Only days after LeBron James fulfilled his promise of bringing a championship to the greater Northeast Ohio region, Derrick Rose left his hometown of Chicago ring-less.
Rose, reserve point guard Justin Holiday and a 2017 second-round pick were traded to the Knicks on Wednesday in exchange for center Robin Lopez, point guard Jose Calderon and guard Jerian Grant.
If Jerian Grant strikes a chord with you, it might be because he is the nephew of former Bulls star Horace Grant and a Notre Dame basketball product. Grant was drafted by the Knicks in 2015 and is a lottery ticket, in that you hope that something good comes of a young body with fresh legs, a good background and a semblance of upside.
Calderon is a serviceable starting point guard with one year remaining on his deal. He is past his prime, but knows how to facilitate and run an offense without bogging it down with over-dribbling or “my turn” shots.
Lopez has three years left on what was a four-year deal worth $54 million signed in 2015 with New York. The veteran center has minimal offensive value and upside, but has some skills as a rebounder and rim protector. I would guess his job is to be a younger version of a poor man’s Joakim Noah, even if his contract is worth an average of $13.5 million annually.
The takeaway from this deal is that this is how badly the Bulls wanted to rid themselves of the baggage that Derrick Rose brought to the table.
No longer are the Bulls a slave to Rose’s oft-injured body. They are now free from the off-court distractions that would come with every misstep that would occur when he would speak to the media. They no longer have to deal with lingering questions about extending Rose’s contract during a walk year. And now Jimmy Butler gets to slide into the alpha dog role without any dissent coming from Rose.
But what about Rose?
Derrick Rose gets a fresh start where he doesn’t have to be The Man to be successful. The trade releases him from the burden of having to answer questions about free agency in Chicago while simultaneously trying to carry his hometown team to the postseason. At this point if his career, Rose doesn’t have to live up to the lofty expectations he set at the start of his career with a Rookie of the Year award, an MVP and three All-Star Game appearances.
For just one year, all Rose has to concern himself with is basketball. Roll it out on the court with a proven scorer in Carmelo Anthony and a rising star Kristaps Porzingis and let the game take care of what is valuable to Rose moving forward — his next big contract. Because if he’s healthy, he will get a (second) wealthy deal and a third lease on basketball life.
Not to say that will be easy. I put together a table in Thursday’s Chicago Tribune outlining the difference between pre-injury Derrick and the player he was after the ACL tear. The numbers were drastic. He went from one of the league’s most productive (and even efficient) point guards to one of its least productive (and extremely inefficient) as his career closed out in Chicago.
For Rose to be successful moving forward, he will need to refine his game. He never was (and will likely never be) a good perimeter shooter. Unfortunately, the various injuries he has suffered over the years has stripped him of his explosiveness and ability to finish at the rim. Rose will have to re-invent himself in New York, and because of the pieces around him, he has a puncher’s chance of doing so because of the shot-making abilities of Anthony and Porzingis.
Rose will need to turn into a facilitator under Jeff Hornacek. Again, that could be a tough task considering the toll injuries have taken on Rose’s ability to create for himself off the dribble. It’s hard to be a drive-and-kick threat if you can’t drive — especially if opponents already don’t respect your shot. However, Rose isn’t an idiot on the hardwood and Hornacek is a good enough coach to get a quality year out of Rose if he is healthy.
Let’s be clear here. The Knicks aren’t getting the Derrick Rose who set the league on fire in his first four years out of Memphis. He doesn’t have to be that guy to be successful. But know that if he was that guy still, he probably wouldn’t be on the Knicks right now.
And that is something some Bulls fans need to understand. The Bulls didn’t trade MVP Derrick Rose, they traded the guy who struggled with nagging injuries to stay on the court. They dealt the player whose playing status was a constant distraction. They moved a player whose prime was behind him and wasn’t likely going to be on the team the next time it was a true title contender.
The Bulls aren’t a Derrick Rose away from a championship right now and they made a wise decision to move on from him. It was better to do it now than do it midseason where it would have been the ultimate distraction for a team that needed fewer of them.
Rose had some great years in Chicago, and for a while there you wouldn’t have been crazy to think that he was the kind of player who could give LeBron James’ teams the biggest fight in the East. Unfortunately, his body couldn’t handle it — and not everyone’s body is made to handle the beating Rose went through over the years. He played the game with a ferocity that went mostly unmatched during his prime. It was a unique blend of quick-twitch moves and reckless abandon, teamed with the poetry in motion that is the game of basketball.
When Rose was healthy, he was the best player Chicago had since Michael Jordan owned the United Center hardwood. (Sorry, Kirk Hinrich.)
Now, it’s over. And both sides should be happy about it, appreciative of the good times they had and thankful for the new opportunities that are ahead.
The Bulls drafted Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine in a move that is more sensible than sexy.
Valentine was a four-year player for the Spartans and won the AP’s National Player of the Year, earned a first-team All-American spot and finished as a runner-up for the Naismith and Wooden awards as a senior. He played on four really successful Michigan State teams and under one of the best hands-on coaches in Tom Izzo. Valentine does a lot of things well (good perimeter shooter, OK passer, willing defender) but doesn’t excel in any particular area.
While he lacks in athleticism and upside, Valentine does have good quality work ethic, basketball IQ and instincts — two things the Bulls desperately needed with this pick (and in players moving forward). The Bulls could have made a worse pick here and didn’t. Good on them.