Before the injuries and the withdrawals, Derrick Rose playing on Team USA sounded like a good idea, even for the Chicago Bulls, as an opportunity for their star point guard to shed layers of rust off playing next to other stars and against high level competition. Now, that he’s arguably the biggest star on the team, at least by name, it doesn’t sound like such a tempting possibility anymore.
What changed in two weeks? Paul George and his gruesome injury, followed by Kevin Durant withdrawing from the team. Durant can say as much as he likes that it’s about mental and physical fatigue, but taking a step backwards to see the bigger picture gives everyone a clear motive: He was afraid of getting injured just before signing his massive contract with Under Armour.
From being an opportunity to test Rose in something more than just preseason games while not having all the spotlight or the load of carrying the team on him, it has become a very different situation. Tom Thibodeau being on the coaching staff of the national team makes it even weirder. Rose, playing only 10 regular season games in two years, might now be the go-to-guy for a team full of NBA All-Stars.
Well, not really. Sure, Rose is special, and reports from camp suggest that he seems to be as good as always. But with guys like Stephen Curry, James Harden and Anthony Davis on the team, all players who made their mark on the NBA and have no injury scares and are supposedly in much better form than Rose, maybe putting the ball in Rose’s hands and letting him lead the team isn’t something that’s likely to happen.
Injuries can happen everywhere. Playing for Team USA or playing for your NBA team, injuries like the one that happened to Paul George happen, and it has nothing to do with the amount of games you play or the stress you’re under. Freak accidents are called that way for a reason, just like Rose tearing his ligaments going down for the first time, back on that April day in a playoff win over the Philadelphia 76ers. The trajectory of the Bulls franchise, on the rise till then, changed, or at least was halted, waiting for him to return.
The risks are clear, but Rose being healthy or not for the next season doesn’t depend on this Basketball World Cup campaign. It’s going to be luck, more than anything, that determines whether or not Rose goes down with another season-ending injury, or maybe he has run out of that bad mojo that’s been haunting him for quite some time. He is the biggest name on Team USA right now, but probably not the best player because he has hardly played over the last two years. For the Chicago Bulls, he’s almost everything, also because of the money invested in him. Still, playing for the national team isn’t such a bad idea.