HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Ten games in two years.
That’s the sum total of work Derrick Rose‘s knees have allowed him to put in with the Chicago Bulls of late. Knee injuries and issues have robbed Rose and Bulls fans of two years of the one-time MVP’s prime, time he’ll never get back.
So if Rose wanted to bail right now on his commitment to USA Basketball for the 2014 FIBA World Cup, no one could blame him. The breathtaking talent is still there. We’ve seen enough of that during this current exhibition run to the competition in Spain, even with Rose sitting out Wednesday’s game against the Dominican Republic. But we’re watching it, holding our collective breath, hoping the basketball higher powers spare Rose and the Bulls any further injury agony.
There is a philosophical debate going on right now in the Windy City. Should Rose continue his road back now with USA across his chest? Or should he bow out gracefully right now and make sure he’s ready to go when the Bulls kick off their championship hunt in two months?
Rose doesn’t owe it to anyone to push his sore knee(s) beyond their comfort zone right now. He owes it to himself to continue to listen to that voice inside of his head that tells him when to push it and when to step back. He did it with his recovery with the Bulls and has no reason to ignore that voice this time around.
As disappointing as it would be for the folks at USA Basketball to lose yet another superstar, they would understand where Rose is coming from given his recent injury history.
Nothing will make up for the time he missed the past two seasons. Not even a gold medal in Spain, which I think can be attained with or without Rose in the fold — especially with James Harden, “the best all-around player in the NBA” in uniform.
Selfishly, I’d love to see Rose on the court in Bilbao, Barcelona and Madrid, leading this U.S. Men’s Senior National Team in the World Cup. Without Kevin Durant, Kevin Love and Paul George on the roster, the margin for error shrinks considerably. But the strongest team in the field remains whatever combination of players USA Basketball boss Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski choose to take to Spain.
If Rose wasn’t experiencing any soreness and was completely healthy, there would be no need for debate. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, one of Krzyzewski’s assistants this summer, insists Rose is “fine.” And to some, like Sam Smith of Bulls.com, Rose’s rebirth is a product of his affiliation with USA Basketball and their comprehensive program. There’s a sentiment that he owes it to the program to stick it out this summer.
But he’s already being held out of practices and exhibition games as a precautionary measure. Why risk it? There’s a reason for the nervousness, from some, in Chicago.
Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times voices some of those concerns beautifully:
I know this is hard for Rose to take. An elite, driven athlete is never sated just by tons of money. He wants to play. He wants to dominate. That’s what he was put on earth to do.
But for Bulls fans, the wait to see a healthy, resilient Rose has been like dripping water torture.
Patriots though we may be, we have no similar interest in the United States’ dominance in world basketball. We know the globe now plays the game. We’ve seen our Olympic teams beaten by Argentina, Puerto Rico. We’re still the best, overall. So it goes. Every global star either plays in the NBA or is named Nikola Mirotic. Hooray.
But Kevin Durant and other stars are not playing for Team USA. They’re preparing for the NBA season and the preseason practices that begin — for all teams — just five weeks from today.
Rose’s first knee injury — a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee — may be totally healed. And his second major injury — a torn medial meniscus in his right knee — has been stitched back together and supposedly is good to go.
But God — or old David Stern — generally built players’ bodies pretty well before surgery. No normal knees get better with surgery. There isn’t a rocket chip doctors can put in there. Yet.
So Rose is damaged goods. Sorry, it’s the truth. Hurts to say it. Just like it hurts to say former MVP.
Arthritis likely will be his new closest friend. That and inflammation and swelling and good old ‘‘soreness.’’ Oh, and fatigue.
All of which are just indicators that he’s not a yearling in a spring field of flowers anymore.
Who cares if he wins with Team USA or loses with them or becomes the team mascot. Does anybody in America care that our beloved Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews won the gold medal for Canada in the 2014 Olympics? Or that his beloved teammate Patrick Kane lost for the U.S.?
No. The Stanley Cup is all.
The Larry O’Brien trophy is all that matters to Rose and Bulls teammates like Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler and newcomer Pau Gasol, all guys whose vested interests should come before whatever limited role Rose might play in Spain.
If Rose cannot go all out now, why would anyone expect him to do so once the Bulls start training camp?
There is no shame in recognizing that more rest is needed. There would be a level universal understanding, within the basketball community and beyond, if Rose took himself out of the mix.
If he thinks his knees will hold up, that he needs this challenge to prove to himself that he’s all the way back, I’m fine with that. If this hurdle is emotional and not physical, play on sir. Do your thing.
But knowing what we’ve missed for all but 10 games the two seasons, knowing what sort of agony Bulls fans have had to endure without their hometown superstar in uniform, if this hurdle is physical and not emotional, I’d have no problem with Rose bowing out gracefully.