Derrick Rose discusses growing tension with Bulls; Reinsdorf reacts
BY JOE COWLEY Staff Reporter July 31, 2014 4:36PM
Updated: August 1, 2014 11:41PM
LAS VEGAS — This relationship wasn’t going to end well.
Not for the Bulls, not for Derrick Rose.
It still might not.
But for the first time in his career, Rose, who has three years left on his contract, seems ready to step up and mend a rocky partnership.
“I know it’s been there,’’ Rose told the Sun-Times, acknowledging there has been growing tension between the organization and his camp. “I heard there were some upset people.
“I’m happy I didn’t personally see it. I don’t want to see that. I kind of wonder where it was coming from because it seemed like whenever I was around, everything was all right. It bothered me because when I wasn’t around, I would hear from certain people that everything wasn’t all right.’’
That’s because things often weren’t all right.
Multiple sources in the organization say tension was mounting because Rose allowed his camp to take shots at the franchise. Gradually, there seemed to be less communication between the Bulls and their biggest star. And tensions hit a peak when Rose, who has a five-year, $94.8 million contract, seemed to want no part in the recruitment of players.
The Bulls’ pursuit of free agent Carmelo Anthony was the latest example.
Looking back, it’s clear Rose wasn’t all that interested in teaming with Anthony, who chose to return to the New York Knicks. Rose was much more aggressive in the Bulls’ pursuit of free agent Pau Gasol, not only asking for his phone number, but giving a hard sell to the big man on joining the Bulls.
So why Gasol and not Anthony?
“[Gasol is] someone that I knew I could play with,’’ Rose said. “You think about Pau, him now being in the East, what he’ll be able to achieve with the way we play, the way we dump the ball in the post a lot. It could be great.’’
As far as tensions with his own organization, Rose didn’t single out one side or the other. At 25 and two knee surgeries reminding him he’s mortal, it’s time to stop pointing fingers.
“This is a new beginning,’’ Rose said several times. “It really is.’’
Despite Rose confirming to the Sun-Times that there has been growing tension, Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf issued a strongly worded statement Thursday night disputing the idea of any problems.
“I am confounded by the irresponsible report in the Chicago Sun-Times suggesting there is anything approaching discord or confusion between the Bulls executive office, coaching staff, and Derrick Rose or any other Bulls player,” Reinsdorf said in the statement. “To the contrary, I can remember no time when the organization has been any more focused, optimistic, and cohesive.”
On July 1, the Bulls opened the city for their recruitment of Anthony. The sales pitch would culminate with a dinner that night. Rose was requested to attend.
It was a perfect plan. Except for the confusion that ensued.
The entire day seemed like an exercise in defiance. Despite an ESPN report that indicated Rose had no knowledge that Anthony was even coming that day, Rose said he knew and had his workout moved from the Berto Center in Deerfield to the United Center.
The team wanted his workout to be a “big production’’ for Anthony, even having the court put down so he could see Rose’s knees were alive and well.
Rose would put on the show, but he wasn’t exactly a willing participant.
“[Rose] wanted nothing to do with it,’’ a source said last week. “They had to beg him just to talk to Anthony after [the workout].’’
Then there was the dinner for Anthony. Expected to attend: key members of the Bulls’ front office, plus Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson. The expectation was Rose also would attend. He supposedly informed them that he wouldn’t, but that evidently was lost in the communication ladder.
“They were irate he wasn’t there,’’ a team source said.
Three days later, ESPN reported that Rose was an innocent bystander during the entire Anthony visit.
“We knew where that story came from,’’ a Bulls source said.
The assumption was that Rose’s camp knew how angry the organization was over his lack of involvement during the Anthony visit, so it went on the offensive before the Bulls could.
This wasn’t the first time the Bulls have had internal questions about the Rose camp and its agenda.
Rose has always lived by the motto “Everybody Eats.’’
As one former teammate pointed out recently, ‘‘Everybody’s eating, but there’s only one guy out there busting his [butt].’’
The two most obvious faces in the Rose camp are his brother/manager, Reggie, and his agent, B.J. Armstrong.
Reggie obviously did little to help his brother’s cause on Feb. 21, 2013, by blasting the organization on the night of the trade deadline for its lack of movement. Never mind that Derrick Rose was still nursing a torn anterior cruciate ligament, despite team doctors clearing him to return.
It wasn’t the last time the organization would have problems with Reggie expressing his opinion.
Then there’s Armstrong.
The former Bulls guard worked for the organization under former general manager Jerry Krause. But when vice president of basketball operations John Paxson came in, Armstrong was demoted from assistant GM to a scouting position.
Armstrong was completely out by 2005, reportedly unhappy with Paxson and the Bulls. The fact that Armstrong, who works for the Wasserman Media Group in Los Angeles, became Rose’s agent was an obvious concern for the Bulls.
Armstrong doesn’t do interviews about Rose. Just ask him.
“I don’t do interviews, and what does that word ‘camp’ even mean?’’ Armstrong said when asked about the Rose camp and its relationship with the Bulls.
Asked if there was one spokesman for Rose, Armstrong said: “No one does interviews. No one talks. Derrick speaks to you [media] guys, and that’s it. There’s nothing to discuss. If there is something going on, there’s two people: You can get it from [chairman] Jerry Reinsdorf or you can get it from Derrick Rose. There’s nothing else to talk about.’’
Armstrong was informed of growing concerns by members of the organization concerning Rose and the advice he might be receiving from those around him.
“You’re talking about rumors,” Armstrong said. “I see Jerry 50 times a year. If I ask Jerry Reinsdorf right now how the relationship is, that’s all I care about.’’
Call it maturity, call it watching what LeBron James has done for his hometown team this summer, but Rose now seems poised to take control of his own brand.
During this week of USA Basketball tryouts in Las Vegas, all Rose has spoken about is being a leader — not only for Team USA, which plays its first real intrasquad game Friday, but for the Bulls.
He was admittedly in “a dark place’’ rehabbing from his first knee surgery entering last season, and that’s all behind him. Rose keeps reiterating that he “wants to be an icon.’’
Icons don’t allow the group to lead. Icons lead the group — on and off the court. Rose is finally embracing that concept.
“It seems like everybody has one goal, from the front office all the way down now,’’ Rose said. “It seems like everyone is finally communicating with each other. That’s all we need. You think about all the championship teams, they say that communication and one goal is usually the recipe. You take away all the other [stuff] and just make it simple.
“This is a new beginning for everybody. We’ve got a new practice facility, a new year where I’m coming back, and we have some great talent. It’s time to turn the page and move in a positive direction.’’