower’ Gobert and coming up on top more often than not. The more he drove in, the more the crowd was getting into it.
The classic split-legged layup came back.
The Iverson-esque bouncy crossover was broken out.
The mid-range floater was unstoppable.
He even threw in a couple of James Harden special stepbacks to show that he has evolved as a player.
To top it off he blocked a game-tying 3 from Dante Exum in the corner.
His final line: 50 points, 6 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 57% from 3, 61% from the field playing a touch under 41 minutes.
Is D-Rose going to continue to surge back into the all-star level player he was supposed to be? Probably not. He’s 31 this year and with his injury history, playing him for over 25 minutes per game consistently is just going to end in tears. If he stays healthy enough to play 60+ games he could be in contention for 6th man (non-Lou Williams division), but even that may be a stretch. The Pistons have made a brave decision picking him up in the mid-level exception as their backup point guard (15 million for two years) but I am truly happy just to see D-Rose to continue to play ball.