GREENBURGH, N.Y. — On Tuesday, Derrick Rose stood before reporters at the New York Knicks' training facility and attempted to explain why he had mysteriously disappeared from the team the night before by skipping out on a home game against the New Orleans Pelicans.
"It was a family issue. It had nothing to do with the team or basketball," he said. "That's the first time I ever felt like that emotionally, and I had to be with my family."
Rose said he flew back to Chicago, his hometown, about two hours after the team's Monday shootaround, which he attended.
"I just had to get to my family," he said. "I talked to [the team] afterwards. Everybody's on the same page now. They understood right away after I explained myself to them."
Rose spoke to reporters for about eight minutes Tuesday; head coach Jeff Hornacek addressed the media as well. Both attempted to shed light on and clarify some of the details of the previous 24 hours, and they did, at times. For the most part, though, the comments by Rose and Hornacek did little to explain what had actually occurred the day before. They instead created myriad additional questions:
Why did Rose go back to Chicago?
"I really can't get into details. It's really personal," Rose said. "Now I just want to focus. There's too much on my plate right now. I'm just trying to focus on the season like I've been doing since I've been here. But I can't go back in the past and talk about that. Everything's fine."
But clearly, Rose didn't feel everything was fine Monday. Rose did say Tuesday that the issue has been "resolved," but that doesn't explain why he felt an urgent need to fly home.
Could it have been that he's homesick?
"No, no," Rose said. "I've been playing youth basketball ever since I was in sixth grade; I've been traveling ever since I was in sixth grade, so I'm used to it."
Right now, this is the million-dollar question.
Are we sure it was a personal issue and not because Rose sat out the entire fourth quarter in the Knicks' two games before Monday?
The timing is either coincidental or notable. One can't be sure about anything, but both Rose and Hornacek emphatically shut down questions about there being some sort of rift in their relationship in the aftermath of Rose's spending the fourth quarter of the Knicks' two most recent games before Monday on the bench.
"Yeah, that's crazy. That's crazy," Rose said. "I never had a problem with a coach in my life, no matter what team I've been in on."
Hornacek said, "I think somebody asked me about—maybe in the press conference last night—if it had something to do with the Milwaukee game. I was like, 'No, there was nothing.'"
It's best to take Rose at his word—that something happened in his life, triggering some sort of emotional reaction and sending him back home.
But wait, why couldn't Rose notify the team—even through something like a text message—that he was going to miss Monday night's game?
That's a great question.
"Yeah, but things happen," Rose said when asked if he felt he should have contacted the team earlier.
"Of course that's not the person I am. I explained to my teammates I didn't want any distractions to the team, especially with what we have going on right now, and I apologized to them earlier, just letting them know it will never happen again. This wasn't me. This never happened to me before, and I explained that to the team and the front office."
OK, fine, he didn't call the Knicks before the game. So when did they finally get in touch with him?
Rose said he got messages and calls from friends and teammates but that he "didn't want to take any calls at the time. I needed that space to myself, and I needed to be around my mom."
As for when he decided to speak with the organization, well, the timeline is a bit murky.
Hornacek usually addresses the media no more than 10 minutes after a game. On Monday, he spent more than 15 minutes outside the team's news conference room following the Knicks' 110-96 loss to the Pelicans. It's safe to assume he was being briefed on what the team had learned about Rose's mysterious disappearance and whether or not team officials had spoken to him since tipoff.
Yet Hornacek declined to comment when asked by reporters about Rose.
"Right now, we don't have enough information to really give you anything, so that's just going to have to wait until we hear something from Derrick himself," he said.
At one point, he was asked whether he could confirm Rose was safe. Hornacek again declined to comment.
On Tuesday, as he attempted to fill in some of the details, Hornacek said he hadn't communicated with Rose until hours after Monday night's game.
But on Tuesday, Rose said he spoke to Knicks general manager Steve Mills "last night, during the game, after the game and this morning."
"I have a real good relationship with Steve," Rose added.
(The Knicks made both Mills and team president Phil Jackson unavailable for comment Tuesday.)
This leads us to our next question...
Why didn't Hornacek inform the media in his postgame news conference Monday that the team had, indeed, reached Rose?
"Yeah, I didn't know that the team had," Hornacek said Tuesday. "I hadn't heard from him, so, like I said, when I finally got a text through to him, he told me he was OK and apologized and said it was a family issue."
That seems strange—to let your head coach address the media and not arm him with all the information.
If Hornacek is telling the truth (and there's no reason to believe he isn't), then this makes the normally buttoned-up Knicks look like an amateur organization.
If Hornacek is lying (and there's no reason to believe he is), then the Knicks are bending the truth, which would obviously be curious, too.
It could be that the team is trying to publicly cover for Rose, or there could be a different reason. We don't know.
So when did Hornacek find out why Rose had disappeared?
We'll let the Knicks head coach handle this one.
"Uhh, when did I find out? I'm trying to think," he said Tuesday. "There was speculation I think that we maybe had heard from somebody who might know him that that was it."
Not exactly a convincing response, which makes you wonder...
Why wasn't Rose suspended by the team?
The Knicks' decision to fine Rose (an undisclosed amount) and not suspend him seems to paint a picture of them believing it was some sort of emergency that pulled Rose back to Chicago.
"Again, wish he would've handled it by calling us. But again, it's family," Hornacek said. "This is a game. We're all trying to win. However, that's more important."
So, fine, Rose will be back in action Wednesday in Philadelphia. But...
What does all this mean for Rose's future with the Knicks?
Rose, whom the Knicks traded for in June, is making $21.3 million this season, but he will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer. His first year in New York has been up and down, and so it was unclear, before this incident, which way the Knicks were leaning on his free agency.
He's averaging a solid 17.3 points, 4.5 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game and shooting 44.3 percent from the field, and New York has also been better with him on the floor, per NBA.com. But his aggressive, shoot-first style hasn't boosted the Knicks' record (17-21), and New York is 1-12 when Rose attempts 17 or more shots, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein.
The last 24 hours are going to hurt his popularity around town. Fans generally hate when so-called entitled professional athletes pull moves in the workplace that they themselves could never get away with—and skipping out on work without notifying your boss would certainly fall under that umbrella.
Among this, the Knicks' recent swoon (eight losses in nine games) and Rose's injury-riddled past, it's possible New York will decide to move on from him in the summer.
If that's the case, the prudent move would be to try to flip him for an asset before February's trade deadline and then sign another free-agent point guard in the offseason (such as Jrue Holiday). However, it's not like Rose's trade value would fetch much at the moment.
Is Jackson willing to move on from a player he traded for in June?
Jackson's not a man prone to acknowledging mistakes. Bringing in Rose was a gamble—even if the greatest asset the Knicks gave up was middling center Robin Lopez.
Is it one Jackson is willing to walk away from?
"That's something that you probably would have to ask them," Rose said when asked whether he felt the past 24 hours had hurt his standing within the organization.
"I really don't know how they feel. When I talked to them, everything was cool. They understood. That's something you would probably have to ask them—how they're feeling about me leaving. But when I talked to them, everything was fine."
What do Rose's teammates think?
Rose said he spoke to the team during practice on Tuesday.
"Everybody's on the same page," he said.
Perhaps. But a strange thing happened after Monday night's game. Both Courtney Lee and Brandon Jennings told reporters they had tried to reach Rose but hadn't heard from him.
Then Joakim Noah, Rose's longtime friend and teammate in Chicago, spoke to the media.
"I mean, I don't really want to talk too much about it because I don't know what the situation is," Noah said. "I'm just happy that everything is OK with him."
Why didn't Noah share this update with his teammates? Isn't that something they'd discuss in the locker room?
OK, so what really happened between Rose and the Knicks on Monday?
We don't know.
The only thing we do know is that the answers that Rose and Hornacek provided Tuesday didn't quite fit.
Until they do, it's fair to continue questioning what happened between Rose and the Knicks—and to wonder just how much longer their relationship can last.
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