Coming into the 2014-2015 season, one of the biggest stories around the league is the health status of often-injured point guard Derrick Rose. Earlier this week, the 2011 MVP sat out two practices for Team USA, due to sore knees, prior to their exhibition game tonight against the Dominican Republic. As a result, it has many on alarm that Rose’s knees are beginning to flare up once again. It makes one wonder, at this juncture, if Derrick Rose will continue to be at risk if he continues to play for USA Basketball during this summer’s FIBA World Cup. After all, if Rose continues to play for the team, it may result in the Bulls’ franchise player missing the 2014-2015 season.
From the very beginning, it was a controversial move when Rose elected to play for the national team. This is a player who has had two back-to-back season-ending injuries, who is risking his career further by playing in the optional tournament. Certainly, the motivation behind his entry is to prove to basketball fans, along with his competitors, that he has returned to form. If he is healthy, many are projecting that his Chicago Bulls are the only squad who can fight off the revamped Cleveland Cavaliers.
The problem with Rose’s campaign this summer is that he is already feeling pain, despite only working his body through practices and one exhibition game. If his knees are already feeling it, he and the Bulls may be in serious trouble in the NBA season, considering this summer’s schedule is nothing compared to the upcoming 82-game season plus playoffs he will have to endure this year. Last season, Rose assured everyone that he was 100 percent healthy…until he re-injured himself after only 10 games into the season. Midway through August, it appears as though Rose is headed down the same path he has been down the last several seasons — missing the majority of the NBA season entirely.
All of this news certainly concerns Tom Thibodeau, Chicago’s head coach, who also serves as one of Team USA’s assistants. Rose could come out of this summer tournament hobbling. Rose should probably consider opting out of the games altogether. He has too much to lose once again. While USA Basketball has been hit hard this summer after losing Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, and Paul George, it would do the squad a disservice to keep Rose.
Yes, USA Basketball needs the best players on the squad. However, they also need a team that is healthy. It does the team no good to keep Rose, if he is going to be day-to-day from here on out. Coach Mike Krzyzewski needs to develop a squad that meshes together and plays consistent ball. There is no guarantee, in fact an unlikely possibility, that Rose will be healthy for all of the FIBA World Cup Games. By having him exit the team, USA has a better shot at winning. Additionally, Rose, while he looked good in the initial practices, is far from the player they want him to be on the team. When he played against Brazil in his hometown of Chicago, he played 25 minutes, which only led to seven points, four rebounds and two assists, to go along with three quick turnovers. If that is what he will bring to the team, he is not worth the risk.
What Rose needs to do for the next couple of months is to continue to strengthen his legs via conditioning. To ask a player who has been out almost two seasons and to play 25 minutes, his longest in years, is a dangerous feat. For Rose to play that many minutes this soon could derail all the work he has put his body through over the last year in working himself back into basketball shape. Instead, Rose needs to continue to work on his body, which means he needs to work his body on his terms, not USA Basketball’s. If he leaves the team, he has control of his workouts and the ability to, periodically, increase his conditioning.
More importantly, when it comes to Rose’s eventual comeback to the Bulls, Thibodeau needs to set limits. He needs to set a gradual increase of minutes for him. As evidenced by last year and, so far this summer, he is not ready for starter’s minutes. Eventually he will be. In order to do so though, he needs to strengthen his knees. Moreover, his knees are not used to this much physical activity. His knees are bound to be sore, as they have been, after his 25 minutes of play against Brazil. This is why he needs to be slowly built up to his MVP form, particularly if the Bulls are to make a run at a championship during this upcoming season.
USA Basketball may be lacking the star power that USA Basketball chairman, Jerry Colangelo, wanted coming into the FIBA World Cup. This does not mean, however, that the team cannot win the tournament without its usually suspects, including the returning Rose. Losing Rose will hurt, no doubt, but it is less risky for the team and for Rose to have him simply leave the team and focus on his conditioning. More importantly, Rose needs to look at his future career. If he has one more devastating injury, it has the potential to cut his career short. In terms of the upcoming season though, if there is one team to derail the Cleveland Cavalier’s rebuild, it is a Chicago Bulls team with their star point guard. Without Rose, Chicago will, likely, be in the same position as they were last year — a playoff team and nothing else. Meanwhile, Rose will be back on the injured list once again.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey