I’m often criticized for being a combination of cynical, negative and one that always assumes the worst no matter the situation. I’m the ultimate realist (and an elitist depending on how well you know me), and my pure optimist days have long been retired. When you’ve been jaded enough by teams you root for and players you admire repeatedly over the years, it’s virtually impossible to have a positive vibe in the wake of the ruptured ACL in Derrick Rose’s knee.
Why him? How can this happen to one of the few real, genuine, admirable & respectful superstars in the association? Rose is everything that’s right about a league where ego and getting coaches fired reign supreme, and are a right of passage for other stars. How does this happen to a 23 year old kid who lives for the game that he’s so great at? How does karma not attack I don’t know, a 6’8 275 pound flopping drama queen on South Beach? If anyone deserves this fate other than King Flop, it’s his teammate who viciously took down Rajon Rondo in last year’s playoffs that resulted in a dislocated elbow. If a debilitating injury happened to one of them, I’d feel nothing but the urge to throw a party.
A season ending injury to the reigning MVP in the first game of the real season simply isn’t fair. It’s that simple. Did I criticize Rose for some of his comments in the GQ piece? Yes, but make no mistake, I love that kid. He represents this city better than anyone has. He embraces being the king of Chicago and wants nothing more than to bring a 7th championship here. He is one of us and embodies this town in a way that Oprah could only dream of.
When Rose (who had played in 280 out of 286 games since high school before this season) collapsed to the court, it felt like the city tore it’s collective ACL. There isn’t a fan base in sports that loves their superstar like Chicago loves D Rose. This is a civic loss as much if not more than a lost championship opportunity. The happiness and excitement that Rose brings has been ripped from us, and there aren’t enough words to describe how much it sucks.
Who knows if Rose will ever be able to regain the explosiveness, speed, agility & fearless attitude that define his game. If it’s a clean ACL tear, he should return fine physically, but the mental aspect could be the biggest hurdle. What happens the first time Rose goes make an explosive cut on the knee? That will be as mentally draining as any rehabilitation session. The sad realization right now is that we may have witnessed the end of the of the stage where Rose is the most athletic point guard in league history.
As for the team, this now feels like the ’94 Bulls season all over again. The correlations are there. Jordan “retired” abruptly right before training camp, and the Bulls were suddenly the underdog that people wanted to write off. They proceeded to become the feel good story of that season, won 55 games & were one Hue Hollins bullshit call from going to the eastern conference finals. They epitomized team ball, and had depth much like this roster now.
This Bulls team (who is 18-9 without Rose this season) won’t quit, and will still be a bitch for any team to deal with. I still expect them to beat the Sixers in this series, and give Boston or Atlanta all they can handle. This team has pride, heart & an appreciation for each other that few teams in sports do.
But regardless of how this series turns out, the Rose injury is another example of why having eternal optimism will only lead to heartbreak. Expecting and fearing the worst might give off a negative vibe to people, but it’s a hell of a lot better than repeatedly getting kicked in the balls by the merciless sports Gods. Rose doesn’t deserve this fate like some of the divalicious douche juices that the NBA is filled with. This isn’t a death sentence for this team or Rose’s career like Thibs said, but it damn sure feels like one.