After Derrick Rose returned to the New York Knicks on Tuesday, ending an unexcused absence that that saw him miss a dispiriting loss to the New Orleans Pelicans and raised questions about his future in the Big Apple, Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek told reporters that he intended to return the point guard to New York’s starting lineup if he’s in the right mental state. It seemed a curious caveat at the time, but according to multiple reports, the former MVP was so distraught earlier this week that he considered walking away from the game.
First up: Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:
“It was a family issue,” Rose would explain after turning up at work. “It had nothing to do with the team or basketball. That’s the first time I ever felt like that emotionally and I had to be with my family.”
Rose, according to two independent sources who spoke to the Daily News on the condition of anonymity, was such an emotional wreck Monday afternoon that his only solution was to abruptly leave the Knicks to be with his mother and his son.
In fact, Rose’s state of mind was such that for a brief time he talked about walking away from basketball for an extended period of time to clear his mind. […] in trying — and failing — to explain why he never took the time to contact the Knicks on Monday, Rose hinted at his emotional state by saying “I didn’t want to take any calls at the time. I needed that space to myself and I needed to be around my mom.”
Next, from ESPN.com’s Ian Begley:
No one within the organization knew where their starting point guard was, and they were looking for information. So members of the organization reached out to those familiar with Rose in an effort to locate him.
Most of those efforts proved fruitless. But in those conversations, some in the organization were led to believe he was considering an extended absence from the court — possibly retirement, sources said, confirming a New York Daily News report.
Evidently, that emotional downturn was short-lived. Rose returned to the Knicks on Tuesday, insisting he remains committed to the Knicks. He told reporters at New York’s Wednesday shootaround that he feels mentally ready to return, and that Monday’s episode is now “in the past.” The 28-year-old would prefer to look toward the future … and, with it, his impending free agency this summer, during which he will reportedly (and unsurprisingly) seek the richest contract possible under the labor laws governing NBA players’ earning potential, according to Begley:
Some close to Rose have told friends he will seek a max contract this summer. For Rose, that pact would be for five years and nearly $150 million.
The Knicks would need to use nearly all of their cap space to ink Rose to a max contract.
Rose has been as productive this season as he’s been in years, averaging 17.3 points and 4.5 assists per game while providing the kind of dribble penetration — 10th in the league in drives per game, and fourth in points produced per game via drive — that New York has lacked for ages. As I wrote last month, his ability to break down opposing defenses off the bounce and finish around the basket has had major value for New York’s offense. The Knicks have scored an average of 108.1 points per 100 possessions, a top-10-caliber mark, with Rose on the floor, compared to just 99.4 points-per-100 — which would be second-worst in the league, ahead of only their Wednesday night opponents in Philly — when Rose is unavailable, as he was on Monday.
With only fine-but-not-grand potential replacements Brandon Jennings and Ron Baker on the bench behind him, “the Knicks without Rose are likely a worse team,” as Sports Illustrated’s Rob Mahoney wrote Wednesday. Even so, the idea of paying Rose — now six years and three major knee surgeries removed from his best form — $30 million per season into his early 30s seems borderline unthinkable, thanks in large part to the deficiencies on the other end of the court that severely mitigate the benefits of his offense.
Jared Dubin of The Step Back summed up Rose’s defensive woes well in a recent piece detailing how a player can simultaneously be both useful and unhelpful:
While the Knicks have myriad problems on the defensive side of the floor, nearly all of them stem from the fact that — for seemingly the 15th straight year — they simply cannot stop ball-handlers at the point of attacking. Opposing guards and wings live in the paint all night, every night. That repetitive penetration draws help from all over the floor, which opens up players either underneath the basket or behind the arc, depending on the area of the floor from which the help comes. Rose is by no means solely faultless in any of these areas, but everything starts with the fact that he and Brandon Jennings have a maddening tendency to die on screens. […]
If he dies on the screen, the big working with him in pick-and-roll actions has to stay with Rose’s man for an extra beat and effectively has to guard two players. That almost never works. Rose leaves [Joakim] Noah and [Kristaps] Porzingis out to dry all the time. Porzingis has been able to cover up for some of it with great individual rim-protection […] but Noah hasn’t. Because of the threat posed by the two-on-ones teams so often generate with their pick-and-rolls, the Knicks’ wings feel they have to send extra, ultra-aggressive help from the perimeter, which is a huge factor in their giving up 12.6 wide-open three-point attempts per game, the fourth-highest mark in the league, per SportVU. Again, he’s not solely at fault in any of these issues. He’s just the start of the cascading problems.
Individual defensive metrics like Defensive Real Plus-Minus and Defensive Box Plus-Minus mark Rose as a fairly significant net negative. He doesn’t fare better in collective ones, either; the already porous Knicks allow nearly two more points-per-100 with Rose on the floor than off it.
The 2016-17 edition of the Knicks has been better with Rose than without him. Future editions of the Knicks, ones with designs on contending for something more significant than a return to .500 and a lower-tier playoff berth, would likely be better off using whatever money would be earmarked for Rose on players more likely to help spur a rise out of the ranks of the league’s five or 10 worst defensive teams, where the Knicks have resided for the better part of the last 15 years. That seems glaringly obvious if the cost of retaining Rose is a max deal that would carry him through age 33; the Knicks need only look at the steps-slow, rust-covered play of center Joakim Noah for a nightly reminder of the dangers of committing big money to a player on the wrong side of 30 with a lengthy injury history.
Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reported Monday that Rose’s disappearance had jeopardized his “longer-term chances to land a lucrative contract extension with the Knicks in July.” Chris Mannix wrote that “Rose may have sabotaged any chance for a future in New York.” Michael Lee identified this fiasco as either “the reset Rose needs to regain his focus, or his career will continue to head in a direction with which he is uncomfortable” — which, you’d figure, would not include a $30 million a year payday.
And yet … I mean, these are the Knicks.
one thing that excites me is how all this potentially makes re-signing rose the worst move in franchise history
— ☕netw3rk (@netw3rk) January 10, 2017
As the old front-office adage goes, “it only takes one [sphincter]” to shift a market and get a player paid beyond all reasonable expectation, and over the years, few franchises have been more willing to act orificially than the Knicks. With his mind reportedly right and the 10-25 Sixers on deck, Rose will now resume his effort to convince his current employer to play that old, familiar role one more time come the summer.
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