It has been quite a long while since we’ve seen Derrick Rose in a Chicago Bulls uniform. Quite frankly, even when he was last playing, he was amidst a 2011-12 season that was laden with bumps and bruises.
How can he eliminate these health woes from his young career? More specifically, does the Bulls superstar need to adjust his game to stay healthy?
This is a valid question, namely because of Rose’s track record with injuries coupled with his highly acrobatic playing style.
When Rose is at his best, he is flying through the lane and often utilizing versatile jump stops. He also frequently absorbs contact and leaps amongst big men while trying to finish.
This athleticism—at the core of Rose’s game—is certainly thrilling for NBA fans, but it also raises concerns regarding his long-term future. The health risks that accompany his playing style are obvious. The strain on his knees and ankles is decidedly apparent.
Therefore, should he persist in this approach to the game while potentially risking his career longevity, or is now the time for him to adapt his game so we can witness him in uniform on a regular basis?
The bottom line here is that this isn’t a black-and-white issue. He shouldn’t strictly eliminate his steady penetrations to the rim, which often involve contact. This would be an overreaction, and it would certainly limit his offensive capabilities. If Rose is mainly a jump-shooter, he would likely become an average player (he is a career 31 percent three-point threat).
On the other hand, it would be downright foolish for Rose to not adjust his game at all. He should recognize that he will not last in the league if he plays like he’s invincible. This means that there will surely be occasions when pulling up for a mid-range jumper is much wiser than acrobatically weaving into the lane and drawing a foul.
Rose must discern where the in-between here is. He should still allow his assets—which helped him win the 2010-11 MVP award—to be his strengths. He shouldn’t compromise his strategy so much that he becomes a different player. At the same time, he must exhibit maturity and grasp what his body can handle.
A distinct positive here is that Rose has had plenty of time to work on his jump shot in recent months. If he displays confidence and precision in his jumper like we’ve never seen from him, then it’s definitely reasonable for him to be better than he ever was.
This is particularly where he should make minor adjustments to his game. Rose should never second-guess when he is left open. He should pull the trigger. In years past, he would shoot from the outside, but he would also sometimes be hesitant and search for a driving lane. This train of thought should be eradicated from his mindset.
He should have faith in his jump shot for numerous reasons—he has worked on it immensely, and it deserves trust, and this dynamic will only enhance his overall health. If he can generate more and more production away from the basket, then there is a much greater likelihood that he will remain on the floor.
Don’t misunderstand. D-Rose should not try to emulate Stephen Curry. This modification doesn’t mean he should start hoisting from 27 feet in transition. He should simply demonstrate a greater assurance in his jumper, and there should never be hesitation. Specifically, this should be evident in half-court sets when Rose receives spot-up jumpers. He should fire such looks without second thought.
With that said, he should still wisely seek penetration opportunities. He just can’t approach the game with the same attitude he once did, when he heavily relied on his athletic maneuvers.
Very simply, this means he should drive the lane when there's an opening, but he should not force an attack when it’s not there.
He is so agile that he can often still find a way into the paint when numerous defenders are present, but if he consistently does this, it’s only a matter of time before the injuries mount. He’ll turn an ankle, strain a muscle or potentially find himself with further knee issues, which could potentially become career-threatening.
He must learn to use his assets (speed and versatility) with wisdom. He should remain aggressive in transition, in isolation opportunities and off of ball screens, but he shouldn’t force the issue and try to put the team on his back. This will only hamper him in the long run.
Truthfully, these tweaks to his method could make him all the more lethal. Imagine if he becomes a near-40 percent three-point shooter and features an improved mid-range jumper. Teams will then have to defend him far from the basket, and this will create slashing opportunities for him as well as wide open teammates. He could ultimately be poised for another MVP run if these adjustments are made in proper fashion.
The NBA world awaits Rose’s return with much anticipation, and it should witness him return with a sense of maturity to his game. He should not become a different player in an effort to avoid further injuries, but he should approach things differently. This will allow him to still showcase his incredible abilities while also helping him increase his chances of a lengthy NBA tenure.
Don’t be shocked if this version of Rose appears as soon as the 2013-14 season tips. He has had a long time to think about his game, and it wouldn't be shocking if he reappears with newfound maturity and tenacity.