It’s going to be the third consecutive season of the Derrick Rose comeback tour, this time playing for the New York Knicks.
Rose didn’t play poorly last season for the Chicago Bulls, but it wasn’t good enough. With numbers as one of the things to go on, averaging 16.4 points and 4.7 assists per game, when the expectations are more towards what the Bulls got from Rose in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 (24 points, 7.8 assists, 44.2% from the field). It didn’t help that playing more games caused his numbers to drop from the 2014-2015 season, another one on his comeback tour, averaging 17.7 points and 4.9 assists per game. At least his shooting was a little bit better.
One of the jokes that was running around when the Knicks acquired Rose from the Bulls, while also showing interest in Dwight Howard, was that New York were building a championship team… if this was 2011. And maybe it’s time to stop expecting Rose to play like it’s 2011. He’s not broken down, and maybe last season he finally showed he can be healthy for most of the season (66 games, missed some due to rest, not injury). At times, when following him closely, it seems that his head, and everything that goes on inside of it, bothers him more than all the surgeries and injuries he had on his knees.
Don’t forget: Rose has had back problems in the past (2011-2012 season) and his eyesight bothered for almost half a season in 2015-2016. A walking dream for a doctor who loves fixing people up, he’s supposedly healthy beginning his Knicks stint, trying to end their playoff drought, which has now gone on for three years. The Knicks are hoping that with a happier Carmelo Anthony and an improving Kristaps Porzingis, the drought is going to end.
Recalibrating expectations for fans is difficult, but sometimes it’s necessary. Shaun Livingston, for years, was something of a poor man’s Magic Johnson, at least in what was expected of him. After injuries, disappointments, and receiving too much hype from Bill Simmons, Livingston found his niche, thanks to Jason Kidd, and then Steve Kerr. A backup guard who can guard 1-2-3, posts up smaller players and helps in ball movement and frees up better scorers from that responsibility. For a lot of minutes during the 2016 playoffs, the Warriors were better off with Livingston playing than with Curry, especially in the earlier rounds.
Another name that comes to mind, and maybe has more to do with Rose, is Grant Hill. One of the best player in the NBA for six seasons, and then an injury didn’t just almost force him to retire; he nearly died because of botched surgery. Hill did return, and had some kind of renaissance when playing next to Steve Nash on the Phoenix Suns. No one was disappointed he didn’t dominate following the injuries. The expectations were different, and just seeing him play a role on a winning team was good enough for almost everybody.
Rose isn’t there yet. In the East, he’s an All-Star caliber player, and not just because he’s a big name. But maybe the pressure he puts on himself to be MVP-good like before, and the expectations from the outside circles to see the same kind of magic from him again, when he was the best point guard in the NBA for a brief moment, is what’s making him play this way. Not bad, but not special. Maybe Rose isn’t special anymore, and realizing it as quickly as possible will work wonders for everyone involved.