This Rose is Perfect for the Garden

They don’t have a pick in tonight’s draft, currently on ESPN, but the Knicks made a major move to land Derrick Rose in a trade with Chicago.

I’ve heard a lot of different reactions to the deal so far and I wanted to weigh in on the deal. It makes way too much sense for New York. And here’s why.

Derrick Rose
Rose averages 19.7 points per game in his career. (Wikipedia Commons)

First of all, they really didn’t give up very much to bring Rose over. The Knicks sent an aging backup point guard, a future sixth man and a solid center to the Bulls in exchange for a former MVP with the potential to change the whole team. Jose Calderon is dead weight, Jerian Grant is a tossup with less potential and Robin Lopez is not exactly a superstar.

Rose has a ton potential. He has a well-documented injury history, but when healthy, the point guard has been sensational. He won the MVP award in 2010. He has a history of being great. Grant, Calderon and Lopez all do not. That right there makes this trade worthwhile.

Considering how bad the Knicks have been the past few years, it would be hard for this deal to make them much worse. There is essentially no risk in making this deal and there is a whole lot of potential reward.

That reward goes beyond just Rose’s contributions for 2016. His very presence in New York could attract some bigger free agents. The possibilities are endless. Obviously, the biggest grab would be Kevin Durant, but even some other options like Al Horford, Roy Hibbert, J.R. Smith and more now will find the Knicks a much more desirable team to join. Not to mention, if Rose has a big year and decides to stay on with the Knicks, they look very attractive to future free agents as well.

Phil Jackson also brings in someone who knows how to win and has a history of winning. That could be part of the culture change many figured he would bring the Big Apple when he was hired as general manager and team president.

Russell Westbrook
Westbrook will be an unrestricted free agent in 2017. (Wikipedia Commons)

The biggest thing that this deal gives New York though is cap flexibility. In 2017, the salary cap is going to rise to about $110 million. Rose’s nearly $21 million also comes off the books at the end of the 2016-17 season. That should give Jackson nearly $50 million in cap space to work with next offseason.

New York would love to land Russell Westbrook next year in free agency and rumor has it that the interest is mutual. That’s really what this move is all about. It gives the Knicks a wealth of options going forward, because if Rose does not work out, he leaves after the season is over, and New York gets to take their pick at who they throw money at.

To recap, the Knicks can really only get better and have primed themselves for the future. If you don’t like that deal, you don’t understand how the NBA works.

Future in question for D-Rose and the Bulls

In the 2012 playoffs, he went down with a torn ACL in his left knee. After missing the 2012-2013 season, he returned to play the opening month of the 2013-2014 season, before tearing his meniscus in his right knee. The long road back resulted in him playing on and off through the beginning of the 2014-2015 season. He finally seemed to be hitting his stride and the injuries concerns were starting to fade. Then last night Derrick Rose had tragedy strike again, this time in the form of a torn right meniscus again.

Now four years removed from his stellar MVP campaign in 2011, Rose has suffered three devastating injuries. Each time he has rehabbed to come back and make his return, only to find that his body once again betrayed him. Rose has shown no indication that this is going to end his career, just simply derail it temporarily. As good as Rose has been for the Bulls, for his own sake, he should walk away before he suffers any more injuries.

The Chicago-native has been incapable of staying healthy. Even before his first major knee surgery, Rose only managed 40 games between the regular and postseason in 2012-2013. The following year, Rose returned for 10 appearances before blowing out his knee a second time. Before this premature ending to his season, Rose only played in 46 of the team’s 57 games. Including the playoffs, the Bulls’ point guard has missed 219 games in the past four years. That is an average of 55 games per year. If you can only count on a player being available for a third of the season, he is no long worth it for the team and it is really time for the player to walk away.

Additionally, Rose has also seen his production drastically drop. In the two seasons before his injuries started, Rose averaged about 23 points, 7 plus assists and 4 rebounds per night. In the two hobbled seasons since he tore his ACL, Rose’s production dropped to 17.1 points, 4.7 assists and 3.2 rebounds per contest. Those are still efficient numbers, but it is clear how much of a toll the injuries are taking on Rose’s ability to compete at an elite level. His number of minutes also took a dip, dropping from 37 to 31 minutes per game. He also has seen his ability to shoot effectively leave him. Rose has only hit 38.1 percent of his attempts since the beginning of 2013. For his sake, Rose needs to think about moving on.

We are seeing a player decline right before our eyes. He is taking the route of Brandon Roy and Greg Oden before him. They all have unbelievable amounts of talent but they are unable to stay on the court consistently enough to make a real impact. For the Bulls from a financial standpoint, they are losing big time. Despite only playing 41 percent of his regular season games in the past three years, Chicago has paid Rose roughly $53 million in that time span according to Spotrac. It is tough to shame the Bulls for signing D-Rose to the contract that they did but now it is clearly proven to be a bad deal for them.

The reality is thought, that if Rose does not retire, Chicago has no choice but to leave him on the roster. If the team released Rose after this year, it would count as $21 million in dead cap money. Let me make something clear, I do not want to see Derrick Rose retire as a sports fan. I want to see that budding superstar we all witnessed in 2011 return to terrorizing the league, but let’s face it, we are never going to see that again. Rose is too hindered by the state of his knees to play at an MVP caliber again. I already feel so bad for the 26-year old with everything he has had to battle through to even reach this point, but I cannot bear to watch him go through it all again. I wish there was another way to solve the problem but Rose needs to call it quits. He is never going to regain that form he once had. He has sacrificed his body enough for his team. Giving it a rest now might not be what I want as a basketball fan, but as outside observer putting my love sports aside, I want Rose to get a break. He needs it more than anyone else.

NBA Cornerstones: Point Guard

Cornerstone players will be a recurring theme on Second Look Sports where I look at each position in a certain sport and I choose a cornerstone player to build my franchise around. I will have a couple of parameters for this selection though I will factor in age, potential, injury history, experience, reputation and production. I think it should be a fun and interesting topic to discuss on here. I hope that you guys agree.

I thought I would start first with the NBA. This is one of the smaller size professional teams as far as American sports go. So without further ado, let’s get going with this one.

The selection: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Honorable mentions: Derrick Rose, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, and Russell Westbrook

This took a little bit of thinking. Curry still has probably another five or six years of his prime left in him. The longevity factor is there, which makes Curry a logical choice. Outside of the 2011 lockout year, the former Davidson guard has played in at least 74 games every season. That is not perfect but I will take that over the uncertainty of Rose. Curry also has the potential to still improve a little bit in his career. His potential to improve his passing is there. He has been a good distributor already but he has the potential to grow into a great one. His defensive presence is lacking as well and could definitely use a boost.

Now, Paul is a better passer. He fills the role of pure point guard a bit better than Curry does. However, the Clippers guard does not score anywhere close to as much as Curry does. Curry also finds a way to do it at an efficient level. The 26-year old has shot 47 percent from the field over his 6-year NBA career. That is much better than Westbrook or Lillard, who both sit around 43% for their career. He is also a deadeye from beyond the arc. If the 2015 season ended today, it would be the first time Curry ever finished below 40 percent shooting from 3-point territory. Even still, it would only be at 39.9 percent. He has also been solid from the line over his 6 years as well shooting a shade under 90 percent. Shooting wise, Curry might be the best guard in the NBA (maybe other than Kyle Korver). He is a marksman on the court and efficiently destroys teams.
With his shooting abilities, Golden State’s leading scorer is also eighth in scoring for the league this year. The only other point guard in the top 20 is Lillard, but he ranks eleventh. Westbrook does not qualify yet because he has not played enough games in 2015 due to injury. Since 2012, Curry has scored more than 22 points per game in every season. His career average at this point is now up to over 20 a game.  Curry also has hit the most three pointers of any point guard so far this season, again slightly ahead of Lillard. The man can score and likely will continue to do so at a high rate.

Curry also has proven he can develop into a floor general. He is not as good as Paul is in this respect but well above average. Curry has averaged about 6.8 assists per night throughout his career and he is improving, as that number for each of the last two years was 8.5 and 8.1 respectively. He has some better pieces around him in California now so we should see Curry posting between 8 and 9 assist per night. Those are not eye-popping numbers but they are very good for a player regarded more as a shoot first point guard. The 2015 All Star also has some very talented dribbling abilities. He can break down players in the open court and will occasionally break a player’s ankles. Curry has also averaged just over three turnovers per game for his career, which is a solid number for a player with a usage rating of over 25 percent.

I think overall Curry is probably one of the top three point guards in the NBA. The other two are probably Paul and Westbrook. Paul is a better passer and scores efficiently but he is not a dominant scorer. Westbrook is an athletic playmaker who has an uncanny ability to get to the basket, he also can put up a lot of assists playing for the Thunder but he is a streaky and overall average at best shooter. Curry is a combination of the two. He has the athletic ability to give slower guards some problems and he is an incredible shooter who will make contested baskets. Curry does have some shortcomings with his defensive game needing a little bit of work. It is beginning to improve but overall it is fairly weak. Westbrook, Paul and Rose all play much better defense. He also lacks experience when it comes to playing deep into the playoffs. Only Westbrook and Rose really have that experience. So, while the pick isn’t perfect, I am sticking to it. My first NBA cornerstone player has to be Steph Curry.

Athletes recognizing social issues

Athletes have always been among the most polarizing people on Earth. They have the mostly unwavering attention of the media. Many of them are known in all corners of the world. These past few days, those same athletes, mainly of the NBA and NFL have been testing how influential they can be when stepping outside of the world of sports.

One week ago, a grand jury decided not to indict a police officer for the strangulation of a unarmed black man by the name of Eric Garner. The outrage following the decision has been seen nationwide already before a handful of players took it to the next level. A handful of players from both the NFL and the NBA wore shirts with the words “I Can’t Breathe” emblazoned on them as a response. It started with Derrick Rose this past Saturday night in Chicago, then continued with Reggie Bush Sunday in Detroit even made it to the West Coast with Kobe Bryant and his Lakers teammates donning shirts on Tuesday. The most notable gesture came Monday night in Brooklyn, not far where Garner’s murder took place, when the world’s most polarizing athlete LeBron James walked onto the court sporting an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt. ESPN had a field day with the story (as they do with just about anything James does). LeBron handled every question asked with a level head that displayed his social awareness and his desire to support Garner’s family in this difficult time.

This comes on the heels of a much more controversial sports protest against a major social issue. On November 30, five members came out of the tunnel before a home game with their hands held up in surrender, clearly in reference to the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The act sparked controversy with the St. Louis Police Department and they immediately demanded an apology. To the credit of both the league and the Rams organization, they refused to issue an apology or punish the players in any way. I tend to be very critical of the NFL but I am genuinely proud of the league’s decision to let these players speak their mind without any repercussions.

These also are not just uninformed athletes deciding to get involved. Rose pointed out that some of these athletes can relate to these issues. In an article from Bleacher Report, the Bulls’ guard stated, “I grew up and I saw it every day,” Rose said. “Not killing or anything like that, but I saw the violence every day. Just seeing what can happen. If anything, I’m just trying to change the kids’ minds across the nation and it starts here.”  I am glad that these athletes are taking the time to speak their minds and open up about the world around them. It is rare that we see this side of them because of how genuinely obsessed our nation is with their performance on the court or field.

It may not be much, but it is a start. It presents an uncommon source of spreading social awareness. You do not have to agree with all the statements these athletes are making to recognize the importance of what they are doing. This affects everyone. LeBron said it himself in an interview with ESPN, “It’s not a [Cavaliers] thing; it’s a worldly thing…. As a society we have to do better, we have to be better for one another, no matter what race you are.” That speaks volumes to me about what this means to athletes. Hopefully, we will continue to see more athletes speaking their mind about pressing social issues. Too often, they are relegated to an observer in these cases because of the role they play in representing an organization. I still have hope that this could lead to a positive change as well, but only time with tell.