WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – “Anyone have any questions for Derrick?” asked Knicks public-relations man Jonathan Supranowitz, and the dozens of media members gathered at a makeshift press event in a second-floor ballroom at The Ritz-Carlton on Monday nodded in unison. Carmelo Anthony was still on the dais, answering questions about his conditioning (“Best I’ve felt in a long time,” Anthony said), the Knicks’ offense (“I honestly don’t know what this offense is going to be”) and the revolving door in the coach’s office (“Don’t remind me”) when Derrick Rose, in a neatly pressed No. 25 jersey, sat alongside him.
Anyone have any questions for Derrick?
Uh, yeah. A few.
If Rose, acquired by the Knicks in the offseason, looked uncomfortable, he should. Reporters weren’t interested in the state of his surgically repaired knees, his midrange jump shot or the fiesta Anthony threw for his teammates in Puerto Rico over the summer. Not at first, anyway. The opening topic was the ongoing civil suit against Rose, a case that now threatens to become criminal. The Los Angeles Police Department – in a curiously timed admission – revealed to the website Think Progress that there is an open investigation into Rose and his two friends, who are accused of gang raping a woman in August 2013.
Rose and his two co-defendants, Randall Hampton and Ryan Allen, have contended that the sex was consensual.
For 10 minutes or so Rose took questions, and to his credit, he didn’t duck any of them. He repeatedly declared himself innocent, said he didn’t do anything wrong and vowed that he wouldn’t let the specter of a $21.5 million civil suit – and the threat of criminal prosecution – distract him.
“I really haven’t been thinking about it,” Rose said. “I have been thinking about the team more than anything. Like how I am going to jell with the team. Getting used to the players and just getting used to the organization … president Phil [Jackson] and [general manager] Steve [Mills] and all them, but as far as like the trial, that is something I can’t think about.
“Right now I have a big year ahead of me as far as like the season that we have ahead of us and the team that I have, that is why I have [my lawyers] to handle this case where I feel like they are doing a good job, they are handling everything and they are giving me the time to focus on what I need to focus on and that is straight basketball.”
From the back of the room, Mills watched, and what could he have been thinking? On paper, Rose makes sense. His salary is swollen ($21.3 million), but it’s a contract that expires at the end of the season. And while Rose is a shell of the MVP he once was, a 16.4 points-per-game scorer coming off his healthiest seasons since 2011 represents a significant upgrade from the Jose Calderon/Jerian Grant combo the Knicks played last season. A second proven scorer to aid Anthony, a proven point guard to assist rising star Kristaps Porzingis? It’s a deal anyone would have made.
But with a civil trial looming next month and the possibility of criminal charges swirling, it’s fair to wonder: Did the Knicks know what they were getting into? New York’s trade history is a checkered one. They overpaid for Anthony, lost a top-10 pick in a deal for Andrea Bargnani and gave away Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith, effectively for nothing. Predicting the outcome of a civil suit is difficult, but would the Knicks have made the trade if they knew Rose could be spending part of training camp in a civil courtroom while wondering if the LAPD was going to drop the proverbial anvil?
For now, the Knicks wait – and hope. Hope that the civil suit is resolved quickly. Hope that Rose – who has been troubled by the uncertainty of his legal entanglements more than he is letting on, sources familiar with Rose told The Vertical – is able to block out the distractions and build on the progress he made last season. Hope that a season meant to return the Knicks to the ranks of the respectable isn’t derailed before it starts.
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