On April 27th 2012 Derrick Rose was the rising star of the NBA. The reigning MVP was leading his top seeded Chicago Bulls team into the Eastern Conference Playoffs to try and capture the franchise’s first championship since MJ left. The next day he was a cripple whose knees turned into a five year long problem. And as quickly as Rose’s legs went from the source of his unbelievable athleticism to his greatest liability, Rose’s career changed again. On Tuesday Derrick Rose was a Bull. Wednesday, a New York Knick.
But the story of Wednesday’s move might be less about the story of the former All-Star, and more about the All-Star future of the storied franchise. A franchise that is making a move away from being the laughing stock of the league, and moving towards the top half of the Eastern Conference.
Now that move was sending Jose Calderon, Robin Lopez, and Jerian Grant, three bench type players, for Derrick Rose, backup guard Justin Holiday, and a 2nd round pick in next year’s draft. And why was it so good for New York? Because the three players that were handed over to Chicago are backups, while they get a player who last season was on his way back towards showing us what we saw during his MVP season.
“What did you just say Alan?! Derrick Rose is nowhere near the MVP he was in 2012!” You’re right, he’s not. But he’s on his way. After a slow start to this season Rose kicked things into gear once the calendar hit 2016. His scoring improved from 14.4 to 17.7 points per game, his field goal percentage jumped from 39 percent to 45 percent, and he finished around the hoop better, scoring on 45 percent of drives to 55 percent. And while those numbers might not be what he put up in his 2011 Most Valuable Player campaign, it was certainly a step in the right direction for the talented point guard.
Luckily for the Knicks, their newly acquired point guard doesn’t need to be at his MVP form to help the team. Despite playing for seven seasons in the NBA Rose’s top offensive playmaker he would turn to in Chicago was Luol Deng, the undersized power forward now with the Heat. However, with Rose’s move from the Windy City to the City that Never Sleeps, it looks like he will have an offense that never sleeps. Rose now can dish to Carmelo Anthony or Kristaps Porzingis for points, meaning Rose doesn’t have to average the 25 points a night he did when he was alone offensively in Chicago. And that is something that is not only going to help out Rose’s assist numbers, but his knees too, with the lower number of drives to the basket he will be forced to take.
But as we mentioned earlier, the story is less about the point guard, and more about his new home. A city that has seen five World Series Championships in the past 20 years, and two Super Bowl wins in the last decade, New York is still starved for success in basketball, arguably the city’s biggest sports interest. And not since 1973 have the Knicks been able to provide a championship the fans have been so desperate to have.
Now nowhere in this article will you find any evidence saying that a title is on its way to Madison Square Garden, but make no mistake about it, this trade is a move toward postseason play, something the Knicks have done only 3 times in the past 12 seasons.
This move gives them Rose who we discussed earlier being on his way back to MVP form, and possibly changes the dynamic of the team offensively. Normally a jump shooting team that stretches opposing defenses with Carmelo and Porzingis, Rose brings a drive towards the basket kind of style that the Knicks have shied away from lately. New York finished last in the league this season with just 15.5 drives to the basket per game. Rose averaged 8.9 by himself. This means that not only are the Knicks getting a new player, but a new style. And they need that new style of basketball. If we learned anything from the past couple of years of terrible basketball by the Knicks, it’s that they need a point guard. Last season the Knicks’ point guards finished last in points per game (7.6) and 4th worst in the NBA in assists per game (3.8). Rose changes all that. The team finally has an answer at point guard.
Bigger than that though, it shows that maybe the Zen Master has a plan after all. A short stint of Derek Fisher as the head coach followed by a firing and an even shorter coaching stint by Kurt Rambis, before landing on Jeff Hornacek as the leader of this year’s group, has left many questioning the hiring skills of Phil Jackson. Regardless of Hornacek’s likability as a great guy, his dismissal in Phoenix after a failed 3 years with the Suns (they got worse every season) is reason enough for fans to question the move by Jackson, who is considered one of the brightest minds in all of basketball. But this move shows a vision for the franchise. One that is on point with the one that got Jackson to draft Porzingis in last year’s draft, a move that seemed stupid at the time, but turned out to be a good, nay, GREAT choice, by the former NBA Coach of the Year. And now with a former MVP who is returning to form running the point, Jackson and the Knicks are looking smarter by the day.
So what is going to make them look smarter tomorrow? Simple answer is more help. More than just an injury prone point guard, a skinny small forward, and a superstar who can’t play defense. They need a center. An inside presence. An attitude. Does that describe the anybody better than the Joakim Noah. The two-time All-Star and former NBA Defensive Player of the Year is also a free agent this summer, and somebody that former teammate Derrick Rose is actively trying to recruit to join him in New York this Fall. And with a team that needs toughness, defense, and an inside presence, Noah is sure to be a hit, and Jackson is sure to be seen as a genius if he finds a way to lure the underrated big man to the Big Apple.
But with or without the former Florida Gator big man, the Knicks are on their way back to being a real player in the Eastern Conference. And although the road to relevance is still a long one for the Knicks, getting Derrick Rose puts that path in much much clearer view.