Somewhere, Chicago Bull Derrick Rose is taking shots in a gym, the bounce of the ball and the squeak of his shoes reverberating through the hollowness. You wouldn’t know it, though, looking at the news. All there is is the same sort of emptiness as in that gym, and that may be exactly what he needs.
The media have been quiet on Rose. A Google News search reveals a few player grades from last season. There’s a May 20 article from ESPN on Mike Krzyzewski expecting Rose to be there for Team USA. There are a few articles pondering whether his knee issues will impact the Bulls’ chances in free agency.
There is a pretty funny Onion piece where he re-injures his knee by looking at it.
What there isn’t is actual news about Rose and his pending comeback. That’s in stark contrast to last season, when it was nearly impossible to go consecutive days without some sort of update.
There are a combination of valid reasons for the contrast. Foremost among them is a “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” mentality. Fans who got their hopes up last year are far more reluctant to work up enthusiasm for his return this season.
That he would just play, period, is about the most fans are wishing for.
Apart from that, the Bulls have two top-20 picks coming up in the draft, Nos. 16 and 19. There is rampant speculation over whom they might take, or whether they will trade up for a higher pick.
Then there’s the anticipation of the “will they or won’t they amnesty Carlos Boozer" story. Marc Stein of ESPN reports:
But here's the thing: You continue to hear rumbles that Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf is adamantly against the idea of setting Boozer free via amnesty, even though the 32-year-old is finally poised to enter the final year of his contract, valued in 2014-15 at $16.8 million.
Sources briefed on Chicago's thinking say the Bulls are going to do everything they can to try to find a trading partner for Boozer before seriously considering the amnesty option.
Wanna get the horns by messing with a Bulls fan? Suggest to him Boozer is going to still be on the team next year. Then run.
(As an aside, trading Boozer is preferable to amnestying him for reasons other than saving money. They can keep their mid-level, biannual and trade exceptions—$2.02 million for Luol Deng and $1.07 million for Marquis Teague—if they stay over the cap by trading Boozer. Ironically, it’s possible they spend more money by not amnestying him than by amnestying him if they go into the luxury tax.)
Nikola Mirotic is likely to come over, at long last. The Euroleague draft-and-stash star was selected in 2011 and has since improved his stature with Real Madrid. He is widely viewed to be the best European prospect who has not hit the NBA yet and has generated excitement among Bulls fans. He legitimately could contend for Rookie of the Year.
Then, of course, there is the biggest cause of Windy City excitement—that the Bulls could land Kevin Love, Carmelo Anthony or even both.
All together, the Bulls could potentially add two first-round picks, the best player in Europe and/or one or more superstars. All that on top of getting rid of the most unpopular and overpaid player on the team. That’s a lot to talk about.
Compare that to adding Tony Snell and Mike Dunleavy Jr. last year.
In fact, this might be the biggest offseason for the Bulls since Michael Jordan’s first full season back. Not since then have they had so much in place and room to improve.
Even in 2010, the stature of Rose and Joakim Noah wasn't what it is today, and Tom Thibodeau was not proven as a head coach.
So, the silence on the Rose front may just be a byproduct of the noise on every other front. It may be a reluctance by fans to put their hearts out, only to be shattered again. Or it may be a combination of both.
Whatever the reasons are, it’s better for Rose. He’s at his best when he’s doubted, naysaid and ignored. When he was scoffed at for asking, “Why can’t I be MVP?” he went out and won.
Rose is one of those guys who loves to prove his doubters wrong. He thrives on vengeance. He grows from adversity.
After a 32-point, 11-assist performance in a game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 2, 2011, per Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago, Rose said, “They beat us last time. I wanted some revenge. It was because of me that we lost [in December] where I missed the free throw. And that really hurt me. If anything, it made me stronger as a player.”
The game to which he was referring happened on Dec. 18 when he missed free throws with the game on the line. He stewed on that for two months and then filleted the Clippers when he got the chance. That’s who Rose is.
He’s far more content letting his failures drive him toward success than looking for “attaboys.” The pressure that compels Rose to succeed is more internal than external.
The less the media talk about him, the more he listens. The more the fans write him off, the more he plots his revenge.
He’s not speaking, though. You can’t find interviews. He’s only tweeted twice since he was hurt, and not at all since Jan. 23. He’s the type to believe God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason. Tell him he won’t be the same.
Medically, there’s no reason to think that he can’t be. The ACL injury had the potential to limit him, but in his brief return, he showed the same burst and hops he’d always had.
The surgically repaired meniscus won’t impact his performance; that’s not the nature of the injury. At worst it would have affected the length of his career, but even that’s unlikely given the procedure which saved the meniscus.
Still, you see a player log 49 games in three years and it’s easy to write off the remainder of his career. We’ve seen knee injuries destroy them before: Brandon Roy and Gilbert Arenas most recently. But those were different types of injuries.
After rushing back from knee surgery, Arenas had a torn meniscus and a microfracture surgery. Roy had an arthritic condition that made recovery nearly impossible. There’s an over-generalization with “knee injuries” that lumps Rose in with those who didn’t come back from different conditions.
Those who cast aspersions might not have a basis in reality, but the critics are real. And that is just a challenge to Rose. Go on, doubt him. Question him.
Tell him he’s done. Talk about how the Bulls need to draft a point guard “just in case.” Bring in that other star to “lead the Bulls."
He’s not talking; he’s listening. And he’s working.
And perhaps more than last year’s hype, this is what he needs. Instead of promos and accolades and celebrations, he thrives on the negativity.
Doubts are his food. That’s what made him an MVP. That’s what can make him a champion.
Somewhere, Rose is taking shots, all alone in a gym. And he’s planning on proving his doubters wrong, asking himself, “Why can’t I be Finals MVP?”