Derrick Rose’s season was frustrating at times and spectacular at others, but is perhaps best defined as a case of expectations colliding with reality, for better or for worse.
If you expected Rose’s season to end prematurely because his knees are made of saltines, you saw those expectations become reality last month when he was ruled out for the remainder of the season with a torn meniscus. He battled valiantly against those knees, but in the end the knees always win.
If you expected him to score inefficiently and generally avoid making plays for others, you saw those expectations become reality throughout the entire year.
Rose averaged 18.0 points per game on 47.1% shooting, but finished with a barely average 53.0 True Shooting Percentage. He posted just 4.4 assists per game to go along with a lower Assist Percentage than Dion Waiters. He assisted on just six more Kristaps Porzingis field goals than Carmelo Anthony (70 from Rose, 64 from Melo). Brandon Jennings assisted on 51 in 500 less minutes on court with KP.
And then there was the defense. Knicks opponents scored 5.5 more points per 100 possessions with Rose on the court. The sight of Rose complaining to the refs under the rim while the other team ran a 5-on-4 break on the other end was became disturbingly common. Rose was far from the only minus defender on the 2016-17 squad, but his deficiencies were often the most apparent...like, “late-career Amar’e Stoudemire” apparent.
If, for some reason, you expected to witness the reincarnation of MVP Derrick Rose, you absolutely saw glimpses of what made him, for a fleeting moment in the early 2010s, arguably the league’s most electric player to watch.
Every single time Rose dunked or barreled into the lane for one of his trademark up and under reverse layups, announcers gushed over the return of “vintage D-Rose” as fans took to Twitter en masse to declare that “Derrick Rose is BACK!”
It was a generally disappointing season for Rose but these moments provided wishfully thinking viewers with evidence that the Derrick Rose of old still exists. His athleticism really did seem somewhat close to what it once was, and when he was able to harness it, contorting his body in midair during a reckless drive to the rim for a spectacular finish, it was undeniably fun to watch.
Remember this game?
Rose dropped 30 on the eventual top-seeded Boston Celtics on 54% shooting, to go along with five assists, 10 rebounds, two steals, and two blocks. It was arguably his best game of the season, and it came in a much needed road victory against a 53-win squad.
His five assists were all impressive finds that put teammates in position to score. Many of his 13 field goals came on skillful drives to the basket. He made several of his much maligned, line drive jumpers after creating separation with step-backs and other dribble moves.
While this was probably his best game this year, it was still a perfect example of why his season was so disappointing. He was able to shoot 54% from the field because, on this evening, many of the low-percentage shots he favored all season just happened to go in. Rose relied on his busted jumper all year long with typically horrendous results. He was able to get to the rim almost at will, but his style of play caters to tremendously high degree of difficulty shots, even close to the hoop. On this night in Boston, he was able to finish many of these really difficult shots, but for much of the season, he simply wasn’t.
He had five assists but four turnovers, and all season he struggled to produce in the assist column to make up for his mistakes in the turnover column (Rose had a 1.9 assist to turnover ratio). He also attempted just four free throws, something that, combined with his inability to make threes, limited his ability to score efficiently all year.
Even Rose’s best game of the season showed us why his style of play makes it very difficult for him to be productive in today’s NBA.
Derrick Rose will hit unrestricted free agency this offseason, and has repeatedly stated that he’s seeking a max contract. This price tag combined with the clusterfuck-inside-a-dumpster-fire that was the 2016-17 New York Knicks should make it highly unlikely that the Knicks look to re-sign him. He also went missing one night and skipped a game with no real explanation, which probably didn’t do much to endear him to the team.
What apparently did endear him to Knicks management, at least to Phil Jackson, was his exit interview.
Phil Jackson likes to give off the impression that he’s wise, but that facade has been destroyed piece by piece over his tenure with the Knicks. I’m not surprised that he would say some weird shit about liking Rose’s “attitude” and would potentially throw out all on-court (and some off-court!) evidence that he’s not a good fit for the team to bring him back because of a brief conversation.
He’s probably not coming back, and the Knicks would be wise to let him walk. That being said, doing smart basketball things has never been the franchise’s forte under Phil Jackson. I would be surprised to see Derrick Rose “BACK” in a Knicks uniform next season, but not that surprised.