It is hard to be universally liked by NBA fans, but Derrick Rose of the New York Knicks is one of the rare exceptions. His up-and-down career to this point has been talked about enough and does not need to be rehashed here, but as the youngest league MVP in history and a Rookie of the Year winner, he is likely going to the Hall of Fame one day.
Of course, this didn’t always look like the case after that unfortunate ACL tear in 2011 that changed everything. Although it took Rose a long time to find himself again, it looks like he has finally done just that in his second stint with the Knicks. All of the pieces have fallen into place, with the most important being reunited with former head coach Tom Thibodeau.
The two made the Eastern Conference finals together with the Chicago Bulls, and although that is a tall order for the Knicks as the postseason approaches, the fact that Rose is even in this position at all is pretty remarkable.
The New York Knicks are heading back to the playoffs, and with it the redemption of one of the league’s favorite players in Derrick Rose will be complete.
The Knicks’ recent two-game stop in Los Angeles was a microcosm of Rose’s season as a whole, and certainly since he arrived back in New York from the Detroit Pistons. Most Improved Player frontrunner Julius Randle wasn’t at his dominant best in their win over the L.A. Clippers, and it was left to Rose and unsung hero Reggie Bullock to carry the Knicks to a big win in Los Angeles.
Rose ended with a team-high 25 points in 32 minutes off the bench, easily outshining starter Elfrid Payton (who played only 16 minutes), as has often been the case since coming over to the team. Tuesday’s outcome versus the Los Angeles Lakers was different, as the Knicks lost a tough one in overtime.
Randle was firing on all cylinders, finishing with 31 points, with Rose putting up 27/6/6 alongside him. To do this in 39 minutes of play really shows that injury concerns of the past no longer seem to be an issue. This was only two games, but it speaks to a wider and more exciting development for Rose and the Knicks and the playoffs near.
The Rose that we knew him as before will never be back, we know that. But it finally looks like he has figured out how to occasionally tap into the league MVP of before, for literally one offensive possession at a time every so often when needed, while also being comfortable as a veteran player who can dictate the tempo in a really impressive fashion too.
This is in stark contrast to the Rose who played for the Minnesota Timberwolves for 60 games across two seasons, and who actually had some pretty good numbers while he was there too. But he looked miserable, much like in an even shorter stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was only when he got to the Pistons, that he seemed to truly excel as a mentor and somebody who had come to terms with where he was at in his career.
Which leads us back to the present moment. In 32 games with the Knicks, Rose has shot a ridiculous 41.7 percent from deep. For his career as a whole, that number is a terrible 31.1 percent. This is just another way that Rose has changed his game as he has gotten older. His body hasn’t been able to do what it used to for a long time, but the consistent shooting from deep is such a welcome addition.
To be doing this off the bench, which he has done before, but as part of the surprise package of the NBA season, is also great to see. The Knicks were on to something before they traded for Rose, but in years gone by this is a deal that might not have worked out. Now it absolutely has, as Rose fills in around the needs of Randle and the younger core as best he can.
When we’re young, we think that championships are the only thing that matter, and it would be amazing to see Derrick Rose get one before he leaves the league. It would be the storybook ending here. But actually seeing him part of a meaningful team, that is going to have a big playoff moment or two, is the next best thing.
You would not have been ridiculed for thinking that Rose was going to wash out in some small market like Minnesota or Cleveland, bowing out of the league in a sorry fashion. Instead, he’s worked his way back to “The Mecca”, and a series win in the playoffs this year would live long in the memory. Certainly, more than it would for any other organization in the league.
It is not like this is the last stand of Rose or the Knicks either, as they look to be building something that could take another step forward next year, assuming all of the key players stick around, plus coach Thibodeau. To know that Derrick Rose exists in that group is such a positive turn of events for him, and seeing him do his thing in the postseason, which he undoubtedly will, is going to be even better.