“You never know how strong you can be until being strong is the only choice you have left.”
Tupac Shakur, The Rose That Grew From Concrete
Do you know a phenomenon when you see it? Sometimes, it’s difficult to realize when you’re looking at a once in a lifetime type of talent and it’s often not until that fleeting comet has passed from our sight do we then come to the epiphany that we’ve witnessed greatness. Back when Derrick Rose helped lead the 20007-08 Memphis Tigers to the NCAA Championship game against the Kansas Jayhawks it was clear that he had talent. However, that team was stacked with talent, with Chris Douglas-Roberts acting as the primary scoring option and forwards Robert Dozier and Joey Dorsey controlling the boards. There were times during that season when the freshman point guard almost seemed to be an offensive afterthought.
But one could not discount the twinkle in Coach John Calipari’s eye whenever Derrick Rose’s name was mentioned. His athleticism, strength and body control were spoken about at length by college basketball specialists on all of the major cable sports networks during the 2007-2008 college regular season, but there were still many doubters, and Rose was only a finalist for both the Bob Cousy Award, given to the best point guard in the nation, and the John R. Wooden Award, which is given to the best overall player in college basketball. In addition, Rose was only voted to the Third Team All-American honors. That year, D.J. Augustin of Texas would earn the first team slot at point guard and Stephen Curry would earn second team All-American honors at point guard for the Associated Press. But the AP and the NABC were the only nationally-recognized major media outlet to recognize Rose. The National Association of Basketball Coaches would also give him a third team nod, but the United States Basketball Writers Association and Sporting News didn’t show him any love. Instead, players that history would reveal as less talented than he, like D.J. Augustin, A.J. Price (UConn), and Shan Foster (Vanderbilt), earned recognition over Rose despite his noticeable upside.
The soft-spoken Rose noticed these slights and would prove once and for all that he was in fact the best guard in college basketball during the 2007-2008 NCAA tournament. During the Memphis Tigers’ Elite Eight matchup against the Texas Longhorns, D. Rose would hound First Team All-American D.J. Augustin into an atrocious game, shooting 4-18 with a field goal percentage below 20 percent, while hanging 21 points and 9 assists on the first team All-American in the process. Derrick would beat up on another All-American when his Tigers would face Darren Collison and the UCLA Bruins during the NCAA semifinal. Collison would be thoroughly bested by his peer at the University of Memphis, being held to two points on 1-for-9 shooting with five turnovers. Though the Memphis Tigers would eventually fall in the championship game to the Jayhawks, with Rose missing a critical free throw in regulation with his team up by two with 10 seconds left, he would be named to the All-Final Four team based in large part on his stat line of 20.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6 assists per game- crazy numbers at any position, on any level.
But can it be that it was all so simple then? After exploding onto the scene as perhaps the most athletic point guard to ever play the game, earning his first All-Star invitation in his second season, an MVP trophy and leading his Chicago Bulls team to a number one seed in the NBA playoffs the same year, Rose’s NBA ascension seemed stamped in granite.
But injuries could care less about the assumptions of men.
Athletic point guards are a scary breed to behold indeed. With the litany of explosive drives and fearless jaunts among the trees came concerns about his durability. A bum ankle was a problem early in his NBA career, but concerns about career threatening injuries would become a reality during the 2012 NBA Playoffs in which Rose suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during the series against the Philadelphia 76ers. A yearlong absence would follow but fans and the sports media alike would invoke the name of Derrick Rose whenever the Chicago Bulls would fall short due to lack of offense and defense at the point guard position.
Being the humble man that he is, Derrick Rose likely suffered through the same type of mental anguish that one time NBA All-Star Anfernee (Penny) Hardaway experienced during their prime after suffering injuries.It’s not enough for the most driven players in the NBA to come back from injury; many feel that they have to come back ahead of schedule to help their respective teams. Part of that anguish has to do with the belief that their teams need them. Another side is the belief that fans are somehow being cheated because of the absence of star players. Lastly, the constant media prognosticating and prodding drive some to force themselves to come back earlier than their bodies could stand, thus the risk for re-injury becomes very high. Additionally, when an individual has an injury in one weight-bearing extremity (leg, foot, ankle, knees, etc), the opposite extremity often over-compensates, thus becoming susceptible to injury itself. Rose would suffer a torn meniscus in his right knee during a November 2013 matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers, ending his season prematurely once again.
Now Chicago Bulls fans are hoping that Rose has indeed risen has returned to his pre-injury form. So far, so good. While D. Rose would struggle during his first games with Team USA during the FIBA World Cup, he would turn it on against Slovenia and Serbia. His started off slowly in terms of scoring, averaging only 4.8 PPG during the tournament, but he would lead Team USA in assists on three separate occasions, including a six assist performance during the World Cup Final against Serbia. Similarly, D. Rose would start off slowly during the 2014 NBA preseason as well.
However, a 27-point explosion against the Minnesota Timberwolves and a 30-point outing versus the Cleveland Cavaliers is indicative of a player who is in game shape and ready for the rigors of top-flight competition. Thus far it appears as though D. Rose has learned how and when to explode and when to take a step off the gas pedal, whereas before he would be on full turbo the entire game. He seems much smoother in his play and looks to have developed a lethal stop-and-go move; yet he still appears able to get to the rim whenever he wants.
Through all of the hard times and recent injuries, it appears this Rose has once again risen from the concrete and fans eagerly await for his regular season appearance on the hardwood.