The Derrick Rose dilemma

Marco Benitez
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 29: Derrick Rose #1 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots the ball during the game against the New York Knicks on October 29. 2017 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

Last Nov. 25, 2017, it was reported that Derrick Rose had taken a leave of absence from the Cleveland Cavaliers to deal with a personal issue, while at the same time recovering from an ankle injury suffered on Oct. 20. Rose was also reportedly “re-evaluating his future in the NBA” and that there was growing uncertainty within the franchise whether he would return.

Both former and current teammates and even coaches showed support for DRose as he dealt with his personal situation, and it was clear, based on the language used, that this was primarily a mental and emotional issue, brought about by his constant bouts with injury, preventing him from returning to his 2010-2011 MVP form.

His former coach Tom Thibodeau, now with the Timberwolves, said that he would support Rose whatever the player decided to do, and that the most important thing right now was that he be able to find peace of mind. Taj Gibson, a former teammate in Chicago, felt for Rose and what he has gone through, but believes that Rose just needed to push through and get back in that locker room, be with the guys (his teammates), and just get back to playing ball. Rose had been averaging a career-low 14.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game in seven games this year with the Cavs, with whom he signed a one year $2.1 million deal last July.

Since he's been gone, the news that came out of the media and from the Cavs front office was that they’ve had “positive communication” with Rose, with Coach Tyron Lue expecting him to return to the team. Most recently, it was reported that last Monday, Dec. 4, Rose flew to Cleveland and is expected to meet with the Cavs front office to begin the process of his return and the rehabilitation of his ankle. No timetable had been set for his return to action.

In July of 2014 I was privileged enough to have covered the launch of the Adidas DRose 1 in Las Vegas. This was Derrick Rose’s signature shoe with Adidas which was supposed to introduce the Boost technology to the shoe market. In that launch – two seasons removed from his MVP year with the Bulls – DRose was THE superstar with the signature shoe, with Damian Lillard also present to introduce a secondary line, the “Adidas Crazylight,” which he, along with other Adidas athletes would be endorsing.

Fast-forward to 2017, Damian Lillard and James Harden are now the faces of Adidas with their own signature shoe lines. Rose, by virtue of his mega-contract signed after his MVP season, still has his signature shoe being sold, but it is a far cry from being the main sneaker being pushed by the brand. In fact, his DRose line seems more like an afterthought now, alongside the other Adidas basketball shoes worn by the Harden, Lillard, Wiggins, and other young endorsers.

One can only imagine the mental and emotional frustration someone like Derrick Rose has gone through dealing with the career he has had. The youngest MVP in history at age 22, he was supposed to be the next face of the Chicago franchise after MJ, carrying the hopes of an entire city, and was immediately an All-NBA talent, an All-Star, and one of the NBA’s brightest and most exciting stars to watch. Imagine having reached that peak at such a young age - including feats not many NBA stars have accomplished in an entire career – and then to have it taken away from you by injury. More than that, to have never been able to approximate that type of performance consistently the past four seasons because of one injury and another, with so many fans looking for the “old Derrick Rose,” must have taken a huge toll on him.

It remains to be seen what will happen next in the DRose saga. In Cleveland, assuming he does return and recovers from his injury, he will be the backup point guard to Isaiah Thomas once the latter is a hundred percent – a scenario people would call you crazy for even mentioning a few years back. And while there are still flashes of brilliance and explosiveness, and that raw athleticism he once displayed in Chicago – DRose is technically still in his prime at age 29 – there aren’t many who believe he can ever return to his MVP form.

However, as an athlete who once carried the hopes of a city on his broad shoulders, I hope he heeds the advice of his former teammate Taj Gibson: to just keep pushing and get back into that locker room and be around the game and his teammates. Only by being around the game day in and day out can he rekindle that love for the game which was so evident early on in his career; and something that those setbacks due to injuries must have somehow taken away from him. We can only hope that his next move is a step in the right direction.

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