Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Look Into the Derrick Rose Situation

Much of this Bulls' season has been spent in limbo, waiting for the (supposed) arrival of Derrick Rose. The fallen leader of the Bulls, injured last April 28th, was expected by many to miss 8-12 months after sustaining the torn knee ligaments. For Bulls fans, though, we've thought all along, whether it be from intuition, media hints, Bulls front office hints, or the simple fact that we've watched Derrick Rose perform superhuman feats in his career and thus assumed he'd heal in the same fashion, that he'd be back sometime close to or after the All Star break. No one knew for sure when, or how, he'd return, but most figured it would be around that time. Then, the theory went, he'd pick up and lead an overachieving Bulls team deep into the playoffs. We made these assumptions because we knew all along the mentality that Rose has had his entire career, how he was so much different than the typical modern athlete. That was, of course, until his USA Today interview and subsequent comments to the media about not being able to dunk yet and being fine with perhaps sitting out the season that could bring out the doubters.

Bulls fans love D Rose. I'd even argue that there isn't a fanbase in the NBA that loves one of their players quite like Bulls fans love D Rose. It's his born-in-Chicago work ethic, his unbelievable playing ability, humble attitude, and his supposed mentality that basketball reigns supreme. He was a breath of fresh air in an era full of selfish athletes. D Rose was OUR guy, a Chicago guy through and through who cared about little else than playing basketball and winning games for the Bulls. This was the kid who came up from Chicago, was shy in front of the media, worked his tail off, and even had the Bulls give him his own keys to the practice facility so he could work out on his own. His subtle confidence, combined with his inherent humility, pulled us onboard from day 1. It's almost like we've watched him grow up, maybe even feeling like we all played a part, however tiny, in his maturation.

We would never have questioned his motives or intentions. We didn't blink an eye when he got his max deal from the Bulls, and we were happy for him when he got his mammoth $250 million deal from Adidas. After all, this was Derrick Rose. He wouldn't ever kowtow to big sports business types and certainly never forsake his responsibilities as the face of the Chicago Bulls for the same. But after enduring this serious injury and stepping away from the media, is this still true?

In the USA Today interview, Rose reiterates that he won't come back until he's 110% healthy. He maintains that he's still far away, that he's only in the upper 80's and that he'll only come back when he's ready. I don't think any of us would disagree with that. He should only come back when he's healthy. But for the first time in Rose's career, there are rumblings that his motives aren't pure. People are speculating that various financial sources, whether it be his "team" of agents and financial advisers, or Adidas themselves, are calling the shots behind Derrick's return, and not Derrick and the Bulls' staff.

I'm not sure what exactly to make of all this. I don't want to believe that the player I've loved watching more than any basketball player since MJ would all of a sudden completely reverse the way he's operated and make decisions purely from a financial standpoint. But considering the clout Adidas and his team have, isn't it possible? Could it be a mixture of the two, that Rose wants to wait until he's healthy both to maximize his financial security and go through an entire season with the Bulls and not just a few months?

How big of a role does "The Return" play?
It's hard to say. The entire Adidas "The Return" ad campaign has me skeptical, thinking that perhaps Adidas holds more sway than we all think. They did make an enormous financial commitment to him, and he's the face of their NBA marketing campaign in the midst of an uber-competitive athletic apparel market. Considering their financial foothold with Rose is significantly larger than the Bulls, there is that aspect of the situation that could make people believe there is more to the story. This is a situation where Rose's previous silence hurt him, because even though this is the first time he's publicly commented on his injury, everything we've heard until now was that he was practicing with full contact, that he was nearly ready to go, and that he was expected to return soon. Thus, hearing Rose abruptly reverse that discussion immediately leads people to believe in our modern cynical society that there are shadowy figures at work.

Maybe Rose is simply not 100% ready to return yet. With the silence from the Rose camp - at least until now - and the steadfast party line answer from the Bulls, we really don't know the truth. After all, where did the idea that he would come back around the All Star break (which is right in the middle of the estimated return from the doctors) even come from? The sports world was mesmerized by the amazing return of Adrian Peterson in the NFL this year, but each athlete's body is different. Furthermore, we're comparing two entirely different sports. So for now, I'm going to take a hard line stance and believe that Rose doesn't think he's ready, and that he's making his decision from a basketball, and not financial, platform. Coming from just one interview that Rose has given, I don't think it is entirely fair to extrapolate that Rose has all of a sudden transformed from the humble, eager, driven, and motivated basketball player to a clever, manipulative sports/financial figure.

I'm not naive. We all know how valuable endorsements are to modern athletes. But from having followed Rose closely his entire career, he isn't the type of player, and more importantly, the type of man, to let that type of decision making hold the Bulls hostage. He's earned more than his fair share of goodwill to where we should be able to believe him when he says that from a purely injury standpoint, he's just not ready. I'm even fine with the presupposition that he doesn't want to rush back to a team that he might not be able to help win a championship this season, and that a combination of the above factors is holding him back right now.

Rose cares most about basketball, right?
Maybe this is just part of Rose's grand plan to maximize "The Return," by putting the ball back in his court. Rose essentially now controls when and where he comes back, setting up the possibility that Adidas can turn it into a huge spectacle. Maybe Bulls fans just have too much time on their hands, anxiously awaiting their favorite player, and Rose didn't realize the fervor his interview would create. Maybe the media is being its normal self, stirring the pot, searching for a story where there really isn't one. I mean, isn't it entirely possible that Rose is really only about 90% healthy? And hasn't anyone in any way remotely involved with the situation maintained that he would only come back when he's ready? Tom Thibodeau basically has that saying on repeat right now.

I'm not ready to label my favorite athlete as a liar, nor am I ready to cast him into the pile with all of the other modern selfish athletes. This is Derrick Rose, after all, the player who has so often mesmerized an entire city and brought consistent success back to a city that has missed it since the days of Michael Jordan. Rose has every right in the world to maximize his value as a player by waiting until he's fully healthy to play (not to mention maximizing the long term value/success of the Bulls), as well as maximizing his value as an endorser by doing the same. I believe that is the crux of the situation right now. I have faith in him, more than anything. But I'd be lying if I didn't have a creeping worry, some gnawing fear that something else is afoot. For now, though, we should just take his comments in stride and believe him when he says he's just waiting until he's healthy.

The only thing we do know is that Derrick Rose has already brought in his short career scores of memories and nights of joy and success to Bulls fans. For now, until we hear or read anything more concrete than "I'll be back when I'm 110% healthy," I think he deserves to get our benefit of the doubt. I think the timing of Rose's interview, combined with the desperation of Bulls fans to see him on the court, has allowed this story to spiral out of control.

Get better D Rose. It's clear now more than ever just how much we miss you.


Katy Korth said...

I think this will be a defining moment for Derrick...will he make his decision based on endorsements or show his maturity & confidence in determining when HE is ready to return? ...not when the media or even fans say so. This is also a decision based on how physically able AND mentally prepared he is to accept the choice to return IF he plays again too soon...resulting in a possible career ending injury. Let's hope he uses his brain and heart to make the right choice!

Dave Johnsen said...

I'm beginning to think it's a combination of both. Derrick is at this point in his career well aware of his value, both on and off the court. Thus, his decision to wait until he's 110% healthy, even if he's close enough to return now, benefits both of those areas seeing as how the Bulls probably couldn't win the title regardless this year.

I just hope that Rose returns to the player who always seemed to be so above the materialistic selfish modern athlete nonsense. And I think he will.