Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Rose Conundrum

The hardest work there is
Today in Chicago, one-time MVP and Chicago Bull Derrick Rose practiced in a 5 on 5 scrimmage... for the first time since last April's disastrous knee injury in the team's first-round playoff against the Sixers. And while this news would always lead to questions and speculation, given how Chicago is one of the few teams in the East that can stay in the frame with the defending champion Heat... well, there's more to it than that. Something tragic, and inevitable.

Rose has, to all accounts, crushed his rehab, and pushed himself as much as physically possible... just as he did, over and over again, in coming back from a half dozen different injuries in the 2011-12 season. Because that's the thing that people don't want to deal with in Rose's rehab; that he might, well, never be able to stay healthy for a full season again. Since the last injury wasn't, well, the first.

It's not like this story hasn't happened before. Allen Iverson never got back to his 2000-2001 MVP level, in large part due to his inability to stay intact and fully charged. Brandon Roy's career is done after a festival of pain. Pete Maravich still makes old guys wistful, despite a stat line that doesn't seem to be up to the legend. Eric Gordon's career is a mess. Steph Curry has been great this year, but every ankle tweak makes Warrior fans go into the fetal position. Terrell Brandon, Penny Hardaway, Kevin Johnson... NBA history is just littered with great small guards that didn't fulfill their potential due to injury.

And honestly, there's no reason to think Rose won't be any different. Especially with the way he played the game.

Start with his athleticism. Rose dunked as a 6'-3" 190 pound point, and it wasn't ever a rim scratcher. He took contact to supplement a sometimes shaky outside and three-point shot, and increased his blocks per game every year he was in the NBA, along with the assists. When he was at his best, he was no worse than the second or third best player at his position in the game, and that's only because I've got an unrealistic love of Chris Paul and, when he's on his game, Russell Westbrook.

But now?

Well, Chicago needs him to be what he was, but better. There's no getting beyond LeBron James unless he's all that and more. (Oh, and at this point, they'd be thrilled if he's just able to keep Kyrie Irving down.)

And with each succeeding day when he's been away, and each moment of assurance that he's not dunking yet, ready to sit out the year if he has to, to get back to 110%...

Well, there's no guarantee, is there, that a comeback has to succeed. Or that a player like Rose was ever going to hold up to the long-term pounding, even in a league where some of the physicality has gone away with flagrant foul calls.

Finally, there's this.

As good as Rose was before he got hurt, was it realistic to expect him to stay at that level, let alone get better? After all, he was better in 2010 than he was in 2011...

Personally, I'm rooting for him. He's fun to watch, you can never have enough good point guards, and rooting for injury is never good for the soul.

But if you had to bet on it... well, no.

Because even if he had stayed healthy, he's five inches shorter than LeBron, and, well, not LeBron.

Which isn't going to keep us all from rooting for him anyway, right?

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