Along with Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose is one of the NBA's near-universally beloved superstars, a good guy with a paucity of arrogance and a heartwarming personal story. Unlike Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, he's not particularly divisive. For the most part, Rose built and maintains that reputation by keeping his mouth shut and doing his job very well.
Last week, Rose broke with that protocol when he complained about referees not giving him more and-one calls, earning a $25,000 fine in the process. On Monday, Rose expressed his surprise at the fine, along with a few words about the kind of person he is. From Nick Friedell for ESPNChicago.com (via SLAM):
"They were facts," Rose said with a smile regarding his comments last week, before Monday morning's shootaround. "I thought they were facts." [...]
"I've gotta be the only superstar in the league that's going through what I'm going through right now," Rose said last Monday. "But I can't say too much about it." [...]
The soft-spoken superstar acknowledged that some fans still haven't gotten used to him speaking his mind on and off the floor.
"They still look at me as a little kid," he said with a laugh. "A little kid or ... I don't know how you would say it, like a demigod or something like that, where I can't say anything, man. For me to say something (about the officials), you know that I had to be thinking it. It's been four years; I was just frustrated at the time. They said they would look at it and (I'll) just try to move on from there."
I'm not sure exactly why Rose is surprised by the fine, since it's been standard NBA policy for some time. But it's his prerogative to complain, and if he gets fined again for stating his comments were fact then so be it.
The most interesting aspect of this story is that Rose wants to be known as a personality beyond the media's portrayal of him as a mother-appreciating MVP with a heart of gold. That's not to say that image is entirely inaccurate, or that Rose's opinions are being stifled by a public who wants him to hew to a middle-of-the-road superstar persona. But there is a sense here that Rose wants to be seen as more than a tonic to LeBron and become his own man.
He doesn't have to do that by being controversial — truth be told, complaining about calls is basically the NBA version of saying a company's health benefits aren't good enough. But in claiming that he's the only superstar who deals with this kind of treatment, or that he's more than just a quiet kid, Rose is inching towards a danger that has been absent from his public image up until this point.
Frankly, it's welcome. As good as he is, Rose's seeming interest in nothing but basketball can be a little dull. When he speaks his mind, it serves as a reminder that he's a person as well as a basketball player. Eventually, that will add a layer of meaning to what he does on the court, too.