TELANDER: We’ve already seen Derrick Rose’s peak
BY RICK TELANDER Sports Columnist November 25, 2013 10:02PM
Updated: December 27, 2013 6:31AM
Let me say this with all my heart: I hope I’m wrong.
Then let me say this: I don’t think I am.
Derrick Rose, the humble, hardworking Chicago point guard, will never be the same.
And because of that — because of his second serious knee injury requiring surgery — the Bulls will never be the same. At least, they won’t be during Rose’s playing career. At least not until president John Paxson, general manager Gar Forman and Tom Thibodeau or whoever will continue to coach the Bulls figure out what this disaster means to the franchise.
None of this is his fault, but by the time he comes back in 2014, he might wear rust like a bear wears fur. You must consider the way Rose plays the game. Explosively. Violently.
His game is built on attacking the rim, on putting the hammer down on breaks, on twisting and jumping and crashing into huge men and then, invariably, to the floor. He is not a ballerina. He is Walter Payton.
Injuries will continue to haunt him, unless he changes his game and becomes something he never has been: a smooth operator like John Stockton, a one-level floor general like Steve Nash, a jitterbug like Chris Paul.
But a player’s ‘‘game’’ is as much a part of his DNA as his shoe size. (Which reminds me: How do you think Adidas feels right now about its $250 million investment in Rose? Can it put those ‘‘The Return’’ videos — the return that didn’t happen when it was supposed to — on a permanent loop?) Getting Rose to play a different style of ball is, in my opinion, a fool’s task. He has said all along, through every bit of rehab, that he’s not going to change the way he plays. Who knows why he has bad knees?
“It may be bad luck,” said Dr. Pietro Tonino, the sports medicine director at Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine. “Or there may be something in his knee joints that are predisposing him to injury.”
And the sadness for us and the Bulls is that we saw Rose’s peak — the 2010-11 Most Valuable Player season — without knowing it was the peak. He was 23 then, and Forman had shown me a tantalizing study that said supreme athletes improve until 25, plateau for four or five years, then start a gradual descent that hastens by 35. In other words, Rose had at least seven more years of supremacy in him.
The Bulls would build a dynasty around him, one that could challenge LeBron James’ Heat, everybody. Now what do the Bulls do? A point guard is your quarterback.
What if Rose breaks again? You can’t build around something you can’t depend on. This season is over. And looking ahead, well, the upcoming draft has a new urgency to it.
The Bulls are committed to Rose with millions of guaranteed dollars. They have soon-to-be free-agent players who could move on after this season or be shoved out.
Many star athletes come back from knee surgery and seem to reach their apex again. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady tore the anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in his left knee in 2008 but has played like a Hall of Famer since returning in 2009. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson tore the same ligaments as Brady in 2011, and he’s as good as ever. In hoops, you’ve got Paul, Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin and others who have blown right through their surgeries.
But what about Mark Price, Penny Hardaway, Greg Oden and others who never fully healed? By the way, how’s skier Lindsey Vonn doing since her knee surgery?
It seems to me that Rose plays too hard for his body. Because of that, we all lose.
‘‘It’s time to show the world that I can still do this,’’ Rose said in his rehab ad last year.
I think it’s too late.